The Evolution of Connectivity: Smartphones to Smart Homes

People live digitally connected lives. From smartphones to computers, it’s uncommon to see someone not connected with technology. It wasn’t even that long ago people thought email was too fast. Most people expect an immediate response now. This comes from smartphone notifications, messenger app read receipts, liking a post, or swiping right in Tinder.

Technology made many things easier, but it also complicated daily life. With everyone so connected, people are stuck to their phones worrying if they're going to miss something. This causes people to set priorities with notifications. During work, emails and messages from coworkers are considered important while a message from a friend might have to wait. This influx of information causes smartphones to constantly chime or vibrate.

Fitness wearables, like Jawbone and FitBit, are passive trackers. They're focused on gathering data and feed information one way. A big step to combat notifications is in newer wearables.

Apple and Google have platforms that gather fitness data, provide information and notifications from apps. Ideally, this shortens the amount of times you check your phone.

Android Wear launched in March 2014 and Apple Watch followed in 2015. The smartwatch platform is young and developers are still trying to find the perfect balance of smartphone and smartwatch compatibility.

When Android Wear 2.0 releases, it will add a lot of functionality to the platform. Apple Watch 2 iterates on the original to add water resistance and built-in GPS along with other improvements.

There isn’t a true smartwatch need and people can easily survive without them. If you go back 15 years, cell phones were used to make calls, text, and play Snake. Now smartphones are computers in our pockets. 

Android Wear follows the customization options that the Android ecosystem has supported.  Apple Watch, like iOS, is a locked system that doesn’t allow consumers to customize their devices. It’s much more - "we know what’s good for you" experience.

If you follow technology news, there are differing opinions about the success of smartwatches. One big factor against them is that battery life doesn't go past a couple days.

Pebble smartwatches are capable of lasting a week, through the use of e-paper and physical buttons instead of the touch screen on Android Wear and Apple Watch. Still, Pebble has found success through the various versions of its smartwatch.

The same argument that plagues Android phones affects the smartwatches. Multiple manufacturers make different versions of Android smartwatches. Google requires manufacturers to adhere to strict rules for Android Wear operating system, but companies like Samsung attempt to circumvent Android Wear in favor of their own OS. For Samsung, Tizen has been a lost battle as the company installs it on devices, but can’t promise the same level of functionality as Android Wear OS.

Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2 is a place where Apple leads. Since the company controls every aspect of the device, they can guide and ensure uniform quality.

At the same time that people were buying wearables, the connected home has become reality. WiFi connected smart bulbs were the start. Smart TVs are more common. Google and Apple have been quick to offer ways to connect to your accounts with devices like Apple TV and Android TV.

Android is a small step ahead with its Google Cast platform. The $35 Chromecast and Chromecast Audio are HDMI devices that can connect non-smart devices to the Internet so you can play your online content.

Along with connected entertainment, other smart devices are more common. Nest, whose most popular product is a connected thermostat, was bought by Google.

Amazon has a trio of devices with the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap. The Echo is a hub that can speak to connected smart devices. Through Alexa, you can control many smart home devices with your voice. At the same time, there are concerns about privacy with devices that are always listening.

Manufacturers are working to create a utopia of devices that can all be controlled by your phone through apps or respond to different sets of automated rules.

While on the surface this promotes streamlining, it might actually cause more work. You still have to spend the time programming the devices and automation in the beginning.

Notifications were supposed to give you previews. Now notifications cause stress because every app installed sends a notification. You can always customise which apps can send notifications, but other than games, muting a notification might make you miss something important.

As more consumers see the benefits of connecting their homes, we could see a big shift in the products we buy. Right now it’s still a transitional phase. Technology has the ideas and prototypes, but mass market adoption will be limited by the cost of entry.

Technology affects our daily lives. With more options and distractions, will being connected become the norm and how connected will you be?