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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  • Imaginer - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I used to wear a watch, 10 or so years ago.

    I stopped because my phone supersedes that option and then some. It is not that cumbersome to carry, and is more communicative in receiving and being able to interact and transmit information than a small face watch, that hinders my wrists - and in some cases a hazard in being caught.

    Due to the exposed nature, and electronics as well, the watch would obviously be in more bump situations and shock situations. I do not feel that replacing a smartphone with a smartwatch would be even "smart" in this sense, as the ONLY communication device would likely break more than a smartphone when in play and use. And if one is carrying around a smartphone to begin with, my scenario as I stated before in my smartphone superseding my watch in time comes forth.

    Plus, traditional watches last a good 2 or so years on a battery (for me). Smart watches, need to be charged just as frequently as a phone, if not more so due to usage. And when depleted, congratulations, you are now wearing a pretty bracelet.

    I also have dealt with glasses for a good half of my life. My prescription has my lenses so thick that I need a very light frame and expensive lenses to even be comfortable throughout the day and extended days. In other words, unobtrusive in weight - being as light as the hair on my head. This applies to any form of heads up display that may come about in any shape or form. And I believe my glasses has seen and are worn with me while swimming and doing floor acrobatics - need I say wearables need to be just as durable as the clothes I wear?

    And my glasses are already up at $300 upon initial purchase, and unlike obsoleted technology, has continued to work with me - pending prescription changes which at this point isn't much anymore. Most of that cost is in the lens. And now I am fronting another $300 or triple that cost for electronics that may not be as durable or robust - and not upgradeable or if so, costing at bulk and weight for implementation? No way.

    TL:DR,

    NO wearables for me save for my prescription eye frame and lens.
    Reply
  • zoxo - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Interesting from a technological standpoint, but I have zero interest in buying them. I don't like to wear either watches or glasses. The usability and usefulness is also questionable at best at this point, at least that's how I see it. Reply
  • Rockworthy - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I am a huge tech guy and always have been, but I don't give a darn about "wearables". Having a tiny smartphone or Android device on my wrist sounds like both a constant distraction and a lousy piece of jewelry at the same time. Reply
  • prime2515103 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I'm perfectly happy with my regular ol' analog watch. Then again, I just got my first smartphone a few months ago. I just don't feel the need to be connected 24/7. I'm old though; I was perfectly happy playing with sticks when I was kid. Reply
  • Gunbuster - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    We need a wearable so everyone knows we are powerful and have a smartphone! Oh wait, even people on food stamps hava a $700 iPhone... Reply
  • Murloc - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I think it will spread when there will be at least a black-and-white (fast e-ink or something minimum if not a real screen) smartwatch for 120$ that lasts at least a full day if it has wireless (AND wired) charging, or longer if it's only wired, that takes vocal dictation well and supports whatsapp.

    Then we will all look like undercover agents, whispering at our wrist.
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    The only one even worth considering is the Moto360 because it looks like a watch. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Yeah, the 360 actual looks pretty decent. Most smart watches now look like something out of an old sci-fi. Reply
  • Psychosylph - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    It's all about battery life. Keep in mind, I don't wear a watch and have little desire to. But if they have a killer app for it they could convince me - but not if battery life stinks. I would need to be able to put it on in the morning and take it off before bed to really be convinced, or at least get close to that. (Yes, I'm not really impressed by current smartphone battery life) Reply
  • loki1725 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    My issue with current wearables is the same issue I have with phones and tablets, the User Interface. While a mobile device works ok for consumption, I still really struggle when I have to input information longer than a few words. Voice/Siri/Cortona all are steps in the right direction, but they still only work for short bits. Narrating a full e-mail isn't practical. I think the key enabler for wearables to be viable is better data input, and then some form of data output.

    Google Glass almost had the output, but my experience with that left me really wanting. Wearable contacts, or even full lens glasses with a HUD would be a start.

    As far as watches, I'm not interested in the slightest. I wear a watch every day, and will probably continue to do so for my whole life. But I wear watches because I love the engineering and design that goes into them. All but one of my watches now is powered by kinetic movement, and most of them have see through faces so you can see the mechanism function. Digital watches don't interest me anymore.
    Reply

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