Samsung debuts Galaxy Gear commercials

The reviews are mixed (on the commercials, that is). Techcrunch thought they were a bit too retro, Business Insider thinks they're brilliant.

Me? I liked them because it instantly connects the consumer with the idea of what these can do through familiar cultural touchstones. However, my biggest criticism is that they show follks talking to their wrists, which is probably the wrong thing to be focused on introducing the concept of smartwatches to the public.

Still, it looks like Samsung is throwing some serious marketing muscle behind the Gear, part of the reason we've forecasted 5 million smartwatches to ship this year.  

Below are the spots. Enjoy. 

AT&T becomes first carrier to bring a standalone (and kid's!) smartwatch to US

Today AT&T announced they'd be the exclusive carrier partner for the FiLIP, the first standalone smartwatch supported by a US carrier.  

At NextMarket Insights, we've predicted the standalone market will be fairly significant, in part because of the popularity of dedicated niche watches like children's smartwatches. In 2014, out of 15 million smartwatches shipped, we believe that 5 million will be standalone smartwatches. 

We also think children's smartwatches will be a potentially big niche. Here's why: 

  • A lifeline: a device like the FiLIP can provide a stripped down communication device without all the unnecessary features like apps, texting, etc
  • Less loseable: A watch is, let's face it, a lot less likely to get lost than a phone. It's on their wrist, it's attached, and it's probably less likely to be dropped and broken
  • It's cool: for all that talk of no one using phones anymore, just try to show your kid a smartwatch and see what he says. I know what mine said: he wanted one really bad. 
  • Cheaper: a smartwatch is likely cheaper than a phone, and a low-cost monthly subscription model can be bundled into the family plan. 

If you want to to hear the story behind the creation of the FiLIP smartwatch, you can listen to our conversation with Sten Kirkbak, who came up with the idea for a kid's smartwatch after losing his son (named Filip, of course) at the mall.  

Full press release below:

AT&T And Filip Technologies Team Up To Keep Parents And Kids In Touch 
FiLIP, a Wearable Locator and Voice Watch for Kids, Designed to Meet the Safety and Communication Needs of AT&T Customers

DALLAS, Oct. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- AT&T* and Filip Technologies today announced they are bringing FiLIP, a wearable device for the wrist that keeps parents and kids in touch at the push of a button, to the U.S. market in the coming months.  Under an agreement with Filip Technologies, AT&T is the exclusive network provider for FiLIP and will provide distribution and billing services for the product.

"FiLIP is exactly the type of device for which we formed the Emerging Devices team at AT&T.  Filip Technologies is taking wearable device innovation in a new direction – going beyond the smart watch to solve a real problem for parents and make their lives easier," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president, Emerging Devices, AT&T Mobility.

FiLIP focuses only on the features that parents want – location, voice calling, and direct messaging to their child. The parent remains in control at all times through an app on their smartphone, including the designation of five trusted contacts with whom the child can communicate. FiLIP also allows parents to set Safe Zones, triggering a notification if the child enters or leaves a designated area, and features an intelligent emergency procedure to locate the child and put them in touch with family if needed.  FiLIP was granted FCC certification in July.

"Our goal with FiLIP has been to create a product that empowers kids to explore their world while remaining in touch with those who care about them the most," said Jonathan Peachey, CEO of Filip Technologies.  "With their extensive wireless coverage, commitment to innovation and excellent customer care, AT&T is the ideal carrier to help us bring FiLIP to the U.S. market."

Additional details on pricing and service plans will be available in the coming months.

For more information on Filip Technologies, visit www.myfilip.com. For the complete array of AT&T offerings, visitwww.att.com.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest and most reliable 4G LTE network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries.  It also offers advanced TV service with the AT&T U-verse® brand. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com/aboutusor follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/attand YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/att.

4G LTE speed claim based on national carriers' average 4G LTE download speeds. Reliability claim based on data transfer completion rates on nationwide 4G LTE networks. 4G LTE availability varies.

