There have been rumors for months that
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) has been developing a smart watch to compete with
the iWatch from
), another hypothetical product rumored to be under development.
Last week, news circulated that the Korean tech company had filed
a trademark application
with the US Patent and Trademark Office for the name
described as "wearable digital electronic devices in the form of a
wristwatch, wrist band, or bangle capable of providing access to
the Internet and for sending and receiving phone calls, electronic
mails, and messages." The trademark application follows a series of
reports that describe Samsung filing patents for flexible displays
and other technologies a smart watch might use. The device will
likely run on
) and work intuitively with Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones.
The Pebble's Caller ID Function
With seemingly more news every week about developments in the smart
watch category, we decided to take a step back and assess the
trend: Why is there so much anticipation for devices from Apple and
Samsung when smart watches, like
, and the Kickstarter-funded
, already exist? How did the smart watch craze originate? Is there
a deep consumer need for smart watches? Will one or two companies
dominate smart watches, or will the market be more diverse?
The countdown to a new booming market is on.
By the end of 2013, the value of the wearable technology market
reach $4.6 billion
, according to Visiongain, an independent business information
provider. Moreover, the smartphone market is saturated. By the end
of 2012, smartphone penetration in the US had approached 70%.
As Matthew Ong of personal finance and credit card comparison
told Minyanville, "The pace of smartphone upgrading has slowed as
consumers see only incremental improvements in each new smartphone
model." With less smartphone sales, mobile companies are looking
for ways to expand their business into new device categories.
"Smart watches are a lucrative horizon because of the potential to
create a consumer need," said Ong.
Yet that is not to say that the need is completely manufactured --
at least not according to smart watch makers.
A market 40 years in the making.
The smart watch concept has been around for decades. In 1972, the
Hamilton Watch Comapny introduced the very first digital watch, the
Pulsar P1, with an LED display, a body of 18-karat gold, and a
25-chip circuit that used so much power that the watch could only
light up for seconds at a time with the push of a button. By the
late 1970s, the calculator watch had made its debut, reaching its
height of influence in the mid '80s with the
(TYO:6952) Databank series. As digital watches developed, they
gained more functionality, and in the '90s, several devices came
out with even more specific applications.
In 1997, Speedo launched a smart watch with built-in monitors for
measuring stroke count, distance per stroke, stroke rate, and
several other metrics that competitive swimmers use. The watch was
called the Strokz, and it was developed by Bill Geiser, who would
go on to be the Vice President of Watch Technology at
) and then strike out on his own and found the Dallas, Texas-based
smart watch company MetaWatch.
In a telephone interview with Minyanville, Geiser described his
early thoughts about the need for a watch that did more than tell
time. He explained that around 2004, he began noticing more and
more cellphone users using Blue Tooth headsets. He was intrigued by
how they would stop in their tracks, reach in their pocket, and
immediately check their phone when they got a call.
"The phone they would pull out then was a flip phone," he recalled.
"[The flip phones] had extra displays, generally a small secondary
display on the outside that was there purely for convenience. That
was the overwhelming reason why all these handset manufacturers put
a second display on there, because it's pretty expensive to do
that. Convenience is a killer feature. In everything."
Naturally, Geiser and other smart watch entrepreneurs wondered: Why
not have that secondary, convenient screen on your wrist? That way,
when you feel your phone buzzing in your pocket, "a simple glance
[at a smart watch] tells you everything you need to know about
whether you need to deal with that notification now or later," said
The smart watch is part of "glanceable" technology, he explained. A
person wouldn't sit and read this story on a watch; that's what
smart phones and tablets are for. But a smart watch would be synced
with your phone and useful for checking where that call just came
from, or who just emailed you, without having to take a phone out
of your pocket.
It would not only be convenient; a smart watch could also save
battery life for one's phone. "Your display is the biggest consumer
of power on your smartphone," says Geiser.
Geiser, not surprisingly, is bullish on the smart watch sector.
"Ten years from now, [MetaWatch's] belief is that there will be
hundreds of companies selling smart watches, just like there are
thousands of companies that sell watches today. The watch market is
not a speculative market -- there are over 1.2 billion watches sold
every year, so it's a big market."
MetaWatch produces two different kinds of smart watches: the
Strata, which starts at $129, and the Frame, starting at $199. The
watches were funded by a 2012 Kickstarter campaign, and can be
Geiser says he doesn't think one company, like Apple or Samsung,
will ever dominate the smart watch market because, as he said, "We
wear this stuff, and when you wear things, it has gone from being a
utilitarian product to a form of personal expression. It's fashion.
You wear fashion. We're not going to all wear the same thing." The
smart watch market will be diverse, with a range of price points
However, Geiser did concede that if Apple and Samsung entered the
market (which is still speculation), they "will dominate dominate
certain segments of the market."
A more natural wearable product? Another device for
Some tech pundits see the smart watch craze as a response to Google
Glass. Nick Pirollo, a Web developer for
, the CTO of scholarship search app
, and a Google Glass developer to boot, told us, "The interesting
thing about the new watch fad is that studies show the generation
under 30 wear watches a lot less and [sales] are still declining in
That fact makes Pirollo think that "the whole watch fad is coming
about as a rebuttal to Google Glass, as even though the Glass is
pretty non-intrusive, you still look pretty weird wearing it. The
next most convenient place to put an 'always aware' device is the
So is it possible that the smart watch represents a baby step
toward society's wider spread acceptance of more obvious wearable
Others see smart watches as a bold step into the future for
location-based advertising. Imagine walking past a store, say
(BBY), and getting an instant notification on your iWatch or Galaxy
Gear, notifying you of an exclusive sale. If you have five minutes
to spare, you'll probably go in and check it out. Such an ad can go
to your smartphone as well, but "[i]mmediate alerts of local sales
will not work if people have their phones tucked away in a pocket
or a purse... If they only view the ad 20 minutes later, the whole
user experience is wasted," wrote Tej Rekhi in a
Mobile Commerce Daily
Rekhi also notes, "Without prior opt-in and the ability to specify
relevant products or services, the magic appearance of an ad... can
be viewed as intrusive or even creepy." Therefore, "the key to
success is soliciting the user's cooperation upfront so that ads
are relevant and welcome." This would not only avoid the creepiness
of random ads targeted at your specific (and perhaps secret)
interests, but it would also encourage positive brand associations
that could "boost customer acceptance of location-based advertising
while increasing the likelihood that ad recipients will convert."
The "Internet of Everything" is here.
Loren Davie, the founder and CEO of content-targeting company
Axilent, thinks that "the best way to understand the smart watch
momentum is to view it as the tip of the iceberg." As Davie told
Minyanville in an email, "Smart watches are a subset of wearable
Internet devices (which might include whatever Google Glass will
eventually evolve into), which are themselves a subset of the
overall trend of ubiquitous Internet-connected devices."
The so-called "Internet of Things," a term first coined by the
British tech pioneer Kevin Ashton in 1999 to describe the coming
interconnectivity of uniquely identifiable objects (mirrors, cars,
glasses, razors, etc.), is upon us, and the smart watch is already
becoming an integral and glanceable part of it.
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