Samsung has piped Apple to the post, showing off its new smartwatch at IFA in Berlin. Does this mean Samsung has won some kind of race to launch a watch before Apple?
Who said Apple had to be the first to launch a smartwatch? Actually, Samsung wasn't first anyway - Sony announced its SmartWatch 2 this June, there's also the Pebble and the I'm Watch, among others.
Being first isn't always best, as Apple has proven. Over the past thirteen years Apple has redefined three product categories: MP3 players with the iPod, smartphones with the iPhone, and tablets with the iPad. In each case Apple wasn't the first to launch a product in the category, it was just the first to produce a product that worked well and had an interface that people understood.
All Apple needs to do is launch a device that redefines the smartwatch category and it will have a fourth 'reinvention' in its pocket - or on its wrist, rather.
Problems with battery life
Judging by Samsung's attempt at a smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, it doesn't look like Apple should be too concerned about Samsung getting there first. The Gear highlights many of the big issues associated with wearable technology right now. Top of the list is the challenge manufacturers face meeting the power requirements of these small devices without sacrificing battery life and affordability.
Charge the Galaxy Gear battery and it should be good for a day. Given that watches typically last for years between charges we think that this will disappoint. It's not as if other smartwatches can't beat this: the Pebble offers about a week per charge.
It's one thing to charge your phone every night but having to charge your watch every day is unacceptable, as is the chance that your watch might run out of battery before the end of the day.
While Apple is probably looking for ways to maximise the amount of battery life it can get out of its rumoured iWatch, Samsung went for a full colour 1.6in AMOLED screen that will suck even more power. We've yet to see how this screen fairs in bright sunshine.
Apple will, no doubt, be looking to offload the processing and connectivity issues to the iPhone, Samsung, on the other hand, speced the Gear up with a 800MHz processor.
The smartwatch with a smartphone brain
To be successful we think wearable devices will need to be small and inexpensive. In Apple's case the iPhone will provide the power. We believe the iPhone will be the brain of the iWatch. It will provide the power, storage and the data connection. Your wearable device won't need cellular connectivity because your phone will provide that. Your wearable device will connect to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and you will be able to connect to the internet, or call friends and actually speak to them, via that connection.
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