 

 

Smartwatch Week That Was #3: Gear talks to TV, Fitbit watch, Casio thinks smart & more

This week was a bit slow on the smartwatch news front, but there was some news.  My cohost, David Schlosser and I have it all for you in this podcast, so take a listen. 

The first and only (until someone tells me different) podcast focused exclusively on smartwatches. Make sure to subscribe in iTunes here. 

The stories include: 

Smartwatch Forecast: Smartwatch Market to Hit 15 Million in 2014

We released a new report over at our sister research site, NextMarket Insights, on the smartwatch market. The report, which can also be found here (including a free copy of the executive summary) is the first to comprehensively forecast the smartwatch OS, apps and standalone vs. companion models through 2020.  

The press release is below, but I'll more on it later. I also talk about the forecast in the Smartwatch Week That Was podcast for this week as well. You can subscribe to that podcast (the only podcast I know of that is focused exclusively on smartwatches) here in iTunes.

Press release:

 Smartwatch Market Forecast to Grow From 15 Million in 2014 to 373 Million by 2020

Seattle - According to a new report from NextMarket Insights, the growing adoption of smartwatch software and wireless technologies by traditional watchmakers, the continued advancement of screen and mobile processor technologies and the strong expansion of smartwatches in the children and health/active lifestyle segments will drive the overall smartwatch market from 15 million watches shipped in 2014 to over 373 million by 2020.

"The watch industry ships over 1 billion watches a year, and there are nearly 7 billion mobile subscribers worldwide today," says Michael Wolf, Chief Analyst. "We believe the smartwatch category can become a substantial market opportunity even with fairly modest penetration of the broader mobile and watch-wearing public."

While most smartwatch market outlooks have focused almost exclusively on companion smartwatches, NextMarket Insights believes standalone smartwatches will also see substantial growth. Standalone smartwatches are those smartwatches with fully functional calling and data communication capabilities. In 2013, numerous Chinese smartwatch manufacturers released Android based standalone smartwatches, and western manufacturers such as Filip Technologies and Omate will ship products this year.

"We believe native voice and data capabilities in smartwatches will be attractive to a segment of the market," says Wolf. "Both for those who would use it in backup and lifeline scenarios, as well as those who see might see a smartwatch as a replacement for a phone in certain use cases common in the youth and active lifestyle watch segments."

The growing smartwatch market will lead to a fast maturing market ecosystem, across the hardware, services and software layers. In software, today's smartwatch manufacturers utilize existing smartphone OS's such as Android and new software frameworks on top of lightweight operating systems such as FreeRTOS and .NET Microframework. 

"Going forward, we see the smartwatch market coalescing around three major software camps," says Wolf. "The vast majority of smartwatches will be built using existing or modified versions of Android, new smartwatch operating systems such as the Pebble OS, and - assuming that Apple ultimately gets into the market - iOS."

The report, Smartwatch Forecast 2013-2020, from NextMarket Insights is the first comprehensive forecast of standalone/companion smartwatches, smartwatch OS's and smarwatch APPs. The report is available today for $499 for the single report, and for $899 for an annual subscription which includes four quarterly forecast updates and a briefing with a NextMarket Insights analyst.

Smartwatch Week That Was #2: AT&T gets Pebble, Samsung "meh" on Gear, Omate hits a mil

Welcome to the Smartwatch Week That Was, the first and only (until someone tells me different) podcast focused exclusively on smartwatches!. This is episode #2 for the week of September 27, 2013,  

I'm solo this week (I'll try and drag David back for next week's show), and on this podcast I discuss a few pieces of smartwatch news as well as talk a bit about my own smartwatch forecast, which I released this week! 

So, for those listening along at home, here are some show notes with links to the stories I talked about:

Thansk for listening. If you have any questions you want me to address or topics for future shows to suggest, or any feedback in general, email me.

Also, if you like the show - which is until someone tells me otherwise the first and maybe only podcast exclusively about smartwatches - please subscribe in iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/smartwatchfm/id689329574

Smartwatch 101 for those new to smartwatches

My wife and her company are giving away a couple Pebble smartwatches at a golf tournament this week.  

