Photographer: Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

Google Designer Says You Don’t Need a Smartwatch, and That’s OK

Matías Duarte says stop worrying about whether you need a smartwatch, because in the future, wearables will become as ubiquitous as apps

Sporting an Android Wear device on his wrist, Google Vice President Matías Duarte made a convincing case for why no one needs the thing he has on. This wasn’t some kind of reverse psychology, but a declaration that the watch computer represents the future, and the future hasn’t quite arrived yet.

Duarte, the design head responsible for Google’s new uniform of baby-blue title bars and reddish-orange “plus” buttons rolling out across its various apps, part of what the company calls its material design, was interviewed onstage at the Bloomberg Businessweek Design 2015 conference on Tuesday in San Francisco. In a conversation with Bloomberg Digital Editor Joshua Topolsky, Duarte rattled off several analogies comparing technology to historical tools and trades—early cartoonists drawing individual leaves on a tree as 18th century silversmiths, or modern animators as gardeners using computer graphics to quickly churn out scenery.

The smartwatch, according to Duarte, is like an electric can opener. Your parents may decide they don’t need one—it’s too big, has too many wires—but it’s nice to have, he said. (It’s worth noting that many modern humans don’t see the need for electric can openers.) Duarte said you’ll want a smartwatch if you’re an enthusiast for fitness or notifications. (Meet Bob. He’s an enthusiast for notifications.)

At Google We Try for Simple, Beautiful: Duarte

Topolsky, who was wearing an Apple Watch during the interview, came to a similar conclusion in his review of that product—you’ll want one, but you don’t need one. Apple essentially argues that you need the watch because your phone is ruining your life. Isn’t that comforting?

The debate on the necessity of the smartwatch will rage on, but Duarte said none of it will matter in the future. That’s because there’s a “utility of having computers be not just something that you carry on you, but your personal computer will be a series of devices that surround you,” he said. “In the future, smart devices—we’re going to treat them like we treat apps today.”

In other words, you may have so many connected devices on your body, in your home, and in your car that you won’t have to think twice about whether you need these things connected—like downloading a new app. Said Duarte: “You don’t harass me, like, ‘Why did you put that app on your home screen?’”

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