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

The ‘killer app’ for the Apple Watch? Fitness.

The Verge has a good review of the Apple Watch Series 2, but everything seems to be left over when you read the first line of that text:

Let’s call it what it is: a fitness tracker.

That’s almost exactly what the Apple Watch is. I would say it’s what it wants to be first, although it can be a lot more. What it matters is that Apple seems to have found what it needed to convince people to buy this device.

You should buy it because it can help you to be in better shape. That’s it. Other makers use that reasoning to sell their fitness trackers, but Apple can at last compete in similar terms with those products while adding all the other neat options the Apple watch gives their users. Joanna Stern, by the way, has also expressed the idea in a fair way:

Still not a ‘need’, finally a ‘want’.

Not much to add after those two little sentences.

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.

The quest for the real Apple Watch

Comparing launches can deceive anyone. That’s what The Wall Street Journal has made speaking about the Apple Watch, which is supposed to have sold around 12-13m units on its first year.

The iPhone sold 6.1 million units in the 12 months after its launch in June 2007.

Both devices had clear limitations, and in fact the iPhone 3G was a clear advance but not that much in hardware: the App Store was the thing that changed that phone -and the rest of the market- forever.

With the Apple Watch, everyone is expecting a change as big as that one. Daisuke Wakabayashi writes about an important possibility in the future Apple Watch 2:

Apple is working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to its next-generation Watch, according to people familiar with the matter.

That would make the Apple Watch really autonomous, but will be that enough? Other smartwatches had that feature before and sales and functionalities haven’t been really convincing. At least, not according to sales figures. Samsung Gear S was a good example of this, and the Gear S2 has a version with an embedded SIM (eSIM) as well, although it’s not available yet.

It would be interesting to see if that autonomy can push smartwatches forward, something that I suspect will have to do much more with software (again) that with hardware. The smartwatch can certainly be more useful with that kind of option, but the smartphone is clearly the perfect fit for the world as it’s designed today.

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.

Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Lauren Goode on The Verge:

NPD estimates that nearly 33 million fitness trackers were out there in the wild by the end of the fourth quarter of 2015 (though, not necessarily being worn —see earlier point), compared with 13 million smartwatches. And Fitbit still holds a whopping share of the activity tracking market, accounting for 79 percent of sales.

I made the same mistake twice. I thought tablets would kill the e-reader -wrong- and I thought that smartwatches would kill the fitbit and other similar wearables.

On that early thoughts, I assumed that e-readers didn’t deliver anything special to the reading experience. They did, of course: easier on the eyes, free-distraction reading and an everlasting battery were arguments too important to dismiss.

The same has happened with wearables: they have become something nice to wear on, they provide simplicity and don’t overcomplicate the product, and again, they’ve got near everlasting batteries -at least, compared to smartwatches-.

Hopefully I won’t make the same mistake again. A device that does something but also a lot of other things isn’t necessarily better. In fact, most of the times the experience is worse when you were just looking for that something in the first place.

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

Design, not tech, is what matters in smartwatches

ArsTechnica’s review of the new Moto 360 confirms what we already new. There’s not much new tech on the new smartwatches.

What matters is design, and that defies the real value of this devices. If you want design over functionality, just get a nice watch. You’ll have plenty of options, and battery will last far more than a day.

Disappointing.

Source: The gen-two Moto 360—a beautiful, compact design without much new tech