Now, I'm a bit biased (towards smartwatches AND my wife), but I have to say this is a pretty great business gift idea. 

Being the proprietor of a smartwatch site, she asked me to write a quick little intro guide for the lucky gift recipients.  For those of you new to smartwatches, I thought you might find this helpful.

And remember - this is a bit Pebble watch-centric, as it was written for new Pebble owners, but could work for any new smartwatch owner.  

*** 

A quick and dirty guide to smartwatches.

Congratulations, you are the owner of the newest and coolest gadget, a smartwatch!

First off, what is a smartwatch?

A smartwatch is a watch that connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth and allows you to read messages, see who is calling, track your workouts and health, play music remotely on an iPhone.

In short, they're cool connected devices that let you keep your phone in your pocket and gives you a cool conversation piece at that next Thanksgiving dinner.

Remember, it's also a watch

The Pebble watch is a good looking watch, black or red, not too nerdy looking (I think it's just nerdy looking enough to be cool-nerdish).

More importantly, you can download and even create your own watchfaces. With Pebble, you'll have access to hundreds of different watchfaces, from analog to geek to HelloKitty (guys, don't do it, unless you have a daughter, and then its only cool at home).

Apps!

Another cool part about the Pebble smartwatch (and other smartwatches) is you can download apps. Fitness trackers, calendar apps, calculators, and so on. Check out the links below for sites for apps to download.

Remember, it's a fairly new thing

And so there might be some bugs. Our son bought a Pebble (smartwatches are great gifts for kids, especially math/science-y kids) and it would lose a minute or two every few hours, meaning the time was off after a half-day. We simply had to reload the firmware (Google it - it's pretty easy to do) and it was fixed.

But Pebble is working hard on making the watch better. The great thing is since it's like a smartphone in that is built on top of software, it gets better all the time.

Here are some Pebble resources for you to check out:

Watch face download site: http://www.mypebblefaces.com/

Getting started with iPhone/iOS: http://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1191522-pairing-ios

Getting started with Android: http://help.getpebble.com/customer/portal/articles/1191710-pairing-android

Pebble FAQ: http://getpebble.com/#faq

Pebble Apps resources: http://www.allpebble.com/ http://pebblebarn.com/

And, of course, shameless self-promotion:

A good overall site to learn about smartwatches: www.smartwatch.fm

 

SWTW#1: Smartwatch Week That Was for September 20, 2013

We thought we'd give a go at a smartwatch weekly news wrapup and discussion here at Smartwatch.FM. The tentative title is the Smartwatch Week That Was (the acronym is SWTW, although there are those that would argue for SWWTW).  

Let us know if you like it. Email us at smartwatch.fm@gmail.com or just drop us a line via our form.

The stories references in this conversation are:

Once again, if you like this weekly review, please let us know via email (also let us know about news) and subscribe in iTunes.

iOS 7 day arrives: smartwatch users rejoice, Android users frown

If you are a smartwatch user, you've probably found that in these early days it's not always as easy as you'd like to get notifications from your smartphone. That's because smartphone OS's haven't been completely optimized for efficient communication with wearables over their  Bluetooth connection. 

That's about to change, at least if you're an iOS device user. That's because in iOS 7, Apple has brought a number of improvements to enhance interaction with wearables like smartwatches via Bluetooth.

Here's a quick rundown of how things are going to change with iOS 7 for smartwatches. 

No broken links

If you use a smartwatch tethered to a smartphone, you're used to the two devices losing track of one another. In iOS 6, this was due to a shutting down of background services in order to preserve memory, which resulted in dropped connections and perpetual frustration for smartwatch users. In iOS 7, a revamped State Preservation and Restoration Service means that a service link will be preserved between devices like smartwatches, which means no more dropped connections.  

