For the past couple of years we've noticed a shift in focus of dominant players in the smartphone space. As the smartphone market moves from rapid expansion to a maturing phase, the companies on top don't want to be left behind in the same way the notebook PC vendors were at the start of the smartphone/tablet race.

At the same time, continued reduction in transistor feature sizes and power consumption have enabled a new class of low power SoC. ARM's product offerings in particular extend both up and down the power curve. There's Cortex M for ultra low power devices, often perfect for wearables, and then a range of Cortex A CPUs for higher end wearables all the way up to smartphones, tablets and eventually servers. 

Initial successes in the wearables space were specialized pieces of hardware. For example, pedometers and health trackers like the Fitbits of the world. Most of these designs leverage Cortex M series CPU cores. More recently however we've seen a more serious push into the world of smart watches. Initial plays here were more disorganized in terms of hardware and OS selection, but we're beginning to see some consolidation on the heels of Google's Android Wear announcement. 

At last month's Google IO we saw the first official Android Wear devices launch from LG and Samsung. Later this summer we'll also see the arrival of the Moto 360, an arguably much more appealing Android Wear device thanks to a greater focus on design. I've spent the past couple of weeks with LG's G Watch and am still toying with the best way to present my thoughts on the device. In short it seems like a great platform if you're a developer, but honestly lacks the battery life (I measured under 9 hours of actual use, display on but dimmed on a single charge) and feature set today to really convince me as a consumer.

Last month we soft launched our new Wearables content section at AnandTech, with ARM graciously agreeing to be a launch sponsor. ARM's support will allow us to likely do some wearable giveaways in the not too distant future too.

The path to wearable computing becoming something more substantial however demands a lot of things to change. If we're talking about watches we need better battery life, the functionality needs to improve as well (although I am impressed by some of what's already been introduced for Android Wear). I'm curious to get your thoughts on the wearable space. What would it take for you to add yet another computing platform to your life? Is anyone out there waiting for the perfect smart watch? I know I stopped wearing watches nearly a decade ago, and to go back I'll likely need quite a bit of convincing in terms of a great product.

If you've got thoughts on this space, we'd love to hear them as they'll help shape our coverage going forward. Leave your comments below.

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  • leafar30 - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    No using watch for a long time
    Good things for wearable tech
    Finest tracker
    Lifesaver
    Track my health
    Basic phone or phone extension
    Personal passengers driver
    Contrast:
    Small display
    Can't read
    No outdoor viewing
    Internet of things for connecting devices.

    I think nobody yet discovered the real mean for wearable tech device
    Reply
  • ozzuneoj86 - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    I honestly hope I'm never so busy that I "need" a smart watch.

    I've had a smart phone (Xperia Play) for almost two years and I barely use it beyond playing games and reading on my breaks at work, and sending a text here and there. I pay $25 every four months with Page Plus, and limit data usage to wifi only and generally have 2/3 of my balance left to roll over at the end of the 4 month period.

    I use it as a glorified pocket watch throughout my work day (haven't worn a watch since the 90s), and some times use the camera to snap a picture of something to avoid having to write a note.

    Basically, wearable tech would have to bring something pretty incredible to the table for me to bite. Being even more absorbed into and inseparable from our electronic devices due to the constant barrage of stimuli they send our way with little to no effort required doesn't seem like a good thing. I like the fact that my phone is only on my mind when I want to look at it. If I want my brain to focus on life, the phone is out of sight and out of mind. Having popups in my eyeball or having my watch buzzing or talking to me while I'm trying to accomplish something just seems counterproductive.

    I imagine that there are many people who's jobs would benefit from such things, but I'm personally glad that I don't see much point in it for me.
    Reply
  • wintermute000 - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    I'm still with the pebble school of thought. KISS, battery life and make it look like a normal watch.

    The small screen means I think sammy and those other vendors going down the swiss army knife approach have it wrong. The only things I care about are

    - notifications and call screening
    - remote control music (no pulling phone out just to change tracks)
    - battery that goes for a week, wireless charging.

