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"Night Gathers, and Now My Watch Begins"

"Night Gathers, and Now My Watch Begins"
by Paul McLellan on 09-08-2015 at 7:00 am

 What is going on in the watch world? And I don’t mean Game of Thrones‘ nights watch.

Lots, actually. Whether it will amount to a lot remains to be seen. I still think the usefulness versus the price isn’t there yet. Apple has sold 3.5M iWatches (or something close) which for anyone else would count as a runaway success but for them counts as lackluster. Even in silicon valley you don’t see iWatches on everyone’s wrists so I expect they are rare in middle America. Apple has a big event later this week on the 9th and it is possible that a new watch will be announced. But everyone else is rushing out new watches too since it is the IFA consumer electronics show this week in Berlin, . Here are some of them.

Caveat lector: I haven’t used any of these watches except the Pebble, I’m just doing the Semiwiki thing of following the industry so you don’t have to.

 The Samsung Gear S2: This gets great reviews since it is light, the weight of a normal watch. It displays the time constantly, just like one of those old mechanical things that I suppose are dumb watches. It has rotating bezel which is how you control it. It has integrated 3G radio (so you don’t need to pair it with a phone, Samsung or otherwise). You can order Uber from your watch, for example.

 Huawei Smartwatch: Available for pre-order and shipping September 17th with prices from $349 to $799 (there are 6 models). Another watch that looks like a watch with real hands. I’ve not seen any report by anyone who has used one, everyone seems to be just reporting on the press releases. Huawei is usually strongest in the China market but I find it hard to believe that the sort of people who have made Xiaomi #1 there are going to be buying a $799 watch at several times the price of their phone. A few technical specs:a 300mAh battery that promises to deliver up to two days of battery life. It also sports 4GB of internal memory, 512MB RAM, Android Wear 1.3, a built-in microphone, six-axis motion sensor and heart rate sensor.

 LG Smartwatch: LG don’t even call it a smartwatch, they call it a “smartpiece”. A few specs: Android Wear running on a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and 512MB of RAM, with a 1.3-inch P-OLED circular display with a 320 x 320 resolution and a 410 mAh.But if you really want to be ostentatious, it is available as the 23-karat gold Urbane Luxe, which will be priced at $1,200.

 Sony Smartwatch: Only available in Japan for now. One reason is that its NFC payment interface only supports Japan. May eventually be available here but the one shown at IFA won’t even be available in Japan until March 2016. The intelligence is in the bracelet, not just the watch itself. Definitely at the vanguard of smartwatches that are trying to look like non-smartwatches, which at glance at most of the pictures here seems to be the current approach.

 The latest version of one of the first smartwatches, the Kickstarter funded Pebble: unlike most watches, only buttons control the Pebble (no touch-screen). 5 day battery life. Cheaper and more utilitarian than most of the other watches here that are a cross between expensive jewellery and cool electronics.

Android Wear now works with the iPhone. I’ve not tried it but according to thisreview, don’t bother:The ability to pair an Android watch with an Apple phone is conceptually interesting but functionally, it’s a lose-lose proposition. Android Wear watches can’t do most of the things they can do when paired with Android phones, and your iPhone can’t be extended through an Android watch the way it can with the Apple Watch. It’s an experiment that may yield results one day, but that day isn’t today.

 I still think watches are awaiting a killer app. If they could continuously monitor blood pressure, say, then I think they would fly off the shelves. But just moving notifications from your phone to your wrist and even being able to take calls doesn’t seem enough. I own a Pebble but I don’t bother to wear it. Given that I already paid for it, finding it useful enough to wear is a pretty low bar to clear.

“And now his watch has ended.”

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