Better notifications

Another major improvement in iOS 7 is full access to the Apple Notification Center Service (ANCS). In iOS 6, smartwatches could only really count on receiving notifications from SMS and email (and not always reliably), and notifications for social apps and other web-centric consumer services required a third party app to work at all.

With iOS 7, Apple has opened up full access to ANCS, which means delivery of all notifications and updates from apps without the need for another app.   Metawatch has already announced an update for their customers enabling native access to updates from web services like Facebook, Skype, Shopify and more.

More efficient battery usage

One of the problems for smartwatch users is the constant battery drain of a persistent tethered connection needed for sending updates from their phone. While Bluetooth Smart (or Bluetooth Low Energy) had limited support in iOS 6, real-time messaging of things such as SMS still required traversal over basic Bluetooth.

With iOS 7, this is solved as all notifications and messaging going through a single Bluetooth Smart connection, which will significantly preserve battery life. 

Ok, so what about Android?

It's been no secret that Android has never been as easy to support for smartwatch manufacturers and app developers as iOS. The COOKOO smartwatch supported the iPhone out the door, but had significant difficulty rolling out their Android app. Other smartwatch makers had suggested Android is a more difficult environment for their products.

Android 4.3, the third revision of Jelly Bean, has native support for Bluetooth Smart, but it's not clear how optimized phones with 4.3 phones will be. iOS 6 supported Bluetooth Low Energy, but in iOS 7, Apple fully embraced it, and full access to notifications through the Apple Notification Center Service gives connected wearables carte blanche access to data screens from apps.

It also appears smartwatch makers like Metawatch and Pebble have already rolled the improvements enabled by iOS 7 into their firmware. As of today,  it doesn't appear as if any of the smartwatches on the market have done so with Android (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in the comments).

I have no doubt that Android will eventually improve its interaction with smartwatches and wearables, particularly since Android 4.3 does in fact have native support for Bluetooth Smart and it's clearly in Google's best interest to foster a thriving wearables ecosystem.

However, as of today, it looks as if Apple has taken a clear (if temporary) lead in being "smartwatch-friendly" relative to Android.  

Extras:

Here is a screenshot of Metawatch's Metawatch Manager, which will adds new alerts automatically: 

 

Metawatch Manager

Metawatch Manager

Below is a video showing an iOS7 beta tester getting automatic, realitime notifications on their Pebble: 

The Galaxy Gear

No doubt you've probably read quite a bit about the Galaxy Gear by now, since Samsung's debut of their first smartwatch seemed to be the biggest news of the IFA show. 

While there's been no shortage of opinions - which have, in review, been decidedly mixed with a slight overall positive tone in aggregate - I'll quickly summarize my thoughts on the smartwatch and its launch.

The Galaxy Gear

The Galaxy Gear

Biggest Surprise 

Like many, I was surprised by the wristband based camera. The embedded 1.9 MP camera is definitely a differentiating feature that is also fairly practical in that it puts the camera in a decent location for image capture. It should also be noted that such a camera is limiting in terms of flexibility since the band is unswappable, but that's the tradeoff Samsung made in order to get the watch body to a palatable size. 

Software 

While only having a chance to watch a few hands-on reviews of the watch, my initial impression  is that Samsung did a fairly nice job with the Gear software. They created a simple and easy-to-navigate UI with a fairly surprising number of on-board apps out of the gate. From productivity apps like Evernote to fitness apps like Runkeeper, they've offered a good starter menu to satiate different app-etites.

Of course, while the number of apps available from day one is in part due to the fact the watch runs Android,  I'm not surprised about reports that that watch seems to be a bit sluggish for the same reason. As someone who's used Android for four generations of phones, I can tell you sluggish almost seems like a feature set, especially on single core processors.

Price

The $299 price is probably what I would have guessed had I seen the specs before launch, and is not crazy high given the unique differentiating features of the watch.  That said, I think it's on the high end of the smartwatch spectrum for the mass market in these early days (but likely lower than what I expect an iWatch to come in at).

