Wearable technology has gained popularity over the last few years, with people wearing everything from clothing that lights up when users receive phone calls (Georgie Davies’ Bluetooth-enabled dress) to the few who have adopted Google Glass. An emerging trend within the category of fashion electronics are smartwatches that allow users to check email, play music, and catch up on the latest news or stock market quotes.
Some of the bigger tech companies have either already launched their wearable products, or are in the process of creating prototypes in an effort to fill a void in the mobile device market.
Sony's SmartWatch 2 is an Android based “smartwatch” with NFC capabilities.
One of the earliest smartwatches to hit the market was Allerta’s Pebble, which connects to smartphones via Bluetooth to run apps. The watch gives users the ability to customize the face of the timepiece, check email, features caller ID, and acts as an interface for music stored on smartphones. Not bad for a device costing only $150. However, it isn’t without its problems, namely, the watch actually being delivered. Allerta funded the watch on Kickstarter back in April of last year, and some backers have yet to receive theirs.
Interestingly, the company took to Best Buy to get their watches to the masses, leaving some dumbfounded as to why they have yet to receive them. Regardless of Allerta’s shortcomings, the Pebble continues to be a popular device in the mobile market.
Tech giant Sony capitalized on the emergent technology and released their SmartWatch back in April of last year with somewhat lackluster reviews. The problem was that the watch is only compatible with Android-based devices (like the Pebble, it needs to be connected to a smartphone) and not iOS or Blackberry devices. It’s also extremely difficult to read the face when in direct sunlight, and, unlike the Pebble, it needs to be recharged daily.
The company plans on releasing a second version, known as the SmartWatch 2, sometime in September, which addresses some of the issues that plagued the first, including a redesigned screen that’s readable even in sunlight. The watch has been redesigned with new features as well, such as being somewhat water-resistant for use in rainy weather, instantly connecting to NFC-equipped Android-based devices by touching them together, and a redesigned aluminum frame. Sadly, it will again not be compatible with any Apple or Blackberry devices. However, those respective companies have plans to release their versions sometime in the near future.
Apple and Microsoft are reportedly designing their own versions of the smartwatch, which some say could be on the market by the second quarter of 2014. Speculation about Apple's smartwatch came about as the company has filed numerous patents under the iWatch name, as well as moving around 100 designers and engineers to purportedly work on the project. While it may only be speculation at this point, it’s not out of the realm of possibility we may actually see the device on store shelves sometime next year.
Microsoft may also be jumping on the smartwatch bandwagon with a rumored device that won’t have to be connected to a smartphone to function. Even if the news is based off rumor alone, we can expect to see an increase in smartwatch technology over the next few years as the device becomes more popular.