Last week I had a wearable tech detox (also known as a holiday). I didn’t think about Fitbit or Apple once. Honest. There’s also been a bit of a lull on all things smartwatches, fitness trackers and smart clothing, so it was a good time to take a break, because there’s plenty ahead that will be keeping team Wareable busy over the coming months.
First in the firing line is that Fitbit smartwatch. Was it delayed? Is it causing frictions at the company? I have no idea. But it’s definitely coming before the end of the year because James Park said so. Fitbit believes it will deliver the best health and fitness experience in the smartwatch category and that app store will launch alongside its watch debut albeit with a small number of apps. I really hope Fitbit does deliver something great but it’s difficult to ignore some of the speculation around the problems it has supposedly experienced creating it. Building hardware and software is no easy feat. Building something that aims to define a product category is an entirely different challenge altogether.
These additional details on Fitbit’s first watch were made as part of the company’s Q2 earnings announcement (let me grab my business hat), which revealed that the Charge 2 and Alta HR makers sold a total of 3.4 million devices but saw a 40% revenue slump. It’s clearly pinning a lot of hopes on this upcoming smartwatch to reverse that slump.
Keeping that business hat on and Apple was also talking numbers just not specific numbers when it comes to the Apple Watch. Apparently it’s doing just fine and sales are up 50% on last year. It just didn’t have as good a quarter as Xiaomi who outperformed both Apple and Fitbit. Apparently super cheap fitness trackers are all the rage in China.
Samsung’s hybrid plans
Enough of business chat though because I want to talk about new wearables that may be on the horizon, specifically from Samsung. It’s almost time for IFA, the tech show where the Korean company has a tendency to announce its new smartwatches. Except after this week it sounds like it won’t just be the Gear S4 we will be talking about. Apparently Samsung is working on a new wearable that’s part Gear smartwatch and part Gear Fit fitness tracker. It’s tipped to be smaller than the Gear S3, have interchangeable straps and changes on the UI front. Samsung has made a much better stab at wearables over the last 12-18 months so I’ve got high hopes for whatever else it has in the pipeline.
The life changers
I want to turn the attention to wearables that we like to file under the category of Saves the Day. These are the devices that are not about burning calories, counting steps or dishing out notifications. These are wearables that could truly change lives and is really showcasing the kind of exciting innovation that’s taking place in the industry right now. Take the sensor-packed smart belt that could keep Parkinson’s patients from falling or the student that built connected necklace that wants to help guide the visually impaired to their destination in a really discreet way. As much as we get excited about what Apple, Samsung, Google and company are working on, I’m equally if not more in awe of what else is happening outside of the wearable tech heavyweights – and long may it continue.
I’m going to round things off by talking all things MIT. Now, our features editor Sophie has already explored the weird and wonderful wearable projects that are being worked on at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This week, it was robotic jewellery that can adapt your clothes according to the temperature. Does it sound crazy? Yes. Will I ever need it? Probably not. But I’m already looking forward to what those imaginative minds at the MIT labs come up with next.
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