If you can't make something awesome yourself, buy the companies who can do it for you. Google has done it time and time again to fast track development of phones, mapping and much more.
Now it looks like it's doing the same for smartwatches. The announcement that Google is paying $40 million for Fossil's secret smartwatch technology is not only a hint that Google is trying to catch up with its rivals, but may also serve as an admission that what it's done with Wear OS so far just isn't good enough.
Essential reading: All the latest smartwatches reviewed and rated
This isn't the first time Google has made an acquisition related to smartwatches. Back in 2016 it bought Cronologics, a company set up by ex-Google employees. Cronologics had successfully crowdfunded the CoWatch, a smartwatch that ran on the Android-based Cronologics OS and included features like Amazon's Alexa.
But this Fossil purchase sounds bigger than buying up a startup that's made its own smartwatch OS. Based on what Fossil Group and Google's rep have been willing to exclusively share with us on this so far, it feels like there are more reasons to be intrigued about this deal.
It's easy to see why Google would be interested in what Fossil is doing in the smartwatch space
What do we know? Well, that the acquisition will result in the launch of a "new product innovation that's not yet hit the market". That new product line is based on tech that Fossil Group acquired from Misfit. Since sucking up Misfit for $240 million, the most evident change with Fossil Group's portfolio of smartwatches and hybrid smartwatches is an increase in fitness and sports tracking powers.
Connected Fossil watches can now track runs, swims, measure heart rate and more. Yes, many of Google's Wear hardware partners have delivered those features too, but the safe bet feels like this could be something rooted within the health and fitness realms. We shouldn't also forget that when Misfit showed us its Vapor smartwatch for the very first time, it was running on its own proprietary operating system, but Fossil eventually decided to launch it with Wear OS.
Google has made a much bigger effort to refine and revamp the health and fitness elements of its operating system. Google Fit was given a much needed overhaul and there were strong rumours at the back end of 2018 about Google Coach – a data-driven software companion that used your data to improve fitness and even nutrition tracking, potentially in a really big way.
It's easy to see why Google would be interested in what Fossil is doing in the smartwatch space. After all, it's undoubtedly carrying the Wear OS torch for the platform, getting the software into the hands (and onto the wrists) of more people.
Just to clarify,though, we don't know (honestly) what this "product innovation" is. Like everyone else, we are playing the guessing game. Will it mean we finally see a Pixel Watch? (Wareable's editor at large Hugh Langley certainly hopes so).
I think our best clue is to look at what the leaders in this space are doing. We are talking about Apple, Fitbit, Samsung and Garmin. All four of these smartwatch makers have a few things in common. They've all gone big on sports tracking, but they've also made big plays with serious health tracking. Apple made a huge breakthrough by adding ECG to the Series 4. Fitbit is not too far behind in exploring serious health conditions with its sensor tech and the collaborations it's done over the last few years. Samsung and Garmin too are working more closely with companies rooted in healthcare.
Who's not doing this with their smartwatches? Google. Maybe Fossil's stumbled across a big health monitoring feature that the companies we've just mentioned have yet to discover? Alphabet just got the FDA nod for its ECG tech, which could presumably be migrated to Google's consumer wearables, so the groundwork is certainly being laid.
Whatever Google does have planned, we really hope it's not overselling it. It's time it brought us something groundbreaking. Hopefully this is the acquisition that finally sparks it.
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