We’ve been talking about wearable technology being the next big thing in consumer electronics for some time now. Augmented reality glasses, fitness trackers and smartwatches are promising to make waves by becoming the must-have accessories for smartphone owners, helping tech giants like Apple (AAPL) see the kind of demand that could lift stocks out of the doldrums.
But after talking up these devices for months now, where are they?
If you look hard enough, you’ll see signs of maneuvering going on in the background, the latest being a trio of smartwatch design patents filed this year by Samsung (SSNLF) and just uncovered by a South Korean news site. Samsung has already confirmed it is working on a smartwatch and patent filings may just have given away its smartwatch lineup’s name: Galaxy Gear.
The million dollar question is, will it be this holiday season or Christmas 2014 when we finally see the flood of wearable tech? Analysts have mixed feelings, but I think it’s going to be this year.
Existing smartwatch players (while the category has generated huge buzz this year, it’s hardly new) have been busy revamping, hoping this is the year the category takes off and that their established products catch some of the buying frenzy when it hits.
Sony’s (SNE) second generation Android smartwatch — the Sony SmartWatch 2 — has been announced, incorporating NFC to make pairing with its new Xperia Z line of smartphones even slicker. Google already has a horse in the game, albeit indirectly. Its Motorola division’s MotoACTV is an Android-powered smartwatch and fitness tracker combo.
TomTom, the GPS maker whose market is seriously eroding thanks to smartphones and mapping apps, has long offered a line of GPS-equipped watches. Those devices have more riding on them than ever, but face looming competition from smartwatches, so TomTom is updating them and building in loads of fitness functionality.
Fitness is another rapidly growing segment that could be threatened by smartwatches. Nike’s (NKE) FuelBand began the movement to wristband fitness trackers, and recent entries like the Fitbit Flex and a reengineered Jawbone UP have firmly established the devices as wrist-wearable contenders. The challenge will be convincing consumers to stick with a single-purpose device rather than switching to an all-in-one like a smartwatch — somewhat analogous to the battle Amazon (AMZN) faces in convincing consumers to buy a Kindle e-reader instead of a multipurpose iPad.