Time on our hands

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Samsung Smart Watch
Time on our hands - Samsung Smart Watch

IN a somewhat lame 2013 comedy called “The Internship” two watch salesmen are made redundant. Their boss tells them that fewer and fewer people nowadays are buying watches, and, to make his point, asks a secretary what the time is. She instantly reaches for her phone to check. 

“Hmmm,” I thought. “The boss has a point.” But is the wristwatch really a thing of the past? Nope, mainly because companies are now applying so many ingenious bells and whistles to them that I reckon they will be in demand for many years to come.

Here I must confess a weakness for the things. I see one I like, and I buy it. But when Apple introduced its first Smartwatch in 2015 I wasn’t tempted, despite being a long-time user of Apple products. The look of it just didn’t appeal, it was mega-expensive and I could not see it enriching my life in any way whatsoever.

Then, at the weekend I damaged my favourite watch, a simple timekeeper made by Skagen of Denmark. “Hey-ho,” I said, “I’ve got lots more I can use while this one gets repaired.”

Then I discovered that, of the five other watches I own, not one worked. The batteries were all dead.

So I decided the time had come to look at watches that had rechargeable batteries. Google took me to numerous sites that gushed over the Samsung smartwatch, most declaring it the best that money can buy.

Samsung, incidentally, was actually the first to develop a watch capable of telecommunications back in 1999. The SPH-WP10 Anycall featured a monochrome LCD screen and was capable of 90 minutes of talk time with its integrated speaker and microphone.

It spectacularly flopped probably because it was positively one of the ugliest devices ever created. Nevertheless, someone was able to sell a non-functioning one on eBay in 2015 for $500.00.

The company gave up its smartwatch efforts soon after but once it recognised the potential of the industry a few years back, it quickly began investing heavily in the field once more.

So last Saturday, I acquired the Samsung S3 classic, and five hours later more or less worked out how to operate it. What, to my mind, gives it its biggest “wow” factor is the enormous number of face designs you can download for it, including a grotesque one that that only imbeciles and would find appealing. It features Trump’s name and declares “make America great!”

The following day, my new gadget almost gave me heart failure when it suddenly sprang into life. It buzzed. It flashed. It jangled. It told me I had an incoming call from the UK.

To my utter amazement I found myself having a crystal clear conversation via my watch to a woman who rang me to say that she’d just found my passport.

Back in May, I wrote a piece in RTN about having my passport knocked out of my hand at easyJet’s baggage check-in area at Gatwick airport by an overzealous assistant who thought I was too frail or too stupid to put my own bag on the conveyor belt.

She snatched it out my right hand, and in doing so knocked my passport of my left. It flew onto the belt, and despite a search lasting hours no one could find it.

So I missed my flight back to Spain, and had to spend a week marooned in the UK while I waited for a new passport to be issued. I’m still battling to get compensation.

The woman who called me said she’d just returned from a holiday in Greece and discovered my passport in an outer zip-up section of her case, one she barely ever uses. But something made her check it when she returned to London.

I now have two mysteries to solve: how my passport got into a stranger’s suitcase, and how my watch, which I hadn’t knowingly connected to my cellphone, managed to pick up the call.

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Barry Duke is a South African born photo-journalist and gay rights activist who settled in Spain in 2010 after working in the UK since 1973. In May 2017, Duke, a lifelong atheist, was handed a lifetime achievement award by the London-based National Secular Society for his services to human rights and secularism.

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