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Smartwatch Market Expected to Double

smartwatchDo you own a smartwatch yet?  No?  Statistically, you’ll probably own one in the next five years, as experts expect the size of the market to double in that period of time.

Smartwatches are still fairly new, and people are still learning what they can do.  Companies that make them are still trying to figure out which features the public wants and which they do not, and everyone is struggling to come up with a good design that’s attractive and functional.

On top of all of that are changes in technology that allow manufacturers to come up with smartwatches that offer more features at a lower price, but the question remains – what price is the right price?

There are inexpensive Chinese-made models and fairly expensive ($1000 and up) models from companies that sell luxury items.

So far, the major high end watch makers (Rolex, Patek Philippe, etc.) are staying away, as they remember the “quartz crisis” of the 1970s and would prefer to stay away from similar problems in the future.

So, why is the market expected to double?  There are a few reasons for this:

1. Improved functionality  – Over time, smartwatches will be capable of doing more than they do now.  Until recently, a smartwatch required having a smartphone nearby in order to do anything useful.  The newest version of the Apple watch changes that, and other watches will soon follow, giving people more flexibility.  Right now, lots of people don’t want to wear both a watch and a phone, but if more of the phone’s features could be added to the watch, that will change.

smartwatch2. Prices are dropping – That comes with time and economies of scale.  Prices for electronics always come down over time, and as sales increase, companies can mass produce things more cheaply.  This will inevitably lead to smartwatches that cost quite a bit less than the ones we have now, giving people easier entry into that market.  The cheaper the watch becomes, the more consumers you’ll be able to reach at that price point.

3. People are becoming accustomed to them.  Smartwatches were initially seen as the sort of thing that only nerds would own, but over time as they become mainstream devices, more people will find that they’re useful things to own.

4. More competition – Apple currently holds about 70% of the smartwatch market, but Google’s Android operating system is open source and will allow more companies to make competing models at an affordable price point.  This brings more models to the market, introduces more features to the models that already exists, and helps bring the prices down.

This will all happen over time.  There isn’t likely to be an overnight explosion of business in the smartwatch industry, nor is there likely to be a single event that suddenly drives millions of people to the store to buy smartwatches.

But over time as features improve, the prices come down, and a wider variety of styles and colors become available, more people will slowly come to the conclusion that perhaps owning a smartwatch might be a good move for them.


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Are Smartwatches for Children Safe?

Smartwatches have a lot of useful features, and some of these features might help parents keep track of their children.  A number of manufacturers, in fact, are marketing smartwatches as devices that parents can use to help keep track of where their children are so that they can know that they are safe.

That’s a nice idea in theory, but a consumer group in the EU, the Norwegian Consumer Council, says that some of the smartwatches that are being sold for the specific purpose of protecting children could potentially endanger them.

How is that?

The group examined four brands of smartwatches – the Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord and Xplora, to see how well they worked for their intended purpose.

What the group discovered was that there were certain security flaws in the software for these watches that could actually make it possible for people who intend to harm children to use the watches for their own use.

Several of the phones had security flaws in their software that could potentially allow hackers to not only access the accounts, but to take control of them.  This would give them access to the location of the child wearing the watch, their historical location history and their personal details.

One of the watches could also be hacked in such a way as to make it function as a listening device, allowing them to listen in on the surroundings of the child, though there would be nothing on the watch itself to indicate to the wearer that the watch was being used as an eavesdropping device.

Several of the models also, during normal operation, send data to company servers without using any type of encryption, making them susceptible to “man in the middle” attacks.

The study also determined that some of the companies’ terms of service were unclear or vague about how the wearers’ personal information would be used and a few of the apps were simply buggy and didn’t work properly.

This isn’t a new feature, and even the FBI has suggested that parents should be cautious about purchasing Internet-enabled toys for their children, as some of the features could be repurposed by hackers for other uses that might bring harm to children or allow them to be used for some sort of spying.

