The race for dominance in wearable gadgets is on. To the surprise of no one, the same players that rule the smartphone market are trying to be the leaders of this market as well.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Samsung has been readying a smartwatch to release to market for quite some time. “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” Samsung Mobile executive vice president Lee Young Hee told Bloomberg. “We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”
Samsung’s disclosure to join the arm race comes about a month after we learned that Apple has a team of designers working on creating a smartwatch of its own, dubbed in rumor circles as the iWatch. Apple has already filed design patents that show off the basic outline of what the supposed iWatch might eventually look like.
Consumer Engineering: History Repeats Itself
The watch, in its most basic form, has not been thoroughly reinvented 40 years. The first digital watches came to market in the 1970s. Quartz watches, the first electronic watches, evolved at the end of the 1950s and into the 1960s. Before that, watches used mechanical movements of springs that often needed to wound on a frequent basis to function. Wristwatches came in vogue during World War I and into the 1920s. Before that, most watches were of the mechanical spring variety, attached to a chain and kept in people’s pockets.
The watch, and clock making before it, has long been seen as the pinnacle of consumer engineering. Watches need to be small and precise, packing many moving parts into a small shell that is durable and highly reliable. Among craftsmen, the meticulous nature and precision of the watchmaker was seen as High Art.
Just as watchmakers shrunk the concept of the clock into a portable timepieces, today’s gadget manufacturers are shrinking the smartphone into a piece of wearable technology that can perform similar functions. In many ways, history is repeating itself. From the grand metronome clock, to the desk clock, to the watch, timepieces evolved from big to small. In the digital era, computers morphed to PCs, PCs to laptops, laptops to smartphones and tablets and smartphones to, soon, smartwatches.
What Will A Smartwatch Be, Really?
Smartwatches will likely run on mobile operating systems like Android and iOS. Samsung’s executive did not give Bloomberg details on when it will produce the watch, what it will entail or when it will come out so at this point we know little about it other than the fact that Samsung has been working on the concept. There is no guarantee that Samsung will use Google’s Android operating system for its smartwatch either, with choices like Tizen available that theoretically could be morphed into a small form factor.
Since the kernel of these smartwatches will be mobile OS based, we can assume some basic functionalities to be morphed from the smartphone environment. That would likely include data capabilities, a browser of some sort, notifications (for the likes of messaging and emails), perhaps voice capabilities and certain apps like maps, music and exercise.
The biggest advantage of a smartwatch could come in the ability to track activities through sensors. A great advantage to a smartwatch would be to take the basic capabilities of a smartphone, add in the capability to monitor heart rate, speed and distance and shrink it down into something stylish that can be worn while running or cycling. Whereas a smartphone like an Samsung Galaxy S or an iPhone is designed to perform many functions, a smartwatch could be more focused on what it does.
This approach of basic apps plus sensors is what we see from one of the first smartwatches to hit the market, the Pebble Watch. Pebble can deliver email, SMS, Facebook, calendar, Twitter and weather updates. Pebble connects via Bluetooth to an iPhone or an Android to enable its data connection and tracking features.
The fact of the matter is that we do not yet know what Samsung and Apple have in the works, except for the fact that each company definitely do have smartwatches in the pipeline. It will be exciting to see what each company comes out with, hopefully later this year.
What is your vision for a smartwatch? Let us know in the comments.
Top image courtesy Shutterstock. Waltham watch image courtesy Wikipedia.