Compatibility 

A lack of compatibility with non-Samsung phones (and most older Samsung phones and tablets) is, in my opinion, the biggest drawback of the Gear. It will also factor significantly into my smartwatch forecasts since I expect that Samsung will likely account for a significant percentage of the smartwatch market in the fourth quarter of this year and in 2014, and by limiting compatibility to their own devices (at least initially) limits the potential addressable market. 

That said,  I understand why Samsung did what they did. Android is not an easy platform to build an ecosystem of tethered wearables around, and there is also a significant amount of customization that they've done including around S-voice and other Samsung specific services. To broaden that to non-Samsung phones is going to take some time.  

Overall

As I wrote at GigaOM, I give Samsung a decent grade for the Gear rollout. The watch is smaller and better looking than I expected, and they get some extra credit for surprising with the embedded wristband camera.

That said, my feeling is the watch isn't necessarily a category creator on par with, say, the iPad or Kindle e-reader. This is largely due to the lack of compatibility with non-Samsung (and non-Android) devices, but also because I think it's not necessarily a big enough leap forward from existing smartwatches to really capture the imagination of the broader public like those other devices did almost instantly. 

Qualcomm Toq First Thoughts: Has Mirasol Founds Its Market?

With all the noise in run up to IFA about the Samsung Galaxy Gear, it's important not to overlook other smartwatch developments at the show.

And for my money, perhaps the most surprising and interesting announcement was that of the Qualcomm Toq.  

Of course, we shouldn't be totally shocked since rumors had been floating for a while, but some of the features as well as the fact the product is ready to ship in October makes the Toq worth, um, talking about. 

A quick rundown of the Toq specifics

  • Mirasol display  
  • Wireless charging
  • Bluetooth
  • $300 price tag
  • Available in October
  • Limited edition

And now my quick thoughts: 

Proof of Concept

I think the Toq effort is largely a proof of concept. Qualcomm is calling Toq a "limited edition" device, which likely means they are creating a smartwatch mainly to show off their technologies (in particular Mirasol) .  If they see strong uptake they might continue to sell the device, but given the recent lack of success in consumer end-user products (MediaFLO) and the bigger opportunity as a technology provider to large CE companies, I don't see them creating their own smartwatch long term.

Maybe Mirasol Has Found a Market

The company has sunk quite a bit of money into the MEMS color e-reading screen technology called Mirasol with fairly little return to show for it. At first the company tried to offer it up as a color e-reader screen technology (with good visibility in sunlight, unlike LCDs), but they were late to the party. The low-end e-reader market was dominated by e-ink and the overall market has plateaued as tablets came in from the high end.

With smartwatches, however, Qualcomm sees a potentially big opportunity. Watches must be visible in bright light, and e-ink and Mirasol tend to show up better in direct sunlight (although Pebble does a good job with the special LCD technology developed by Sharp that it uses). The Mirasol technology combines good visibility in direct sunlight with color and a capacitive touchscreen capability, all three which make for a potentially really interesting display technology for smartwatches in my opinion.

No Snapdragon

I don't have much to say about this other than the fact I think it's interesting the company chose not to use Snapdragaon. Some upstart smartwatch companies like the Neptune Pine are using Snapdragon, but Qualcomm likely sees the chip as too much of a power drain, at least for the time being.  

Qualcomm Could Have Lots of Customers In The Wearables Space

Qualcomm has been probably the most dominant mobile radio and chipset company over the past twenty years and will likely see a number of its phone manufacturer partners creating wearable products, including smartwatches. I think the Mirasol and wireless charging technologies are pretty compelling ingredient technologies and could get some takers.

Bottom Line 

I think Qualcomm's Toq experiment was a smart one. Anytime a potentially big new addressable market like wearables starts to open up, small gambles like this (unlike MediaFLO, which was a much bigger bet in terms of money spent) make sense and could ultimately have a big payoff. 

Qualcomm Toq Promo Video  

Samsung Unpacked Event Occasionally Live Blog

Here's your host: 10

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 10.02.58 AM.png

Looks like the Galaxy Note is up first.  I imagine they're saving the Gear for last.