These findings aren’t particularly surprising, as Internet-enabled devices are still in their infancy.  Right now, companies of all kinds of devices are rushing to allow people to connect to them using their smartphones or smartwatches in order to control them, without necessarily giving a lot of thought to the ramifications of allowing them to do so.

This has led to reports of all kinds of devices that can be potentially compromised, including washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and toy dolls.

In time, these things will get sorted out and better security will come along.  In the meantime, partents should exercise caution when purchasing any device for their children that can connect to the Internet and ideally, they should try to supervise their use when possible.



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Hugo Boss Smartwatch is Stylish

hugo boss smartwatchIf you’re interested in smartwatches, Hugo Boss might not be the first company that comes to mind.  In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that you wouldn’t have thought about Hugo Boss if you were thinking about any kind of watch.

The German company got their start after World War I and they were in the business of selling clothing for men.  They still do that, but at some point, they decided that accessories to go along with the clothing might be a good idea.  With that in mind, they began making watches.

Their watches have changed a bit over the years, and these days, they’ve found a nice little niche in the fashion watch market.  Their timepieces are of high quality, but feature neither cutting-edge design or cutting-edge features.  That’s not to diminish their stature; they just let other people work the fringe while they are happy to make an attractive, fashionable watch that sells for relatively modest ($150-$1000, for the most part) prices as fashion watches go.

Their watches are all quartz powered, too, so you’re not going to find a lot of mechanical complications or anything.  As we said, Hugo Boss watches offer a solid watch that looks good, is reasonably priced and is likely to serve you well for a long time.  Are Hugo Boss watches good?  Yes, they are, but until now, they’ve offered little to interest the smartwatch buyer.

So why are we writing about Hugo Boss watches here?  Because, believe it or not, there is now such a thing as a Hugo Boss smartwatch.  Lots of other watchmakers are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what the market is going to do for these new “gadgets,” but Hugo Boss has jumped in and started selling a smartwatch.

At least, that’s what they call it.  The Hugo Boss smartwatch has that name, but really, it’s best described as a hybrid.  That’s because it’s basically a quartz watch that also has some features that you’ll certainly welcome if you’re a fan of smartwatches.

hugo boss smart watchYou get the same great looks that you’ll always get with a Hugo Boss watch, but with the smartwatch, you’ll also get a few new features that you’ll welcome if you’re a smartphone owner:

  • Setting preferences with a custom BOSS app
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Up to 5 days on a single charge
  • World clock
  • Odometer
  • Notifications for social media, incoming calls, activity goals, and texts via display and vibration

You’ll also find a great looking watch with a stainless steel case, a “croc-embossed” leather strap, and surprisingly good (33 meters) water resistance.  That’s not a feature we’ve seen in a lot of smartwatches, most of which should be kept well away from water.   The Hugo Boss smartwatch also comes with a 2 year warranty, though the way the market moves, the watch will likely be completely obsolete (as a smartwatch) by then.

It will still be a great looking watch, though, and that’s one place where Hugo Boss watches really shine.   You also won’t have to break the bank to buy the thing, as the Hugo Boss smartwatch has a suggested retail price of $325 or so.

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Apple Watch 3 Announced – The Good and the Bad

apple watch 3This week, Apple had one of their semi-regular Big Events to announce several new products.  The one that’s getting most of the press is the iPhone X, which is largely getting notice because of its $1000+ price tag.  Yes, the day when people can, and will, pay a thousand dollars for a telephone has apparently arrived.

Receiving a bit less notice, however, was the introduction of the latest iteration of the Apple Watch.  Given the name of Apple Watch 3, this new version of the fairly popular wearable actually has some noteworthy features.

It’s not a ground-up redesign by any means; the Apple Watch 3 looks a lot, no, it looks virtually identical, to its predecessor.  The one thing that will give it away, for whatever that’s worth, is the red button on the crown.

What is noteworthy about the new Apple Watch is the fact that it is now LTE enabled.  That means that you will be able to dial and receive phone calls directly from the watch without having to have an iPhone on your person.  It’s a telephone-as-a-watch.  As others have pointed out, we’ve finally gotten the wrist radio that Dick Tracy was wearing back in the 1940s.

