I recently attended a Gartner webinar and read articles in Business Insider and Fast Company that contemplate the future of the smartwatch. While each presents a slightly different perspective, they all agree that the smartwatch has to untether from the smartphone to fully realize its potential and accelerate market adoption.

The Gartner webinar, presented on March 15, 2016, is titled “Wearables at the Peak of Inflated Expectations: Myths and Realities.” One of the myths Gartner addresses is that moving wearables from “Peak of Inflated Expectations” on the Gartner Hype Cycle to “Plateau of Productivity” simply requires the right mix of features and a good app. According to Gartner, it’s more complicated: “Mass adoption requires wearables to be value added endpoint devices in IoT (Internet of Things) solutions.”

Gartner’s perspective is that the smartwatch is presently a smartphone accessory, and mass adoption will require it to become an untethered device that creates essential value within the IoT ecosystem. Essential value is based on functionality (shifting certain functions from a smartphone to a smartwatch and adding new, unique functions, especially in conjunction with personal sensors), improving experience (manual and automatic  with other smart devices in the home, automobile, retail environment, etc.) and quality of life (wellness, fitness and healthcare). As with any other watch purchase, brand and fashion will remain key considerations.

During Q&A after the presentation, the topic of improved battery life was raised. Areas of improvement range from time-tested reduced power consumption techniques to more nascent forms of energy harvesting. However, better battery performance is fundamental to separating the smartwatch from the smartphone and achieving mass adoption.

The next post examines a Fast Company article about the next-generation Apple Watch.