Over the past few months I feel like I have been writing about smartwatches more than any other wearable. Fitbit, Samsung and Garmin, plus Google with all of the Wear OS watches that have launched, will launch or could land before the year is out.
I'm going to sound like a broken record but I do feel like the tide is turning for the tech that gets written off on almost a weekly basis. We know a new Apple Watch and Samsung smartwatch will arrive before long, but beyond that, I feel like there are many more reasons to be optimistic and excited about the space in 2018 as a whole.
Essential reading: Best Wear smartwatches to buy
If the speculation is to be believed, it all points to a strong (and busy) year. Taking stock of all things smartwatch-related I've written about recently, these are the five stand-out things that have me feeling good about the world of smartwatches again.
This time Google is surely going to get it right
It feels like every year since Android Wear launched, we've been saying, 'this time, Google is going to nail it'. But a long time has passed, and, other than a rebrand, Wear OS feels much the same. However with new improvements promised, new Qualcomm chips on the way and an eagerness to give iPhone owners a better Wear experience, maybe, just maybe (all of things crossed) things are going to change this year.
Why do I think that? Because it feels like Google now has the right partners on side to make smartwatches work and, crucially, make them desirable. It made sense that at the start it would be tech companies leading the charge. But with the influx of fashion and traditional watchmakers using Google's smartwatch OS, seizing the opportunity to entice a whole new generation to own a watch, it feels like the momentum is there. Surely with almost five years of Wear in the wild, Google finally has a grip on what works and doesn't work. What features it should prioritise and the ones that it should be improving. Surely it'll get it right this time?
Google gets involved with the hardware
Another reason to be optimistic that 2018 will be the year that the big G gets things right is the speculation that it will finally dip its toes into making its own smartwatch. It's something our man in the US Hugh has been banging the drum about for some time, and if reliable leakster Evan Blass is on the money (he usually is) about a Pixel Watch coming, then it's probably happening. And there might be more than one version.
If anything, having its own watch shows that Google is fully behind the platform it created and if it can replicate anything close to what it has managed to do with its Pixel smartphones, then I think there's every reason to think it can deliver a smartwatch that showcases the best of Wear. Then maybe we can say we have a genuine rival to Apple, Samsung and Fitbit's smartwatches.
Fitbit OS gets better
Speaking of Fitbit, I think the Versa proves that the fitness tracker maker is learning quickly about smartwatches. The Ionic didn't set the world alight and while we've grown to actually quite like it here at Wareable, it's Fitbit's second smartwatch that really makes us feel like it's on the right tracks. The price point was right, the mix of features was on the money (bar the missing built-in GPS), and it's providing a solution to some of the biggest hardware problems that might still be putting people off buying smartwatches. Like having long battery life without making compromises on screen quality.
Then there's Fitbit OS. That's what I think is going to make a difference here. It's clear Fitbit is making a huge effort to get developers on board to cement the foundations of its operating system. Whether that's through building health apps or pumping out those creative watch faces. It's also about refining the UI, making the on-watch experience a richer one, and I feel like Fitbit will deliver on that front.
Rebble revives Pebble
And for those that are not falling for Fitbit's attempts to give a more Pebble-like feel to its smartwatch platform, there's always the folks at Rebble to turn to if you're not ready to give up on Pebble life just yet. I love an underdog story and Rebble's is a great one. Started by Pebblers, it wants to continue support for the still hugely popular smartwatches, where for many the smartwatch love-in no doubt began.
Back in February, ex-Pebble employee Katharine Berry detailed the features it would help keep running for Pebble smartwatch owners, but at a cost. I have no doubts that there are people out there happy to pay a little money to keep their Pebbles running a little bit longer. How long it will last, who knows. But it's nice to think that the big community of Pebble fans don't have to let go just yet.
Here comes the health tracking
We talk a lot about the big push into serious health tracking by the likes of Apple and Fitbit, and the more I think about it, the more I believe it will open the door for smartwatches to finally rid that gimmick tag for good.
Essential reading: Why Fitbit is trying to tackle sleep apnea
Heart health, sleep apnea and women's health continue to be the areas mentioned where wearables and specifically smartwatches can make a difference. I feel like I read a story almost every week about someone discovering a serious heart problem from abnormal HR data detected on their Apple Watch. Or someone that's used an app to help detect that they suffer from a sleep disorder. The days of simply catering for the step counters, runners and swimmers are over.
We are not just going to talk about health tracking on smartwatches in clinical studies. It's time go beyond that and put the power in the smartwatch owner's hands. It's exciting not only from an innovation point of view that this level of tech can be achieved, but that there's more potential than ever for smartwatches to change people's lives in a meaningful way.
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