Apple claims that the new chip used in the Apple Watch 3 is both faster and more power efficient than the one used in its predecessor, so they’re claiming up to 18 hours of use without having to recharge it.   Cell phone circuitry tends to draw a lot of power, especially if you’re in an area with limited range.

apple watch 3The new watch features a barimetric altimeter, and apparently has the ability to detect if your heart rate is abnormally fast, as it might be when you’re having a heart problem.  If it’s beating too quickly and you’re not in the process of exercising, the watch will let you know.

You still can’t get rid of your iPhone just yet, however.  While the Apple Watch 3 will let you make phone calls and receive them without having a phone handy, the watch does have some limitations.  It can’t sync without an iPhone and it can’t load apps without an iPhone.  That means you’ll still have to have another expensive Apple gadget to go with this one.

Furthermore, you might have to upgrade that iPhone to use the Apple Watch 3.  The new watch, which is available either with or without LTE connectivity, will not work with any version of the iPhone prior to iPhone 6.  The older watches will, but if you want the new one and you have an older phone, you’re going to have to buy a phone and a watch.

While the new versions of the iPhone are getting press for being pricey, the Apple Watch 3 is somewhat more affordable.  The LTE-enabled version is going to retail for $399.  The non-LTE version of the phone will sell for somewhat less, at $329.

Now we just wish that they’d redesign the form factor.  In our book, the Apple Watch in all of its variations is one of the less attractive smartwatches out there.

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Smartwatches Taking Over Wearables Market

michael kors sofie smartwatchIt has taken a while for the smatwatch to take off in the marketplace.  Part of that has to do with function; most of them are still tied to a smartphone, and if you have to have one device to make the other one work, then why carry two?  Furthermore, many early smartwatches were big, clumsy, and unattractive.

Over time, however, smartwatches are becoming smaller, better looking, and more functional.  Apple will reportedly introduce a watch soon that will be able to make and receive calls without a smartphone, and that could be a game changer.  While a lot of watch companies are taking a wait and see approach to smartwatches, many fashion companies, such as Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors, are jumping in with stylish offerings.

The people who are getting left out in the cold here are the companies who make fitness only wearables.  These are devices, such as the Fitbit, that keep track of your fitness stats and heart rate without being capable of running third party apps.  While many of the fashion watches coming to market (such as the Michael Kors) do not offer fitness features, they do have the ability to run other apps, which at the moment, seems to be more important to buyers than the fitness features.

The biggest selling smartwatches seem to be the ones that offer both apps and fitness features, but fitness-only seems to be on its way out.  That’s not true of smartwatches, however.  Sales were up some 60% in the second quarter of this year over the same period last year, so that’s a pretty significant uptick in smartwatch sales.

Fitness-only devices, however, have seen sales continuously decline over the past year, which is likely part of the reason by Fitbit will soon be introducing their own smartwatch.

The leader in sales at this point is Xiaomi, which is a Chinese company that is not particularly well known outside of China.  On the other hand, with a billion people living there, China is a pretty significant market.  Overall, Xiaomi has a 13.4% market share right now, which puts them just ahead of Apple.

michael kors grayson smartwatchThe new Michael Kors models, on the other hand, are going to be niche sellers.  They’re largely fashion watches, and don’t have fitness tracking capabilities.  The company has two models, the Grayson and the Sofie, and they appear to be tailored towards men and women, respectively.  They’re sold with metal bracelets and optional leather straps and are clearly targeting people who’d like to have an attractive watch on their wrists that can offer some capabilities beyond the ability to tell time.

As the starting price for both watches is in the $350 range, they’re not necessarily for tire kickers or people who aren’t sure if they’re ready for or interested in a smartwatch, but if you think it’s for you and you want something that looks attractive, rather than something that looks like somebody stuck a box on your wrist, the Michael Kors smartwatches might be a good way to go.


