Pebble: Requiem for a dream

Pebble Time 2, Pebble Core, and Pebble Time Round watches will never ship.

One of the latest and greatest market disruptions didn’t come from Apple, Tesla or Amazon. It came from a company you had never heard about, and it also showed that a good idea could also be the start of a revolution even if you had not the resources to make it a reality.

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Pebble started the smartwatch era, and it made everyone dream of the next step in the wearable and mobile devices. As with any other of the trends in the Hype Cycle (made famous by Gartner) the peak of inflated expectations led to the trough of disillusionment. Pebble, though, has not find an exit from that trough.

Others in the smartwatch market are trying to enter the next step of that cycle and enter the phase of ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ to end finally in that dreamed ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Apple is apparently doing fine with its Apple Watch, but interest in those devices and the ones based in Android Wear isn’t growing.

But whereas Apple and Google partners can survive —smarwatches were just a little part of their businesses—, Pebble can’t. It’s only mission was to make the smartwatch succeed. In fact, it was more than a mission. It was a dream. Their dream.

Seeing a smart, brave dream like this fail is a tragedy. But the market is right: smartwatches are just glorified smartphone accesories. At least for now.

Hopefully they will become something else in the future, but Pebble won’t be part of that future. If someone at the company reads this, I’d like to say: thanks for the ride.

Related (coincidentally, Fitbit bought Pebble assets): Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Smartwatches and the dream of the next big thing

We expected a lot from a smartwatch. Maybe (probably) much more than what they could do by design. The first wave of devices have fallen short of their expectations, and the industry is apparently paying that mistake:

The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it’s especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report

The numbers are tough, but this has been a year with much less announcements in the smartwatch arena. Things should improve (a little bit) in the first half of 2017, with several makers working on Android Wear 2.0 solutions.

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That won’t be enough, I’m affraid. Like virtual reality, smartwatches need a killer app. Becoming super-fitness bands won’t work, according to these numbers: Apple has done so with its Apple Watch 2 without much success.

The smartwatch wasn’t that smart, it seems. We’ll have to wait a little more and give those products a second chance.

Source: No One Is Buying Smartwatches Anymore

Counter Strike and the defining purpose of a smartwatch

This Android Wear port is actually just an extension of the main Counter Strike port to Android shown last week. While you’re still going to be crammed for space compared to a real PC version, that version is at least more usable. And yes, that one supports multiplayer.

Nice gimmick. Now move on and try to get something running here that is really useful. That’s what smartwatches need: a defining purpose, not some fireworks to get a headline.

Where is the future of wearables and smartwatches? 

 

This week we’ve been able to see a lot of new products and projects at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. The smartphone is showing its age and the evolution of the latest high-end devices has not been demonstrated on the devices themselves, but on the accesories we can use with them.

Virtual Reality has been the star of the show, but these accesories must prove that they really can work out for users. Last year smartwatches and wearables were clearly getting a lot of headlines, but not this year: this year the MWC hasn’t payed attention to them.

The latest numbers from IDC show how the market for this devices has grown: every company involved has shown double digit growths -Xiaomi multiplied its unit shipments by 12x- and Apple has become the greatest smartwatch vendor out there currently. There’s another confirmation in these numbers: the smartwatch isn’t killing the activity trackers. Far from it.

So if the growth has been so nice, what has happened at the MWC? Why not showing them some love? The reason is clear: there’s currently little room for innovation in current models, but that could change in the next coming months.

First, with the launch of new versions of watchOS and Android Wear before summer. And second, with the arrival of the eSIM, the technology that will transform the smartwatch into an autonomous, independent device that no longer has to rely on the smartphone.

We’re getting there, and I suspect MWC17 will give us a lot of reasons to talk about smartwatches again.

The smarwatch declaration of independence

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I’ve been writing about smartwatches since Pebble surprised us with a device that hinted at a revolution. As of now, smartwatches are the revolution that never was, but maybe they were just too early to the party. Maybe they’re waiting their moment.

Walt Mossberg talks about his experience with the Apple Watch on his last column at The Verge, and there are some interesting thoughts there. The first one: he wouln’t miss the device that much in case he lost it. The second: smartwatches aren’t smart enough. The third:

I don’t think the smartwatch needs one “killer app”, but I do believe it needs a capability more compelling than what’s out there so far. It needs to do something, all on its own, that’s useful, quick, secure and cool.

What I do think smartwatches need to do is to be able to work all by themselves. They need a declaration of independence from our smartphones.

This will be the killer app they need.

 

The new TAG Heuer smartwatch is just a coupon for a TAG Heuer mechanical watch

There’s nothing essentially new or different in the new $1,500 TAG Heuer Connected Watch just launched yesterday. It is based on the same Android Wear OS other smartwatches are using, and it has similar specs also (I’m curious about the Intel processor, though). No GPS, no heart-rate monitor, water resistant -but not waterproof.

It doens’t look too much like a luxury smartwatch besides the maker logos, and in fact it is surprinsingly light on the wrist according to the first early reviewers. So what’s the raison d’être on this smartwatch?

It seems it just gives a chance to TAG Heuer fans to test what a smartwatch can do differently, but the Swiss maker dismiss its usefulness in the long run.

Technology becomes obsolete every two, three, five, seven years, so it cannot be eternal“, says Jean-Claude Biver, CEO at this firm, who promises this users that once the warranty expires that device will still be worthy: you will be able to return it in, trade another $1,500, and get a brand new TAG Heuer Carrera traditional watch (prices vary).

So basically you’re leasing this smartwatch and use it as a coupon for a mechanical model that you’ll actually buy?

Clever, TAG Heuer, very clever.

Source: TAG Heuer, Google Release First Swiss Luxury Smartwatch: All the Details

Samsung Gear S2 gets it right

Vlad Savov is really pleased with what he’s seen about the new Samsung Gear S2. There’s probably a really important thing in the experience that that smartwatch and the platform it runs, Tizen, offers:

I want a watch that can do smart things, not a computer that can do watch things.

The rotating bezel, by the way, is the most convenient, consistent and functionally efficient mechanism I’ve ever seen on a smartwatch. And when you eliminate the need for a Samsung phone (any Android 4.4 device with at least 1.5 GB of RAM will work), then you’ve got a solid, compelling rival to any other product in the market.

Did I mention that Samsung has even managed to get an eSIM (embedded SIM) on some of the Gear S2 variants too?

This is the star of IFA 2015 hands down.

Source: Samsung’s Gear S2 can make me a believer in smartwatches | The Verge