JK Shin coming on stage at 10:05 PST. 

Sneak peak at the watch during the Note talk:

Can make calls using via voice commands.  

Definitely positioned as a companion device.

 

 

The Galaxy Gear

The Galaxy Gear

The Galaxy Gear will be available on September 25th in 149 countries.  

You've got a message... 

You've got a message... 

Cool: able to take and make calls through the watch - no need to take out the phone.  

Memographer - an outward facing camera on the wristband.

A simple swipe down and then click, and then distribute - all from the watch w/o touching the phone.  

Also: contextual understanding and augmented reality interpretation with the Gear camera.  

1.63" AMOLED display. 

Apparently the Gear is only compatible with Samsung Galaxy devices?  That's a huge downside in my opinion.  

Is the Smartwatch the Quartz Crisis Redux?

Back in the 70s and early 80s, the Swiss watch industry went from near domination of the worldwide timepiece market to one in severe crisis, as the emergence of a new technology called quartz - or electronic movement -  came to market.  

At the time, many of the Swiss watchmakers were slow to embrace quartz while the Japanese and American watchmakers were eager to embrace the new technology which they saw as a way to gain a foothold in a market controlled by the Swiss.  

The Seiko Astron - the first Quartz watch

The Seiko Astron - the first Quartz watch

The reluctance of the Swiss watch industry to move to quartz resulted in a period called the Quartz Crisis, when employment in the Swiss watch industry dropped from 90 thousand at its height in the seventies to 28 thousand.

Eventually the Swiss recovered, and nowadays the timepiece industry in Switzerland is once again a huge center of economic vitality. The emergence of Swatch in the 80s and the recognition of high-fashion quality watches from the likes of Rolex and other Swiss brands the world over have fueled steady growth. 

However, is it possible that the specter of a new technology could once again put the watch industry in Switzerland in peril?  Possibly, and this time the new technology is that what is commonly called  smartwatch technology.

According to Arny Kapshitzer, the creator of the first Swiss smartwatch, he approached numerous large watch companies in Switzerland and received no real interest. According to Kapshitzer, most were reluctant to really adopt the new technology. 

This sentiment seems consistent with those voiced by the CEO of Swatch, Nick Hayek Jr., who in March said of the iWatch and smartwatch category that "Personally, I don’t believe it’s the next revolution." 

Of course, chances are that many in the Swiss watch industry won't sit still given the lessons learned from past complacency, and there are some that are already possibly developing smartwatch technology such as Tag Heuer. According to a spokesperson for the Swiss watch maker, they've been working with Oracle on something related to smartwatches.

My personal opinion? Many high-end smartwatches will eventually build in smart technology while retaining the same high-end look and feel of traditional fashion watches. I just 't think the Swiss watch industry will stand still, and most will either develop their own technology or partner with large technology platform companies to have a line with "smarts" to appeal to those want it.

Would Swatch Work With Apple for a Smartwatch?

An interesting tidbit came at the end of my conversation with Arny Kapshitzer, the CEO of Hyetis.  He indicated he heard from a journalist (whom he didn't name) who had talked to the CEO of "the leader of the Swiss watch industry", who Kapshitzer believes was Swatch. 

According to Kapshitzer, the CEO (who would be Nick Hayek Jr) said if they were to do a smartwatch, they would probably try to work with Apple.

This is interesting because in March, when asked about the iWatch and smartwatches, , Hayek famously "I don’t believe it’s the next revolution". 

It should be noted - quite emphatically - that this was all hearsay and speculation and Kapshitzer puts caveats around the whole idea, including whether  the two companies would even work together. As he correctly points out, just because Swatch may want to work with Apple, it doesn't mean Apple would work with them.

But as I've written before, a smartwatch is as much or more a piece of fashion than it is technology, so maybe - just maybe - with all the caveats in mind, Apple realizes this and believes that working with someone like Swatch could help them create a true line of fashion-conscious watches that are more than just a new tech gadget.