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Movado Enters the Smartwatch Market

Movado ConnectLots of companies are entering the smartwatch market, but it’s worth noting that a lot of the companies that are doing so are not companies that primarily make watches.  Companies such as Apple and Garmin are known for other things, but no one thinks “watches!” when they hear those names.  Most watch companies are taking a wait and see attitude, or perhaps creating hybrid watches that offer a bit of high tech along with a traditional timepiece.

That’s why it’s interesting to see Movado Connect, a proper smartwatch from a company that is best known for making proper watches.  Granted, most of Movado’s line consists of quartz watches, but they do have a few automatic models in their lineup.  They’ve also strayed a bit from their classic minimalist design, having added colors and overall busy-ness to their watches in the past few years.

It must be working, as they are running lots of ads and their newer models seem to be popular.  We like the brand, and we both own classic “minimalist” Movado watches.  There’s something appealing about their simplicity of appearance.

You can have that with Movado Connect, at least if you want to.  That’s the thing – the watch comes with 100 possible face designs, so you can pretty much have it look like whatever you’d like it to look like, including that classic, “not much there” look that made the company’s watches famous.

The Movado Connect is powered by Android 2.0, and they claim that it’s compatible with Android or iOS phones.  You get an AMOLED screen with 400×400 resolution, and the processor is the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100.

The watch recharges from dead in 2 hours, and is said to have a battery life of roughly 1 day of typical usage.  Built in sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone, and an ambient light sensor.

Storage is 4 GB, and it offers Bluetooth and WIFI connectivity.

Movado ConnectWhile you can change the watch face, you can’t change the watch itself.  For that, you’ll need to get another watch, but you can do that, as Movado Connect is currently available in four slightly different models.  The difference is in the bracelet and case, giving you options of a silver look, a black look, a gold look and a slightly different black look.

OK, so they don’t have 50 different models yet.  We’re sure they’re working on it.

In the meantime, you’ll get all of the other features that you’ll regularly see with a watch that’s powered by Android Wear 2.0.  You’ll be able to do some fitness tracking and you’ll be able to check on your messages, and so forth.

What you get here that you don’t get with other smartwatches is those clean, good looks that come with Movado watches.  Let’s face it – right now, lots of smartwatches are still pretty ugly, as everyone struggles to figure out what they should look like and what they should do.  Movado thinks that they should look like a Movado, and that’s a good start.

They’re nice looking watches.  They’re not cheap; Movado Connect will set you back anywhere from $595 to $950, depending on the model.  But at the end of the day, it’s a Movado, and you’ll look cool wearing it.   At present, Movado Connect is only available at the company’s Website.

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Buying a Smartwatch – What You Should Know

fossil smartwatchBuying a smartwatch is, in many ways, not much different from buying any other electronic device.   You need to decide what features you need, how much you want to pay, and where you want to buy it.

There are some other factors that you need to consider before buying a smartwatch, however.  Otherwise, you are going to find yourself with a watch you don’t use, a watch you can’t use, or a watch that doesn’t work well for your intended use.

Here are a few things that you should consider before you buy a smartwatch:

  • Is it compatible with your phone?  Most smartwatches sold today are compatible with both the iPhone and Android models.   The Apple Watch is an exception, of course, as that watch only works with the iPhone.  Most other models advertise that they will work with either the iPhone or Android, but that does not mean that they will work equally well with either one.   Often, Android-based smartwatches will offer more features to users of Android phones than they will to users of the iPhone.  Be sure to check on this before you buy, or you may find yourself with limited use of your watch.
  • Do you exercise?  While many smartwatches offer sensors and apps to keep track of your exercise, not all of them do and those that do don’t all do it equally well.  A watch from Fitbit, for example, is designed around such use, but a watch from Louis Vuitton, which may offer such features, might not be the best choice if you’re a marathon runner.
  • generic smartwatchBattery life is a big deal.  Smartwatches consume power like there’s no tomorrow, but some run longer than others before needing a recharge.  If you want a watch that you can wear all day, you need to shop for a watch that you can wear all day.  Battery life varies dramatically from one smartwatch to another, so be sure to check before you buy.
  • Buy a smartwatch that displays the time, all the time.  What?  Isn’t the point of a watch to show you the time?  Yes, but some newer models turn off the display after a certain amount of time as a power saving measure.  That’s great for saving power, but what about the time?  You know – the primary thing that a watch is supposed to do?  This is another feature worth asking about…if you always want access to the time.
  • App selection.  Apps are important, but they’re not as important as you might think.  There are far more apps available for the Apple Watch than for Android models, but studies show that the majority of smartwatch owners aren’t really making much use of apps on their watches.  They’re mostly using them for checking their texts and email, and doing less with the apps.  This may change, but if you’re all about apps, you might want to go with the Apple.

