Wearables has been the biggest trend in tech so far this year atleast with geeks. Although smartwatches are still in their first phase, they did ship out to consumers in decent numbers. The current stage of smartwatches reminds me of the mp3 player phase before the iPod.
But before we go ahead, what is a smartwatch?
According to Wikipedia, a smartwatch is a computerized wristwatch with functionality that is enhanced beyond timekeeping, and is often comparable to a PDA. Personally, I think Wikipedia completely nailed it.
So Smartwatches began going mainstream with activity trackers like the Nike FuelBand and Fitbit Flex, they were armed with 3 axis accelerometers to track activity. (Side note: These activity trackers finally ended it for those ugly looking pedometer watches, which were heading to their eventual doom by the fashion police.) One of the important factors that helped activity trackers were the great software and apps they came with.
The next wave of smartwatches came in with the Pebble, having a display that can display notifications from your phone. The Pebble was a massive Kickstarter success (Success is an understatement in this case). The Pebble having an e-ink display stays connected to your smartphone through Bluetooth and displays your notifications like emails, texts, SMS, IMs and can even run 3rd party apps. This is VERY useful especially if you got yourself one of those massive phablets. They even just launched a steel version of it to cater to the stylish.
Also we saw Samsung bring up their Gear smartwatch, which was similar and also had a camera, though it failed due to the price, compatibility and limited battery life. The Kreyos Meteor, Qualcomm Toq, Razer Nabu, LG Lifeband… This is one long list. On one side its been great to see startups emerging (and fall with Kreyos) in the hardware field and smartwatches being affordable but on the other hand disappointed by massive fragmentation: different chargers, screens, software, SDKs. There is no clear winner yet, it is definetely a confusing phase for a simple consumer.
Where does this leave my 5000$ Rolex?
With iWatch launch in place, it will be interesting to try out Apple’s take on smartwatches next year. With the brand and retail infrastructure already in place, there is a good possibility that Apple can take a luxury/premium smartwatch to the consumer, which will hopefully end the smartwatch fragmentation.