You can hear my full conversation with Kapshitzer here, and listen to an excerpt with his mention of Apple and Swatch below.  

What's Apple's Move?

I have a quick piece over at GigaOM today on the rising expectations for Apple around smartwatches with each day - and piece of news - that passes. 

Will they disappoint? I doubt it. But every day that passes raises the stakes for a company that is used to turning markets on its head. 

As I write over at GigaOM

Well here’s the problem for Apple. There are going to be lots of innovative approaches, app platforms and interfaces that are going to be exposed over the next few months around smartwatches, and the very fact that Apple has yet to show us anything could mean the company gets upstaged before they release something. With each day that passes and potential new entrant, the pressure rises on Apple to produce something completely different.

Tick tock, tick tock. What time do you got, Apple? 

 

GigaOM: Google, not Apple, acquired WIMM

Our friends at GigaOM have a Friday afternoon scoop: Apparently Google has acquired the WIMM assets for their own smartwatch plans.

According to Janko

At the time, some publications speculated that Apple may have snatched up WIMM Labs to bolster its iWatch efforts, but GigaOM has now learned that the buyer actually was Google. The acquisition was facilitated by Woodside Capital Partners, and it looks like a significant part of WIMM’s staff stayed on to join Google. Most of WIMM’s senior staff still list their original company on their Linkedin profile, but a few have updated it with a mention of their new employer. We have asked Google for comment, but have yet to hear back.

It looks like it's going to a busy week next week with smartwatch news! 

Hyetis Crossbow already has sold 300 smartwatches at $1200 a pop

Who needs Kickstarter when you can sell 300 watches at $1,200 a piece?

We caught up with Arny Kapshitzer, the man behind Hyetis and its high-end smartwatch, the Crossbow. Kapshitzer is a long time Swiss watch designer who's launched such watches such as AK Geneve, but a year ago he decided to create a smartwatch. 

The Hyetis Crossbow

The Hyetis Crossbow

And now have the Hyetis Crossbow, which last week was announced in a limited initial run of 500 for $1200 a piece. 

According to Kapshitzer, others in the Swiss watch industry aren't as excited about the smartwatch movement as he is.

I'll have the full conversation with Arny available on Monday, but I thought I'd share a couple other interesting tidbits he shared with me:

  • The device will run on Android, one of two OS's which they were considering. The other was an "Intel OS"
  • After the initial run, Hyetis plans on selling the Crossbow at $1,500. They also plan on having more smartwatches
  • The watch will allow under-water picture taking, and while the capacitive touch screen won't work under water to snap pictures with, Hyetis hopes to have an add-on to allow for picture snapping under water. 

 (update: the full interview with Arny Kapshitzer is here.)

Take a listen to the clip of my of my conversation with Hyetis CEO and Swiss watch designer Arny Kapshitzer below. We will also have a full profile of the Hyetis Crossbow and new details of Kapshitzer's plan for a high-end Swiss smartwatch company on Monday. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get notifications.

You can subscribe to our newsletter for updates or subscribe in iTunes to get all the Smartwatch.FM interview podcasts. 

Kids and smartwatches: the really really big opportunity?

This week my 11 year old son bought a smartwatch. It was a Pebble he had saved up for, and now that he's got it I can't tell you how excited he is about his new gadget. 

Wait, you're thinking. A kid with a smartwatch? Clearly he's the son of a guy who writes about technology, and even more specifically the son of a guy who started a smartwatch site.  

Clearly there aren't going to be many other kids who want smartwatches, right? 

Wrong. There will be. And there will be lots of them.

Kids know its smartwatch time

Kids know its smartwatch time

While a superficial analysis might paint a picture of the early market for smartwatches as one comprised of mainly professional, tech-leaning, early adopters who are, well, largely adult, I think there will be a very big opportunity for smartwatches targeted at the youth market.

Not convinced? Let me explain why.

