Will hybrid smartwatches prove a more tempting solution to consumers?

Could hybrid smartwatches bridge the gap between early adopters and regular people? That’s the hope of  Sonny Vu, CTO for connected devices at Fossil Group.

Vu detailed a plan to create a new generation of smartwatches in a panel discussion at Web Summit 2016. These smartwatches are actually hybrids which are as technically sophisticated than the current generation of smartwatches, but with the look and feel of a more traditional watch.

Hybrid smartwatches would become a new addition to the wrist-worn wearable market. Vu said, “Tracker wearables and display smartwatches are already known, but there’s a new category with hybrid smartwatches, which have a regular analogue display but do more than just tell the time.”

There are some obvious setbacks with hybrid smartwatches to the tech enthusiastic. They don’t have the digital touchscreen or live interaction of a more full-featured smartwatch such as the Apple Watch, FitBit Blaze, Pebble Time, or Android Wear. These watches have the downside of being bulkier than traditional watches and short battery life.

A fitness tracker such as the FitBit Flex or Samsung Gear Fit. These trackers can keep tabs on your activity and sleep patterns. They also generally have a longer battery life than more full-featured smartwatches. They also include a smaller display and a limited feature set.

Almost one year ago, news broke that Fossil was buying the fitness and fashion company Misfit. Since that time, Fossil has been working Misfit’s theme of fashion and technology into its products.

A compromise between smart fashion and smart function

Hybrid smartwatches are a compromise between a traditional fashion watch and a smartwatch – and one that could bridge the gap between tech enthusiasts that want the feature set of a fitness tracker or smartwatch and fashion-forward users that prefer the simple aesthetics a regular watch.

Vu stated, “On the aesthetics side it needs to be something that doesn’t stand out, or something that blends in with the clothes you’re wearing.”

Fossil’s Hybrid Q line, for example, features watches that look normal on the outside but contain complex fitness trackers, notifications, media controls, and more baked right in.

This category of wearables is relatively new, and brands like Misfit, Fossil, Movado, and others are doing their part to make it work. Time will tell whether or not more big players enter the space, and more importantly, if the market will agree with Vu’s vision.

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