Watch the War of Words
While Samsung yesterday confirmed rumors that it is working on a smart watch device, and Apple remains firmly coy about the issue, there's no need to wait, as several companies have beaten them both to the punch.
A couple of existing devices pretty much show us where the market is heading, with quick bursts of information, mobility/fitness features and interactivity with your existing music and social media apps a high priority. Whatever Samsung and Apple are doing, it will take some effort to create something more than just a me-too device.
Despite both being late to the party, Apple and Samsung's massive user-bases will likely see their devices eclipse rival efforts, but any bravado about being new or innovative will have to be firmly put on the backburner. I'd hope to see lots of press at the launch events waving their Pebbles enthusiastically whenever a rep. starts jabbering on about "new and magical" experiences.
Got A Little Time?
Favorite of the Kickstarter crowd, Pebble is in production and currently available for pre-order for US$ 150. It uses Bluetooth to communicate with either your iPhone or Android, and load apps. The screen is 144x168-pixel e-paper and uses buttons and an accelerometer for interaction.
With a vibrant developer community and its own app store, the Pebble could see all kinds of imaginative uses being created for it and with more than $10 million in user backing is well on its way to becoming an indie hardware hit.
Sony already has its own Android-compatible SmartWatch that you can buy right now. Sony's device comes with a multi-touch color OLED display and works within 10 meters of your Android. It can receive notifications, run apps, vibrate when you have an appointment. It can act as a remote, accessing Twitter, playing your music and so on. It is also priced around $150, but is available for a lot less from online retailers.
So, at their next big press events, don't be fooled by wayward claims of unwarranted innovation by Apple or Samsung. Instead, look at the small gaps in this mini-market where new apps or services could deliver that the big names are overlooking.
Map reading and orienteering, new kinds of interactive on-the-run games and other areas are begging to be explored that could make these devices so much more than just extensions of your phone.