Naina KhedekarJul 17, 2013 11:00:51 IST
While smartwatches aren't new anymore, there is considerable buzz about this product category these days. But that's hardly surprising when names like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Google are being thrown around when talking about smartwatches. This is in addition to Sony announcing the Android-based Smartwatch 2 and a number of other indie companies also launching their versions of a smartwatch, the Pebble being a notable example.
Earlier this year, rumours of an Apple iWatch came to a full crescendo and then it was revealed that Samsung, Google and Microsoft are also working on a wrist-worn smart device. We scoured through all the rumours and speculation to bring you what we know about the various smartwatch projects at these companies.
Rumours and speculations about the Apple iWatch have been rife from the start of the year and talk picked up pace when Apple reportedly formed a 100-man team to dedicatedly work on the iWatch. Rumourmongers have also been pointing to an Apple TV commercial, which showed an person wearing a mysterious gadget on their wrist and also using an iPhone. More recently, reports say the project has been delayed and Apple is hiring more people to get the right personnel for the project. The company recently hired the former CEO of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent to work on 'special projects', which further added fuel to the iWatch talk. We already know that Apple filed trademark applications for the use of the name iWatch in Japan and Mexico.
When it is unveiled, the iWatch is expected to run a reworked version of an existing OS (iOS, in this case), a strategy that has been used by Apple in the past. Much of the buzz about the iWatch comes because it will be Apple's first new product since Steve Jobs's death. One of the many criticisms that has been levelled at Apple is that the company has stagnated in terms of innovation and the iWatch is meant to be in response to these claims. The iWatch is likely to support features such as ability to respond to text messages, accessing the call log, re-ordering playlists and getting glance-able information from apps. The display of the device is expected to be curved and at least one rumour says it will wrap around the user's wrist like a slap bracelet.
An iWatch concept design created by Antonio De Rosa
When Apple's working on an iWatch, can Samsung be far behind? The Korean giant is also said to be working on its own wearable device. First leaked screenshots of Samsung’s Galaxy Altius smartwatch popped up and gave us some idea of what to expect. Even though the screenshots looked authentic, that's the only time we have heard the Altius name. Then, Lee Young Hee, Executive Vice President–Mobile Business, also revealed that a smartwatch is in the pipeline. More recently, rumours swirled around about Samsung using the name 'Gear' for the smartwatch. Reportedly, the trademark application for the name says it will be used for “watches that communicate data to personal digital assistants, smart phones, table PCs, PDA, and personal computers through internet websites and other computer and electronic communications networks." If you think about it, the name fits pretty well for a wrist-worn device as analog wristwatches have a gear mechanism for moving the hands. The smartwatch is expected to serve as a health monitor and will probably tie in with the S Health Android app. The watch is expected come equipped with a camera, a GPS chip and a TV receiver.
Microsoft working on its own smartwatch doesn’t surprise us. After all, the company wouldn't want to be late out of the gate again like with smartphones. Microsoft’s plans for a smartwatch were leaked earlier this year and by April it had started considering different designs. Microsoft was earlier testing variations of the watch which were designed and prototyped by the Xbox accessories team. The smartwatch later moved to the Surface team. The Surface-branded smartwatch from Microsoft is expected to run on modified version of Windows 8 PC OS. The prototypes are housed in an oxynitride aluminium casing which is said to be three times harder than glass and also has translucent properties.
The company’s original plan of a Joule heartrate monitor has been shelved and the new wrist-worn device will be more powerful and have varied functions. Some Microsoft employees are already using the smartwatch prototype, which will come with wrist bands in vivid colours such as red, yellow, black, grey, white and blue. Microsoft is reportedly calling for 1.5-inch displays from component manufacturers. One of the prototypes allegedly has 6GB of storage and LTE support. Microsoft is also said to be relying on its SkyDrive service for much of the heavy-lifting. Also expected to be included are notifications and music control support.
Google already has a foot in the wearable industry with Glass. But the company is also looking at the potential of smartwatches and has reportedly begun working on its own Android-based smartwatch. The most recent news about the Google smartwatch came from a bigger story about an Android-based game console, which also said a new wristwatch is forthcoming. Moreover, Android Authority had reported the possibility by revealing that the Google smartwatch has been shown in at least three different Google offices — Berlin, Manchester, and Mountain View. Its functionality is more or less like Glass, so it will work along with existing Android devices. The interface is likely to borrow heavily from the card UI of Google Now, which is also the basis for the Glass UI. When it came to talk about hardware, it was suggested that Motorola will build the watch.
One of the applications for Google's possible smartwatch
While smartphones have already put great computing power in our pockets, with smartwatches, companies are angling for your wrist-space. With all these newfangled smartwatches expected in the market next year, we may have to start rolling up our sleeves more often.
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