These are some suggestions for things that you should consider if you are buying a smartwatch today.  Keep in mind that the market for these timepieces is still fairly new and that new models and new features are coming out all the time.  Smartwatches are likely to be vastly different five years from now, but right now, compatibility and battery life are probably the most important considerations when buying a smartwatch.

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What Do People Want in a Smartwatch?

When the smartwatch was introduced a few years ago, companies thought we were going to see a new innovation in computing technology.  They even came up with a term – “wearable,” that suggested that people were soon going to be wearing their computers on their wrists or elsewhere, rather than carrying them around with them.

fitbit smartwatch
Fitbit smartwatch

That hasn’t exactly worked out, and right now, companies are trying to figure out exactly what it is that consumers want in a smartwatch.  The Apple watch has been a moderate success, though they’ve pulled their $10,000+ high end model from the market.  The only other high end smartwatch we’ve heard about is the one from Louis Vuitton, which sells for close to $3000.   That seems more like a vanity product than one that the company expects to become a big seller.

The Apple watch has sold OK, but sales are down a bit as the product line is now somewhat aged.  People are anxiously awaiting the new third generation models, which are rumored to include the ability to send and receive phone calls without the need to have a phone nearby.

In the meantime, sales of the Apple Watch have been overtaken by two other companies – Fitbit and Xiaomi.

Fitbit makes inexpensive smartwatches that are geared towards, as the name would suggest, fitness tracking.   Xiaomi watches are largely Apple knockoffs, produced by a Chinese manufacturer looking to sell a bunch of watches at a low price.

What’s missing from the big sales?  Any company making a smartwatch that people are actually using as a portable computer.

Smartwatches were introduced as revolutionary devices that people would use like they would a smartphone or tablet.  You’d wear the watch, and you’d install apps on it that you could use to do whatever it is you typically use apps to do.  Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, smartwatches don’t seem to be particularly well-suited to that task.

That makes sense, really.   Smartwatches have very tiny screens.  Most of them are round, as the makers want them to look like what people would expect a watch to look like.  The few square or rectangular models just shout “the person wearing this is a geek!” and that’s not good for sales.  Additionally, most smartwatches lack the controls or the room for touchscreen commands that make using tablets or smartphones easy to do.

xiaomi smartwatch
Xiaomi smartwatch

The bottom line is that smartwatches are simply ill-suited to running complex apps, though they’re well-suited to running the sorts of apps that Fitbit and Xiaomi are running -those devoted to fitness.

In the meantime, the pricing of smartwatches seems to be getting lower, as companies that were trying to make mid-priced units that were highly functional are abandoning the market and leaving it to the makers of cheap fitness watches.

The next Apple Watch may change that, and lots of people are hoping that it will.  Not just because they’re hoping that the Apple Watch will bring about new features or technology, but also because it may inspire other makers to come up with better ideas, too.

In the meantime, the smartwatch market seems to be in a tailspin.

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Apple Watch May Soon Be Standalone

apple watchSmartwatches have sold reasonably well, but one of the drawbacks to having one is that you also have to have a smartphone nearby.  The watches piggyback on the capabilities of the smartphone, but don’t have full standalone functionality.

Your watch doesn’t have a GPS, for instance, but your smartphone does, so your watch can talk to the phone while you’re working out to keep track of where you’ve been.

The problem is that it isn’t always convenient to have your phone with you.  Yet you need that for certain exercise functions and to keep track of your text messages and to handle your music.

