Time is ripe for smartwatches, analysts say

Mar 31, 2013 by Rob Lever
A hostess shows a smartwatch by Sony, on February 27, 2013, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Analysts say 2013 may be the year for the smartwatch because "the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough" and a large number of consumers now have smartphones that can connect to a wearable device.

Amid much speculation on the future of the "smartwatch," the consensus is growing: the time is right.

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced about plans for smartwatches from tech giants Apple, Samsung and Google, with launches possible later this year.

"I think we have reached a tipping point," said Avi Greengart, analyst on consumer devices at the research firm Current Analysis.

Greengart said 2013 may be the year for the smartwatch because "the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough" and a large number of consumers now have smartphones that can connect to a .

The idea of the connected watch has been around for at least a decade: Microsoft had one in 2003. And some devices are already on the market including from Sony, the crowdfunded maker Pebble and Italian-based firm i'm.

Up to now, smartwatches have been able to connect to phones wirelessly to give users signals about new messages, and allow some limited .

But analysts say once they gain traction, app developers can come up with new functions, possibly drawing on health and fitness monitoring devices now in use.

The likely entry of new heavyweight players like Apple "can catalyze the market," Greengart said, while noting that any new has to prove its utility to consumers.

"This is a market that needs to be created."

Even though Apple has maintained its customary silence on the subject, that has not stopped on the Internet, including a likely design of a curved glass "iWatch."

A Sony smartwatch, conected to a mobile phone, is seen during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, on February 28, 2012. Analysts say 2013 may be the year for the smartwatch because "the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough" and a large number of consumers now have smartphones that can connect to a wearable device.

ABI Research predicts that smartwatches and other wearable will "explode in popularity over the next year" and grow to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018.

"The furor about wearable technologies, particularly smart watches and smart glasses is unsurprising," said ABI analyst Josh Flood.

"Apple's curved glass-based watch could prove to be a revelation in the wearable technologies market. The major question is whether the digital time piece will act as a complimentary device to the company's iPhone smartphones or as a standalone product with other functionalities like health or activity tracking capabilities."

Citi analyst Oliver Chen said the smartwatch segment, which now includes devices from Fossil and Movado, could easily evolve into a $6 billion annual business with "higher than average" profit margins.

"A successful smartwatch likely needs to create a completely new market and not compete on fashion or luxury brand prestige," Chen said.

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps noted that "the body is the next frontier for personal computing," and that "it seems like only a matter of time before Apple enters the market directly."

Epps said that this market could grow because "consumers love their smartphones, and there is some appeal in having an additional touchpoint," which could allow a user to check messages or use other smartphone apps from the wrist.

But she noted that there are several other potential types of competing devices, including Glass and other "smart" eyeglasses.

"I'm not convinced the smartwatch is the killer form factor," Epps told AFP.

Danielle Levitas, analyst at the research firm IDC, said there is an opportunity for smartwatches and other wearable devices because consumers want to be connected without pulling out a phone, which might be impolite in some situations.

"It's less rude to glance at your wrist than to take your phone from your back pocket," she said.

But it will take some time for the to sort out what consumers want.

"You could have a device with all the smarts embedded, or a device with lower costs that connects to a smartphone," Levitas said.

Pricing of a fully autonomous watch could be $300 or more, she noted, plus data charges, but a -linked device may cost as little as $100.

Levitas said manufacturers will have to find the right size of display—large enough to be useful without being cumbersome.

"It's going to be harder for women than men," she said.

"If it's big enough to be useful, it may look totally dorky. This may only appeal to certain segments."

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User comments : 12

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Telekinetic
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 31, 2013
" Calling Dick Tracy..."
Sean_W
1 / 5 (4) Mar 31, 2013
If there were useful things it could do outside the realm of video then size wouldn't be as big a problem. Maybe if it could diferentiate gestures via EEG or gage it's position relative to the user and use sound or vibration to give feedback it could be used to interface with a proximity oriented operating system.
CapitalismPrevails
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 31, 2013
I can't wait to be able to record and audio note on a smartwatch. That would save a lot of effort in digging my phone out. smartwatches would be less cumbersome for a few applications.
DGBEACH
5 / 5 (3) Mar 31, 2013
I can't stand having something stuck to my arm, and haven't worn a watch since the first relatively small cell phones came out- able to tell me the time and date. And in an era of bigger and higher def screens, I can't see how something like this would catch on!
VendicarE
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 31, 2013
Massive fail.

Zero applicability to the real world.
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (4) Mar 31, 2013
A Sony smartwatch, conected to a mobile phone, is seen during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, on February 28, 2012. Analysts say 2013 may be the year for the smartwatch because "the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough" and a large number of consumers now have smartphones that can connect to a wearable device….

This seems to be another advance step in wireless technology; unfortunately nowadays we still do not know how the familiar radio communication works! Maybe this physical mechanism could give a hint.
http://www.vacuum...20〈=en
packrat
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2013
Smart watches have been available for at least 10 years and haven't made more than a small dent in the market. You can buy a watch that is a complete cell phone already. Just google "watch phones" - there are many on the market. How much better can the new ones from Apple or Sony be over what's already available? I think they are going to stay a small niche market like they already are. The Apple one will probably sell fairly well at first simply because the are so many Apple fanatics that will buy anything with an 'I' in front of it Apple comes out with but I think it will be a short lived trend this time.
Jeddy_Mctedder
2 / 5 (8) Apr 01, 2013
google glasses and smart watches will be epic failures.

implanteable devices with body heat/vibration powered batteries will provide information for which there is a profiteable real time need to keep the human being connected to the internet.

otherwise, smart phones will just get faster and more capable.

is it not obvious that for the first time, the samsung galaxy note is a massive triumph of a smart phone that is BIGGER than the dominant player iphone.

the reason is because phones no longer need to be smaller, they need to be about the size of a nexus, and lighter, with more power, and more capabilities.

smaller---for phone SIZES----is no longer the dominant moving theme. in this respect, smart watches are dead on arrival. google glasses, in my humble opinion, may have military applications, but civilian adoption is quite unlikely. its information overload.

people will buy things that relieve them of informational attention requirements while increasing connectivity.
Anda
5 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2013
"It's less rude to glance at your wrist than to take your phone from your back pocket," she said.
A point of view ( hey anyone here has his phone in his back pocket??). I haven't used a watch the last 20 years since I've got a mobile.
I can see a lot of applications for glasses, but not for watches (only the heart rate one).
rwinners
5 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2013
Haven't worn a watch since pagers came into use. Don't think I'll use one now. "Time" is available everywhere and reading anything more than a set of numbers on a watch face will be impossible for many.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 02, 2013
google glasses and smart watches will be epic failures
Many people who already wear glasses and sunglasses will appreciate the ability to use them to display info and overlay it on the world at will. But watches are awkward and difficult to read with more than a glance.
extinct
1 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2013
yeah "the time is ripe" to be wearing a radio receiver/transmitter on your body 24/7/365, without once stopping to ask what sort of biological damage you may suffer from the related frequencies. humans are silly.