The Spy Factor

Dick Tracy is overused in talking about smartwatches, but many people with kids will tell you spy gear toys have been hugely popular the last few years. Sure, that's partly due to the fact cool spy toys are really just low-cost monitoring devices that are cheap to manufacture nowadays, but this modern democratization of cool spy gear finally allows toy makers to truly tap into the time-tested and universal love all kids seem to have for "playing spy".

And really, what better way to play spy than with a cool connected watch?

The iPod Touch

My son has an iPod Touch. And if my kids, their friends, and my nieces and nephews are any indication of the broader market today in the US, I think tens of millions of kids probably also have iPod Touches. 

And you know what? The iPod Touch will work pretty darn well with a Pebble or any number of forthcoming companion smartwatches.  

Viral Buying

The reason the iPod Touch is so popular - and pretty much any other hit toy - is due to what I call viral buying. Kids aren't like adults in that they almost all want what the other kid has, particularly when it comes to something like technology or toys.  And once one has one, the next kid wants one, and soon all the kids want one, and soon the local Best Buy or Toys R Us are out of stock and Matt Lauer's doing a segment on the latest toy craze.

Low Threshold Purchase Price

While this is clearly a "first-world" analysis, I'd say that at $150 price point or below, a smartwatch is definitely is within reach with any kid and their babysitting or lawn-mowing money. It's also not an out-of-reach or overindulgent price for parents buying a gift for their children, particularly for those who have spent more money on things like game consoles or, well, iPod Touches. 

So You've Convinced Me...But What's the Really Big Opportunity Here?

So maybe I convinced you that this could be a big opportunity. And it will be, I assure you. A Pebble or Galaxy Gear watch that comes in at a decent price point with flourishing apps and software ecosystem will certainly find significant traction in today's youth market. 

But you know what I think is a potentially even bigger opportunity?

Smartwatches created specifically for the youth market. 

Why? Because I think if kids want a smartwatch, why not create a smartwatch designed specifically for them? 

So what characteristics should a youth-oriented smartwatch have? Here are a few suggestions:

Stand-alone

While I think companion smartwatches will be a bigger market than stand-alone watches overall, I think a standalone youth smartwatch could be extremely popular. The reason is I think is it would open up the market for kids without a Touch or other companion device, and also could act as a kid's main communication device (Dick Tracy!).

Low-cost 3G/LTE connectivity

I know that adding more radios to a smartwatch will impact price and battery performance, but I think creating a smartwatch that gives kids the ability to receive messages from their parents - and even possibly send them - would be hugely valuable for both.   And let's not kid ourselves - they'll want to send them to each other. Anyone who has a child with an iPod Touch knows kids like to send messages...alot.

I think the price of bandwidth can be mitigated by the simple reality that a small footprint device like a kid's smartwatch likely won't be use for things like video or huge bandwidth sucking apps. I also think an "Amazon Kindle-esque" model of subsidized bandwidth could be used with the device if it's tied to a revenue-generating app or content marketplace. 

Speaking of apps...

Apps

Kids clearly love apps, as anyone who has a Angry Birds or Instagram loving child will tell you. While the app ecosystem for smartwatches is just getting started, a youth smartwatch could easily leverage existing app platforms such as Pebble, Android or iOS to make sure there are a number of kid-friendly apps across a number of categories.

Camera

Admittedly a camera on a watch will add to the price, but it sure would be a winner. Kids love taking and sharing pictures, and if they could use their watch as a camera,  I can guarantee this will be a hugely popular feature. 

Accessories

It goes with out saying accessorizing a watch with different color bands, faceplates, etc will be important. The good news with smartwatches is "digital accessorizing" is possible with downloadable watchfaces, but I think that some actual physical accessorizing will also be important.

Closing Words

If you're not convinced there's an opportunity here, chances are you probably don't believe in the smartwatch category in general.

But if you do, I'd be surprised if you don't see a huge opportunity, and if that's the case I put the question to you: who will be the first company to take advantage of it?

If you'd like to receive our newsletter with posts and updates on the smartwatch market, sign up here.