On June 28, Samsung announced its One UI Watch experience at the Mobile World Congress virtual event. Samsung partnered with Google to create a unified platform that lets users access the same services with a similar user interface across multiple Galaxy devices. Google and Samsung have moved in the right direction with these announcements, but the partnership still doesn’t do enough to make the smartwatch a must-have device.

Here’s what Samsung did well:

  • Worked hard to establish partnerships to grow its ecosystem of services. Unlike Amazon, Apple, and Google, Samsung hasn’t built a successful ecosystem of services for its devices. Consumers want music, apps, video, and more that work across all their devices. Samsung has added some pieces to the puzzle.
  • Chose some points of differentiation for how it marketed its connected device experiences. The company focused on productivity, security, and fun (e.g., watch faces). Samsung may have mentioned the word “security” as often as Apple does “privacy.”
  • Demoed the use of context to control devices. If a consumer is listening to music or watching a video on a device when a call comes in, the earbuds will switch to the phone call. Given the number of appliances that Samsung sells, it has a lot of upside to deliver outstanding experiences that go beyond the watch.

Here’s why Samsung has more work to do:

  • Consistency of experiences across devices is a starting point, but it’s not the ultimate goal for connected devices. Mobile didn’t wow consumers when brands shrank desktop experiences onto smaller screens. Watch experiences won’t wow consumers when brands shrink smartphone experiences onto yet a smaller screen. Ultimately, watch services must leverage context to anticipate customer needs to streamline control and access to services.
  • Samsung didn’t check enough of the “must have” features for smartwatches. Samsung made progress on up-leveling wellness by improving the accuracy of sensors. It also created the means to take more frequent measurements while maintaining a full day of battery charge. It didn’t announce enough around services or use of the watch for payments or identification.

Smartwatches need five core features before they have the potential to become the next “it” device. Forrester believes they include:

  1. Notifications. No, I don’t need to read the news on my watch, though I do read headlines at times. Notifications on watches will nudge consumers into behavior change. Haptic or audio signals may nudge us to turn right at the next intersection or stand up and take a walk.
  2. Payments. We can’t leave our wallets at home until the phone or watch can replace our wallets. This includes ID and payments. The combination of updated point-of-sale terminals and the pandemic has spurred consumers to try and use more contactless payments.
  3. Identification. We need ID to drive cars, board planes, and access our office buildings. We can’t leave our wallets at home until we have alternative forms of ID accepted by the government, office buildings, and more.
  4. Voice assistants. By definition, the interface of smartwatches is limited relative to the functionality. Stellar voice control will allow consumers to make phone calls, text friends, access customer care, find music, and access the internet. Smartwatches are much cooler than Dick Tracy’s watch.
  5. Health. Wellness applications are still too niche to drive mass adoption of smartwatches. Only a small portion of consumers are self-motivated enough to exercise on a regular basis or care enough to collect steps, heart rate, or calories burned. Discounts on insurance premiums or similar incentives could further adoption.

There were also a few interesting things that Samsung announced independent of the watch, including:

  1. Upcycling. This means using your old phones or tablets to do other things. I love this idea. These devices have sensors, cameras, microprocessors, and more.
  2. Embedded SIM support for a broader array of carriers. This means your watch is more likely to work on your carrier’s network.
  3. Tizen support for a few more years at least. I wasn’t sure if Tizen is going away or if Samsung is hedging its bets. Tizen is the operating system in Samsung’s prior watch releases.