While rumors of an
) iWatch abound, it's difficult to separate the real from the
speculative. As of now, the
patents are real
, but any price points, release dates, and hardware specs are
largely educated guess work.
If there is one absolute certainty amid all this confusion, it's
that the wait for a modern smartwatch isn't just beginning; in
fact, it has been over for a while.
) SmartWatch made its US debut April 12, 2012, selling for $149.99.
By enabling users to view
) updates, tweets, calendar notifications, emails, and SMS message,
Sony's product seems to cover a lot of the bases that users would
expect to see covered by an iWatch.
Prior to the June 25 confirmation of a revamped SmartWatch 2 set to
launch in the UK on July 15, ABI Research estimated that 1.2
million smartwatches would be sold globally in 2013, resulting in
$370 million in sales.
Ultimately, the SmartWatch's poor functionality hurt sales, but
ABI's projections are still telling.
The SmartWatch runs the
) OS and is compatible with most Android devices. With over 900
million Android users globally, Sony's wrist-wear, even if it makes
up a majority of the 1.2 million smartwatch sales in total, would
be a niche product at best.
The SmartWatch 2 could change all that, but right now, the numbers
"I think at the moment, we can all see the viability and potential
for a smartwatch. It makes senses, and linking it to our
smartphones could be useful. However, currently, it lacks that real
strong case study which makes consumers think, 'I need that
product,'" Josh Flood, a UK-based senior analyst at ABI Research,
While a big name like Sony provides an easily recognizable example,
fundraising sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo can launch the
products of much smaller companies into the spotlight -- and they
First introduced on Kickstarter, Pebble offers various message,
email, weather, and calendar alerts and can also serve as a range
finder on the golf course or as a running or biking tracker. Thanks
to its developer-friendly hardware, additional apps are expected,
which will add to the numerous features already available. Pebble
began retailing exclusively in
) stores on Sunday for $149.99.
Having raised $10.2 million from 68,929 backers via Kickstarter,
Pebble is making waves. In the end, however, the new watch retails
for the same price as Sony's SmartWatch. Pebble may feature better
functionality, but notifications, music control, and exercise
tracking make its essential offerings pretty similar to Sony's
devices, excluding the iOS functionality.
I may not be the most creative thinker when it comes to tech and
design possibilities, but it's hard to see how any one smartwatch
can so significantly differentiate itself from the crowd as far as
features are concerned.
With the glut of smartphones available in the market today, Apple
still stands out despite the numerous products that sport similar
offerings. The once-bitten Apple phenomenon and its compatibility
with other Apple products could be enough for the iWatch to take
off, says Flood.
Another struggle for the smartwatch industry on the whole is the
nature of the accessory itself. Beyond telling time, a watch makes
a statement. A Rolex says -- or at least implies -- something
entirely different about its wearer than a Timex does.
Both Sony and Pebble offer a variety of colored bands and sleek
touch interfaces, but the first impression they give off is that of
a piece of new-age technology rather than a fashion statement,
which might be intentional.
Apple hasn't hesitated to slap a high price tag on its products
before, but even if it made an iWatch that works, looks, and feels
better than its competitors' devices, it's hard to envision
smartwatches taking over the wrist real estate currently occupied
by Cartiers and Audemars.
The traditional watch market is set to generate more than $60
billion in sales in 2013,
according to Bloomberg
. Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss
Watch Industry, which includes some of the world's most luxurious
watchmakers, said that Swiss watch exports exceeded $20 billion in
2012. While a regular watch simply tells time, it's hard to tell if
the additional features offered by an iWatch could convince people
to swap out their expensive timepieces.
"I think as more established technology giants bring their product
propositions to the table -- Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft --
we are going to see the full extent of what this product can offer
us," said Flood.
With the iWatch yet to officially exist, it's hard to deem it a
success or failure, but the road to mass smartwatch sales could be
an elusive one.
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