That may change soon, as Bloomberg is reporting that the next iteration of the Apple Watch may include an LTE modem.  This would allow the smartwatches to act more like standalone smartphones and would include, at least in some models, the ability to make phone calls without having to have a smartphone nearby.  Apple hopes to introduce these new smartwatches by the end of the year.

The ability to sever the ties between a smartphone and a smartwatch would be huge.  While people like their smartphones, they’ve been getting bigger over the years and there are times, such as when you are working out, that lugging a large phone around with you may not be exactly what you want to do.  This is also a huge win for Intel, as they have reportedly received the contract for the LTE chips that will make these watches work more like phones.

That’s the good news.  The bad news, of course, is that no one is really certain when these watches will come to the market.  The other bad news is that Apple hasn’t yet entirely resolved the battery problem that plagues all smartwatches.  People with traditional watches with quartz movements replace their batteries every couple of years.  If you have an Apple Watch, you’ll likely have to charge it once a day.

apple smartwatchA watch that is also more or less a fully functional phone is likely to consume even more power than existing models, thus creating a larger burden for owners.  You want to wear your watch; you don’t want to spend all day waiting for it to charge.

In time, these problems will likely be worked out.  At least one company, for example, as already introduced a self-charging smartwatch.  While Apple hasn’t yet indicated that they’re working on something like that, it seems inevitable that they’re going to have to come up with something soon.  If your watch runs down after a couple of hours, you’re not going to want to wear it.

Analysts expect the standalone Apple Watch to be a “game changer,” and one that will likely motivate many existing owners to upgrade and many new customers who have been on the fence about buying a smartwatch to jump in and buy one.

No further details are available right now, but it should be interesting to see if this forthcoming standalone Apple Watch works as promised.

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The Smartwatch That Charges Itself

sequent smartwatchSmartwatches are useful tools, but like their cousins, the smartphone, they rely on a lot of power.  Most battery operated watches can run for years on a single battery, but a heavily used smartwatch can run out of power in less than a day.

A watch that you can’t wear because you’re charging it is not a very useful tool.  What’s the point of even owning one if you can’t wear it when you want to wear it or use it when you want to use it?

You could build a smartwatch that would run for a week or a month on a charge, but it might be the size of a brick.  That wouldn’t be practical for anyone.

A Swiss company is trying to solve that problem with their newly-introduced smartwatch called Sequent.  Sequent takes a cue from technology that has long been available in mechanical watches – the self-winding movement.  What Sequent is attempting to do is create a similar device inside their watch – a rotating weight, or rotor, that moves when the wearer moves.  That rotor can be used to power a small generator, and that generator can be used to charge the battery inside the watch.

The result is a smartwatch that charges itself, meaning you can wear it all day, every day, and as long as you are active, the watch will remain powered.  Furthermore, the watch face has a power indicator on it that shows you exactly how much power you have remaining.

self-charging smartwatchAs an added bonus, due to the nature of how the charging mechanism works, the more you move, such as when you are exercising, the faster the watch will charge.

All of this would be wasted, however, if the Sequent were just another “me too!” smartwatch.  But this one was built from the ground up with both features and style in mind, and the result is an attractive timepiece that also has the ability to do all of the things that make a smartwatch interesting – control your music, alert you when you’re receiving a text or email message, and monitoring all of your vital signs when you’re exercising.

This idea must have struck a lot of people as a good one, because the Sequent was funded through Kickstarter, and so far, the funding has reached more than ten times the amount of money the company was seeking through the crowdfunding site.

At the moment, people have pledged nearly $1 million dollars for this watch, and as a result, the company has added a number of new features, including additional styling options.  At the moment, the watch is still in the prototype stage, but the company expects to ship the finished watches by the end of the year.

This looks like a very big deal for the smartwatch industry, which is still learning about which features people want, which features are a waste of time, and which features can be provided without running the battery dead within an hour of putting the watch on your wrist.

In time, we may see this feature included in most smartwatches.  For now, the Sequent has this amazing feature all to itself.  Pricing starts at just $199.   You can learn more about the Sequent here.

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