I first read about the Pebble smartwatch earlier this year and thought “I don’t need yet another electronic device, and certainly not one that’s attached to my body.” Then I felt bad. Am I a troglodyte? It’s true, I do still have an iPhone 4, which is a little embarrassing in Silicon Valley. I have also never worn a wrist watch of any kind, but given the onslaught of smartwatches, I wonder how long I’ll be able to hold out. The options are growing, with companies big and small joining the battle for wrist-dominance.
The top selling point for a smartwatch in my opinion, is that it lets you keep your phone in your purse or pocket. The watch will alert you to incoming calls, emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Of course, this is also the main drawback. Another drawback is that none of these companies are able to design a product for women. Some out of this population of “most humans on earth” will don these clunky things anyway, but will still wonder why the smartwatch makers hate them. However, even if I never warm up to the idea, I’m convinced my husband needs one because he seems to miss many of my calls and texts, ahem.
But apparently many of the rest of the population is expected to buy a smartwatch. All the market forecasts indicate this business will go up and to the right; iGR predicts a CAGR of about 195% over the next five years into a $9 billion market. There are dozens in development, and they are also tapping into the growing health/activity monitor market. Most are Bluetooth accessories for your phone; some are standalone wrist computers. The sector is so hot that Qualcomm even has a horse in the race. CEO Paul Jacobs says he doesn’t really want to be in the gadget business, they are just trying to “drive the category forward.”
So, how to choose? I can’t pick based on looks alone (see comments above), I need to know what’s under the hood. Here’s some of my research on smartwatches available now or within the next few months:
| style=”width: 91px” | SmartWatch
| style=”width: 164px” | Guts
| style=”width: 160px” | Other
| style=”width: 144px” | Notes
| style=”width: 91px” | Pebble
| style=”width: 164px” | 120MHz STM32F205RG microcontroller, based on ARM Cortex-M3, Micron 32MB serial flash. 4 GB storage
| style=”width: 160px” | Lithium ion 130 mAh battery lasts 7 days. ST 3-axis accelerometer. Panasonic RF module with TI Bluetooth controller. Bluetooth 4 low energy. 144 x 168 pixel b&w Sharp memory LCD.
| style=”width: 144px” | Set a record for crowd source funding on Kickstarter, gathering over $10 million in their 37 day funding period. Works with IOS and Android. Available for $250.
| style=”width: 91px” | Martian
| style=”width: 164px” | 400MHz CPU, 128MB RAM, 4GB storage, and It has 2 hr talk time, so instead of having to suffer people shouting into their Bluetooth ear-tumors, we’ll have to suffer people shouting at their wrists
| style=”width: 160px” | Lithium polymer battery lasts 2 hrs in talk mode, 7 days standby. Bluetooth 4 low energy. 3-axis accelerometer, glass crystal face. 96 x 16 OLED display.
| style=”width: 144px” | Analog quartz watch and a small alert window. Full voice commands, call, text, camera control. IOS and Android, but can’t use Google Now or Google voice. Available for $300.
| style=”width: 91px” | i’m Watch
| style=”width: 164px” | ARM926J iMX233 at 454 MHz, 128MB RAM, Micron 4GB storage
| style=”width: 160px” | Lithium polymer 450mAh battery gives 5 hrs. 240 x 240 color TFT display. Focal Tech Systems FT5206 touch screen controller. ST Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ST 3-axis accelerometer and compass.
| style=”width: 144px” | Italian-made smartwatch with full standalone cellular telephony, although the quality has been reported as poor. Make and receive calls. Android, IOS, Blackberry. Available now for $300, will increase to $400.
| style=”width: 91px” | Sony SmartWatch 2
| style=”width: 164px” | 120MHz STM32F205RG, CPU, ARM Cortex-M3 based
| style=”width: 160px” | NFC and Bluetooth 3. 220 x 176 pixel display. 110mAh battery gives 2-3 days.
| style=”width: 144px” | Android. Available for $130.
| style=”width: 91px” | Samsung Galaxy Gear
| style=”width: 164px” | 800MHz Exynos processor, 4GB storage, 512MB of RAM
| style=”width: 160px” | Super AMOLED display at 320 x 320 pixels. Wireless charging. 315mAh battery lasts one day.
| style=”width: 144px” | Currently works with the Galaxy Note 3. Call and talk capability. Apparently it’s not going over well; it has had a 30% return rate in the U.S. Available for $300.
| style=”width: 91px” | Qualcomm Toq
| style=”width: 164px” | 200MHz low power ARM Cortex-M3 CPU
| style=”width: 160px” | Qalcomm’s Mirasol color e-ink screen, Qualcomm Bluetooth 4 controller. Wireless charging. 220mAh battery lasts 3 days.
| style=”width: 144px” | Supports Android. Available anytime now for about $300. Bonus: could be a collector’s item. Your grandchildren will be impressed or something.
| style=”width: 91px” | Geak Watch
| style=”width: 164px” | 1GHz MIPS-based Ingenic JZ4774 SoC, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage
| style=”width: 160px” | 500mAh battery, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, and NFC radios. GPS, sensors for temp, heartrate, blood pressure, and pulse.
| style=”width: 144px” | From Chinese company Geak. Available in US in 2014 for around $300.
| style=”width: 91px” |
| style=”width: 164px” |
| style=”width: 160px” |
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| style=”width: 91px” | Neptune Pine
| style=”width: 164px” | 1.2GHz Qualcomm Sanpdragon, 16GB or 32GB storage
| style=”width: 160px” | GSM, 3G HSPA+, WCDMA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, micro-SIM, GPS, 5MP camera, 2.4 inch QVGA screen
| style=”width: 144px” | Standalone device running on Android 4.1.2. Pre-order for $335.
The list of available watches is growing as I write this (and I’ve not even mentioned the hordes of ‘fitness’ devices that overlap in many functions with smartwatches.) There the MetaWatch, Casio’s G-Shock, Citizen’s EcoDrive, the Motorola MOTOACTV (now owned by Google), the Cookoo, Emopulse Smile, Kreyos Meteor, Kokkia, SVP G13 (award for catchiest name), and the Omate TrueSmart. Seriously, I can’t keep up so I’ll just stop now.
Apple, Google, and Microsoft are also working on their smartwatches. Apple’s smartphone is late, but has copyrightred the term iWatch, patented a “slap bracelet,” and hired a designer of the Nike FuelBand, so hopefully their product will be fancier than the current nerd-approved solution of taping an iPod nano to your wrist. Google bought WIMM Labs, who made an Android smartwatch in 2011 that had Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, 256 MB of RAM and a 667 MHz processor. It will be integrated with Google Now, is supposedly a few months from launch. Microsoft is reported to be in prototype testing phase of its smartwatch. Does anyone remember the Smart Personal Object Technology that Microsoft floated in 2002? Me neither, but I did find this picture. I guess they were ahead of their time.