Wearable technology has a lot of exciting potential, but so far gadgets ranging from GPS shoes to Google Glass have amounted to little more than interesting fads. Could smartwatches push wearable tech into the mainstream consumer markets? With the official announcement of the Apple Watch, set for release in early 2015, wearables may move out of the fad phase and into everyday life.
Smartwatches on the market now
The smartwatch is not a new tech category. In fact, Samsung, Sony, and Motorola are just a few of the brands currently offering the gadgets in an increasingly crowded space. So far, consumer demand for these devices has not been overwhelming, and the smartwatch is viewed more as a James Bond-esque accessory for diehard tech fans than a “must-have” piece of technology.
Most of the current crop of smartwatches emphasizes a single main functionality, whether it’s health and fitness, smartphone notifications, or mapping and communication. The same features can be accessed with fitness bands and smartphones, lending these devices a limited appeal.
Apple’s game-changing smartwatch gamble
While current smartwatches have limited uses, the Apple Watch is said to offer full functionality for fitness tracking, smartphone integration, and more. On the fitness side, the watch offers a tracking app along with a heart rate monitor and accelerometer. A wide range of apps work with the Apple Watch, and users will also be able to receive short calls through the watch when an iPhone is linked to the device, which contains a microphone and speaker.
Other features of the Apple Watch include an interactive GPS with different types of vibrations for turning left or right, haptic message notification that feels like a “tap on the wrist,” and the ability to run third-party apps — not just those from the iTunes store. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the watch “the most personal device we’ve ever created” at the public announcement for the device.
Apple: Redefining the market (again)?
In 2007, Apple transformed the mobile device industry with the release of the iPhone. Some analysts believe the Apple Watch will do the same for the wearable tech landscape, making smartwatches a “must-have” for consumers — and driving competitors to up the game and produce devices with similar features and functionality.
If the smartwatch goes mainstream, the device could impact a number of industries. While the impact may not be to the degree smartphones cut into the market for digital cameras and MP3 players, it’s projected that a successful smartwatch could disrupt the fitness band industry and impact traditional watchmakers.
The Apple Watch will be available in three versions: a standard model with a black or silver stainless steel body, a sports model in gray or silver aluminum, and a luxury model with a hardened, 18-carat gold body. Pricing for the device starts at $349, and 30 million units are expected to be sold in 2015.
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