Why Aren’t Smartwatches Smaller?

You may know by now that I’ve decided that my Apple Watch is no longer a device I want to use. I won’t go into the details here, because I spell it out in the article I link to above.

But Apple’s is not the only smartwatch out there; there are lots of them. And most of them are very big. Apple’s watch comes in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm. Other smartwatches are even bigger; some Android watches are as big as 46mm.

This seems to be a trend in the watch industry. Since I have been looking at watches, I’ve noticed how many of them are honking big. 40mm seems to be the standard size for many watches, with some much larger. And the ones with all those buttons make you look like you’re wearing a carburetor on your wrist.

There are still plenty of watches that are smaller: you can get 35-36mm watches fairly easily, and some come even smaller than that. But, for the most part, watches are big, so someone can read the time from across the room. (And, presumably, mostly men buy this type of watch.)

Smartwatches need to show a lot of data, so they tend to be larger. But not everyone wants all that data. My Macworld colleague Caitlin McGarry just reviewed the Withings Activité Steel HR (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which merely has a time dial, a “goal” dial, and a small OLED display for showing limited amounts of data. It’s available in two sizes: 36mm (really 36.3mm) and 40mm (really 39.5mm).

You may think that’s fine; but look at the 36mm model on Caitlin’s wrist:

Withings steel hr 2 100704741 large

I’ve never met Caitlin, but she has told me that she has tiny wrists. That watch, on her wrist, looks like a 46mm watch would on mine. (I’ve chosen a 38mm Junghans Max Bill, which is about as big as I want a watch to be.)

It’s worth noting that the battery can make a watch bigger, but the smaller the display – that’s the part that uses the most power – the smaller the battery has to be. And smartwatches get their power more from the thickness of the battery; this Withings watch is 13mm thick, and the Apple Watch are 10.5 – 11.4mm.

So why aren’t the smartwatch makers catering to people with smaller wrists, especially for women and, perhaps, teenagers? Particularly this type of smartwatch that doesn’t try to display a lot of data? Is it because only men buy these devices? It seems like there is a potential segment of the market that’s not being addressed. If the smallest smartwatch you can get is honking big, you may simply not want to wear one.