    So pretty much almost sold on a pebble steel except for reports that the connection can be dodgy on android, and the fact that I want to wait and see android wear v2 / not optimistic about future app integration in current pebble stack.
    Reply
  • Imaginer - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Yes, the KISS principle.

    With watches, I had straps break. And I would not notice my watch is gone until later. Catch 22, if a smart watch is light enough to not notice and the straps wore or the pins break, I lose a potentially expensive device proxy.

    Also falling in lines of KISS, I simply pocket and deploy my smartphone. I know it is pocketed - thus secure on my person definitely. I know it is there, because I have to deploy it from my pocket, I do not need to do additional steps of removing the jewelry (watch) for certain operations and putting it back on.

    Also, smart watch proxies adds another device to handle for little additional function to use to handling gain/detriment.
    Reply
  • ekux44 - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Disclaimer: I'm the creator of http://lampshade.io

    I've been a skeptic of early wearables like Pebble and Glass, but I'm incredibly optimistic about Android Wear based on my personal experiences with each platform.

    Google's card/notification approach is well suited to contextual computing (Google Now, etc), which I expect to rise with the IoT. As more devices become available to 'smart' control, the wrist is most convenient for repetitive actions that can be suggested. Example: you arrive home and your watch shows options for unlocking your door, turning on your lights, etc. This becomes even more powerful as indoor-location begins to be solved by technology like iBeacons.

    I'll be blogging on this in the coming months as LampShade develops contextual and wearable solutions for smart home lighting.
    Reply
  • Gadgety - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Nice little piece of software. I expect something similar for media center control, channel selection, volume setting etc through wrist based computing. Reply
  • Gadgety - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Wearables is one of the reasons I'm in the tech market at all. I was in on a couple of the SonyEricsson Fossil made MBW-150 ana-digi smartwatches way back when. When I bought I didn't realize the digital panel would be wiped out from humidity in the air (!), less than two years after date of manufacture (!!). That's bordering on consumer fraud for a 400 USD product. Other than that it was extremely useful with custom ROM from a rogue developer.

    I'm waiting for something both stylish and highly useful, such as the Moto360. However, the following quote for the LG G Watch is highly worrying "...under 9 hours of actual use, display on but dimmed on a single charge." Minimum usage is a day, so that's what, 18 hours or so. Perhaps there's space here for non-Android device.

    I think you could publish the review first, and then start the debate. Thanks.
    Reply
  • Gadgety - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    I want to add: The hands free operation was one major reason to get the smart watch. Time, vibration alert on the wrist, caller ID in meetings and when driving, incoming messages, an easily set count down timer function, chrongraph, and control of the phone's music player (not hands free). The Android Wear platform I suppose will bring traffic coverage, and rerouting based on the actual congestion pattern, plus time to arrival when driving.

    Currently I have two phones, the largest being an 8 inch LTE Samdsung Note 8. The larger the phone the more useful the smartwatch.
    Reply
  • Azhrei - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Battery life, battery life, battery life. I have a Pebble smartwatch and five days between charges isn't perfect but is much more palatable than these new Android Wear devices which all look like they require daily or every other day charging.

    Other than battery life it's aesthetics as watches are as much jewelry as they are functional. My Pebble is great for casual wear, not so great anywhere else. (I have the original non-Steel version)

    I view wearable computing in it's current incarnation as primarily a glanceable notification system which so far they seem to have a handle on. If wearable computing takes off, I am curious what else may evolve. One example that comes to mind is if they become ubiquitous enough, something as simple as a handshake could exchange contact information.
    Reply
  • dishayu - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    We discuss this topic very often at work. The clear consensus is that smart wearables will only take off when they become seamless. I haven't worn eyewear ever and a wrist watch in over a decade and I don't want to start now. This is completely opposite of what we have been trying to do till date i.e. consolidating camera, music player, computer, TV into one efficient package.

    The wearables need to be seemlessly integrated into stuff we already use (shirt, shoes, wallets perhaps?) and be reliable (which includes having a battery life of more than 15 minutes).
    Reply

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