Smartwatches have inundated the market in the past couple of years, and the most anticipated offering was unveiled by Apple this past week. Apple is looking to dominate the smartwatch space but it still remains to be seen whether Apple or the many other smartwatch makers can turn the smartwatch from a novelty to a necessity.
The Apple watch is entering a crowded space with formidable new offerings by Pebble, LG Urbane LTE and FitBit.
Apple Watch has an advantage in the smartwatch arena because of its brand;it will most likely become the best selling smart watch to date.
The Apple Watch will be very customizable with many watch face options. In order to appeal to fitness enthusiasts the Apple Watch features a heart-rate monitor, accelerometer and uses different sensors to determine your day-to-day activity and workouts. Notifications, messages and phone calls can be received and responded to on the Apple Watch. Apple Pay and Siri will also be available on the Apple Watch along with Apple Watch-specific applications.
It’s worth noting that while the Apple Watch still requires an iPhone, it can communicate via Wi-fi or Bluetooth so your phone does not have to be in Bluetooth range of the Apple Watch. The reported battery life of the AppleWatch is 18 hours with normal usage. Pricing starts at $349 for the sport edition, which is composed of aluminum. The steel version of the Apple Watch starts at $549 and Apple has also released a 18-karat gold version that starts at $10,000.
The prices for the Apple Watch are daunting as compared to other smartwatches so it remains to be seen if the Apple brand will still bring the large amount of sales currently expected.
Pebble Time is Pebble’s third generation smartwatch. Pebble Time is the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date, indicating that a lot of people are eager for this device.
The latest model has upgraded its display from a monochromatic display to color e-paper display, includes a microphone and introduces a new operating system. Pebble states a battery life of 7 days on a single charge.
Pebble Time Steel is a premium version of Pebble Time that has a stainless steel casing in silver, black or gold finish and a leather or steel band. Pebble recently announced a new accessory Smartstraps, or snap-on watchbands that will contain electronics and sensors that interface with apps running on the Pebble Time.
Pebble is not currently developing the smartstraps themselves but instead opening up the platform to developers to create smartstraps. This should provide some very interesting innovation for the smartstraps as well as myriad of ways to customize the Pebble Time.
Pebble Time retails at $199 and Pebble Steel retails at $299.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE is the latest smartwatch offering from LG, powered by the LG Wearables Platform Operating System, which is based on WebOS.
The LG Watch Urbane LTE contains a cellular radio so it can make/receive calls and text messages independent of a user’s cell phone. The watch also contains an NFC radio, which can be leveraged for mobile payments and also sports a heart-rate monitor. Although firm statistics are not available yet, it is anticipated the battery should last a day. The pricing for the LG Watch Urbane LTE has not been listed as of yet.
Although the FitBit Surge is not technically a smartwatch, I included it in this list because I have been wearing one for the past few months.
I was motivated to buy a FitBit because of the device’s ability to track my heart rate, steps, calories burned and floors climbed. I’m also able to receive text messages and incoming call alerts on the Surge via a Bluetooth connection with my phone. As an introductory smartwatch I would have to give the FitBit surge a thumbs up for the fact that it serves its primary purpose well and keeps me motivated to be more active.
The battery life of the Surge is also on the higher end as it last about 3 to 4 days on a charge. I can appreciate getting text message notifications on my wrist considering that my phone may not be near me but within Bluetooth range. Having calendar alerts and other notifications would be nice and hopefully FitBit is working on updates to allow that to happen in the future.
Smartwatch makers are trying to find the right formula to make smartwatches a must-have device but sales have been tepid at best. It is estimated that 6.8 million smartwatches were sold in 2014. The leader in sales was Samsung, who has released multiple models, followed by Pebble and FitBit. It is anticipated that the Apple Watch will have a staggering effect on the market, with some forecasts calling for 26.3 million units to be sold by the end of 2015. Battery life, applications and increased functionality are expected of future smartwatches, but it still remains to be seen if users will want cell phone functionality on a tiny screen on their wrists.