Android Wear is growing up, and so is everyone else

With the dust from IFA settled, it’s been a good week for taking stock on the world of wearables and the connected-self. Last week’s Berlin show brought few surprises, but plenty of big announcements and lots to chew over.

I like themes – they bring a semblance of order to this screwball world of ours – so I’ve decided this week’s theme is on of maturing. Like any market, wearables have gone through a transition period of shifting focus, and the results are starting to shake out.

Go figure

To start with, some juicy numbers. According to a new forecast this week from Berg Insights, wearable tech shipments – everything from smartwatches to smart sunglasses – are set to rise to 262.5 million by 2021. Smart clothing is predicted to make a significant jump, after being held back by poor consumer awareness, so goes the report. Perhaps even more interesting is that smartwatches are expected to eat into the success of fitness trackers, but it should be no surprise.

As my colleague Husain discussed in last week’s #Trending column, the bifurcation of fitness tracker and smartwatch is starting to fade. The Fitbit Ionic is the best example of that right now, and this week we learned that Fitbit is teaming up with glucose monitoring company Dexcom to let diabetics track their glucose levels on the smartwatch. Users will be able to see data taken from the Dexcom G5 tracker on the Ionic display, but it will also be interesting to see is if/how Fitbit absorbs this into its own software platform. Fitbit is going deeper on health with the Ionic, and glucose management would be a helpful new feature for many people. The market certainly responded well to the news, with shares jumping to the highest they’d been since January.

Garmin’s latest lineup of wearables at IFA also showed us how the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker is blurring. As smartwatches adopt more of the signature features of dedicated fitness wearables, it makes sense that basic trackers will lose their relevance.

Android Wear is growing up

The week in wearable tech: Michael Kors Grayson and a maturing wearables market

That said, the Michael Kors Access Grayson, which I reviewed this week, is a fitness black hole. Does that matter? I expect not as much as some critics of the watch’s lack of health sensors seem to think. After all, not everyone cares about fitness, and watches from brands like MK, Louis Vuitton and Tag Heuer might be better off staying entirely focused on the luxury market for now.

From a purely luxury smartwatch view, the Grayson feels like a more refined beast – beautifully designed, uncompromized by flat tires or poor screens, and running vastly improved software. I would go as far as to call it the new flagship Android Wear luxury smartwatch, though the Fossil Q Venture and Explorist are just around the corner. This is also a perfect segue into the news that Google is bringing standalone apps to Android Wear 1.0, which is going to force developers to update their apps so users of the older software won’t have to install the smartphone app before putting it on the watch. The new policy won’t come into effect until 18 January 2018, but it’s definitely good news.

Smarter home

Week in wearable: Android Wear is growing up, and so is everyone else

Keeping to the theme, I also spent a bit of time appraising the state of the smart home, which is looking a little less tangled. You should also check out Sophie’s fantastic roundup of all the most interesting smart home tech from IFA, and ahead of next week’s Apple event, we’ve rounded up all the best HomeKit devices available now and on the way.

Wearables vs sports

Week in wearable: Android Wear is growing up, and so is everyone else

Finally, a story this week about the Boston Red Sox using Apple Watches to steal pitching signs sparked some interesting chatter about wearables and sports. Our reporter Conor put together an interesting piece on where some of the biggest sports bodies stand on wearables right now, while Husain stepped back and looked at the broader problem: us humans. Sometimes, we can be really immature.

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