You thought the smartphone wars were bad? Just wait till the battle heats up over the smartwatch. As Samsung goes public with its plans for a wristwatch-style computer, and rumors of an Apple “iWatch” hits fever pitch, the giants of the tech world have just begun to fight. Not that companies aren’t already competing for real estate on your arm, of course. Sony released an Android-powered model last April. The Pebble watch, which raised a record-smashing $10 million on Kickstarter, began shipping in January. And let’s not even mention the plethora of fitness bracelets—Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband—that are vying for a slice of an increasingly saturated market.
“Google Time” concept by Adrian Maciburko
And although Google is preparing to roll out its highly anticipated “Glass” headset, don’t count the erstwhile search engine out of the running just yet. According to a patent filed in October, Google may be plotting a smartwatch with a Wi-Fi chip, a “tactile user interface,” and a “flip-up portion.”
Whether smart watches will be as indispensable as their handheld brethren still remains to be seen.
Another patent application, filed by Apple in April 2011, offers hints of a “wearable video device” modeled after the slap bracelet of the ’80s. The filing proposes a flexible “bi-stable spring substrate” with a wraparound touchscreen for pulling up visual information, such as the order of a current playlist or a tally of recent phone calls.
One company that isn’t playing coy about its pipeline is Samsung. “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, told Bloomberg News earlier in the month. “We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”
Whether smartwatches will be as indispensable as their handheld brethren still remains to be seen. (Do we really need another way to receive Facebook notifications?) As for which one will come out on top, only time will tell.