Ebay Rolls Out A Smart Watch App. Should Anyone Else?

Ebay (NASDAQ:EBAY) was first in line to announce its mobile app for Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smart watch. Unfortunately for other retailers trying to figure out how they might use the new devices, eBay may also be last in that line for a while.

The problem isn't simply the small screen, which is already a problem for many retailers when a conventional smartphone screen size is involved. It's also the fact that smart watches are really best suited to very specific tasks. In eBay's case, that can include notifications and the ability to increase a bid with a swipe. For more complicated actions, users can turn to their Galaxy Note 3 phone, which is required to use the smart watch anyway.

But there are hints that some smart watch apps could still be designed to minimize reverting to the phone. For example, Vivino also announced a Galaxy Gear app that uses image recognition to match up photos of wine bottles with a database of 1.6 million wines. The company says its smart watch app will make shooting a photo of a wine bottle more discreet, but that hardly seems like a key feature given how likely in-store shoppers of all kinds are to have their phones out in the aisles.

But the combination of the Galaxy Gear's wristband camera with apps that recognize products (or even just barcodes) means the rather bulky phone could stay in a purse or briefcase while a shopper could search for a product, find other retailers or similar products, swipe through prices and (short) descriptions on the watch's small screen and even do a one-click transaction.

That classic showrooming approach has only limited appeal for most retailers, but it's a start. The real challenge will be going beyond that to combine the watch's simple interface with, for example, speech recognition and audio feedback through a Bluetooth headset. That could make the watch's unnaturally small screen a much more natural part of shopping.

For more:

- See this Mobile Commerce Daily story

Related stories:

Is Apple's iWatch Ticking Toward Mobile POS Reality?
Will Another Snap-A-Picture-To-Identify-A-Product App Help?

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