It's said that the only way to predict to future is to create it - but, here at Wareable, we like to think we have the authority to make some pretty accurate calls about launches, trends and innovations on the horizon in wearable tech.
And, with the new year just around the corner, it's time for us to rest our hands on the crystal ball and see what 2023 has in store.
Will Apple actually release a headset? Will we all be wearing smart rings by this time next year? These are just a couple of the potential avenues we'll be exploring in our predictions. Some are pretty obvious, and some are bold calls that we can't wait to revisit in a year's time.
And with ChatGPT seemingly on the cusp of replacing all of us here in online publishing, let's settle into what could even be the last set of wearable forecasts you read from a human - there's one we'll give away for free.
In no particular order, here are 23 of our predictions for the coming year.
Apple's headset will deliver the magic
We know we just said these predictions are in no particular order, but let's start with the big one: Apple is launching some kind of mixed reality headset in 2023.
It's been a rumor we've been writing about for the best part of Wareable's entire existence, and the stars (industry folks who leak Apple's plans) appear to be in alignment.
There's still very little we do know about the potential Apple headset, though. What will it be called? Will it be a headset or smartglasses? Will it be AR or VR? Nobody's certain.
Given Apple has been filing patents in this area for around two decades, it's perhaps not a surprise that it's pretty difficult to pin down exactly what its take on AR/VR/MR will look like.
What it will offer, we're pretty sure, is something that Apple devices rarely launch without - seamless integration with other products in the ecosystem and a very unique reason to exist.
Apple is far from being the tech industry's premier innovator, but it is arguably the very best at implementing - to the point releases in burgeoning areas often do feel (or get remembered) as the trailblazing product.
This is Apple's trademark skill, and we'd bet our bottom dollar it finds a way to make its headset feel different from everything that has come before.
Google Pixel Watch 2 rights some wrongs
It's fair to say Google's much-anticipated smartwatch debut, the Pixel Watch, presented us with a mixed bag. The company has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to the second-gen model - and we've already listed a few suggestions of where it should start in our piece detailing Pixel Watch 2 features we want to see.
Not only do we think Google actually does release the follow-up smartwatch in 2023 - starting itself on a yearly renewal cycle to match up with Apple and Samsung - but we also think it does rectify some of the big errors of the Pixel Watch. Chief among these is battery life, and we think efficiency in this area will be improved across the industry next year.
Rockley Photonics' sensor tech lands
When we spoke to Rockley Photonics' Andrew Rickman earlier this year, they indicated that the startup was working with six of the top ten consumer device companies in the space - all ahead of its innovative health sensor technology potentially being included in 2023 smartwatches.
It's not clear just what biomarkers will be tracked by each company, of course, but features like blood pressure readings, core body temperature monitoring, hydration tracking and perhaps even the exploration of glucose levels appear ready to land in a consumer device in the coming year.
If they do, it's likely we'll have Rockley to thank.
Fossil Gen 7 dusts off the cobwebs
The protracted rollout of Wear OS 3 has taken up a lot of the column inches over the last 18 months - so much so, you'd be forgiven for not really knowing which generation Fossil and its vendors are up to these days.
After a year of relative purgatory and old-feeling devices, though, we think we're going to start seeing Gen 7 models early in 2023. Perhaps some will debut at CES 2023, but, either way, we're expecting big improvements now they've had time to bed in with the transformative software change that debuted in 2021.
Withings returns to form
It's been a pretty quiet couple of years from the folks at Withings, but we're expecting a comeback in 2023. While we enjoyed our time testing the ScanWatch Horizon earlier in 2022, we also couldn't help but feel that other companies have started to close the gap.
The French company has always offered up superb health watches, but it's an area in which the industry's biggest names are rapidly expanding. And with the Health Mate platform due for a sizeable update, and the standard ScanWatch starting to feel a little dated, Withings is going to need a big year. We think it gives us one.
Fitbit forges a new identity
What is Fitbit nowadays? It's a question we asked plenty of times at Wareable HQ over the last year, with it becoming a little less clear since the company was acquired by Google.
Partly, it's improved and become an insights juggernaut, but this image has been confused slightly by the release of a couple of nerfed-feeling smartwatches and its good-but-adjoined presence on Google's smartwatch.
We're big fans of Fitbit here - after all, its history as an innovator in the space is pretty hard to argue with - but it does feel as though Google could benefit from giving it a defined space to operate.
Whether it's a revert back to its roots and a focus purely on the fitness tracker form, or perhaps leaning into its role as the eventual, beefed-up replacement for Google Fit and available across Wear OS, we're not sure. Change, though, feels afoot.
Blood pressure tech goes mainstream
We've already highlighted Rockley Photonics' impending sensor technology, and this, combined with the fact that blood pressure readings have already been on the feature lists of Huawei and Samsung watches in the last 12-18 months, means we're preparing for the health feature to burst out in 2023.
We think it could form a big part of the announcement presentations you'll see from the smartwatch giants over the coming year, replicating the adoption of ECG technology following the Apple Watch Series 4's arrival.
Women's health receives more attention
If Apple does choose to lead, other companies typically follow suit shortly after. Samsung's temperature sensor currently zeroes in on sleep tracking improvements, but it's possible this could be retooled to offer a similar tracking experience offered through the Series 8.
From there, who knows what women's health features we might see, but this feels like an area that has been overlooked by the big companies over the past half-decade. We think that continues to change in 2023.
Garmin finally embraces LTE
For better or worse, Garmin has had a pretty standoffish relationship with 4G/LTE since the feature first went mainstream in 2017. Sure, we've seen the odd LTE Forerunner model tacked onto older releases, but this has always just been to enable safety features - and it's typically only been available in limited regions.
In 2023, we think Garmin takes the plunge and begins to up its smartwatch features, and cellular connectivity will be the big change. Perhaps it debuts on a potential Vivoactive 5, Venu 3 or even an AMOLED Forerunner - who knows?
Apple brings the apps at WWDC '23
When Apple rolled the film on the Watch Ultra back in September, it was keen to underscore some hardcore collaborations with outdoor brands. We've seen the fruits of such partnerships already in the form of Oceanic+, but we think Apple pushes on and brings the big guns to WWDC next June.
We love the Apple Watch Ultra, though one of its biggest areas for improvement is the native app experience. When the time comes to present watchOS 10 to the world, we think Apple will have a much more dedicated in-house app effort ready for the next-gen Ultra.
Smart rings get serious
This was something we tagged as a rumbling development for 2022, but, instead, the smart ring industry continued to be dominated by one company - Oura.
After a collaboration with Gucci and the delivery of a refined Gen 3 design, the startup is flying high and showing the big companies exactly how to innovate. In fact, the Oura Gen 3 just took our top gong of 'Wearable of the Year' at the Wareable Tech Awards 2022 - largely due to how it's transformed the landscape.
It's had things its own way until now, easily fending off other startups that have struggled to make it to market, but we think at least one big dog rolls into town in 2023. Samsung is reportedly working on a Galaxy Ring, and patents from Apple, Google, Fitbit and Oppo have all emerged in the recent past.
If or when we do finally see a big-name smart ring, it then becomes a case of whether Oura can stay at the top of the game.
Wear OS 4 delivers full Fitbit integration
In a recent interview with Fossil VP Brook Eaton, we were told how the company would love to receive the benefits of the native Fitbit integration present on the Pixel Watch - and that Google had been open to discussions about the prospect.
Wear OS is a much more serious proposition these days, and we think that there's a good chance full Fitbit integration will headline the Wear OS 4 update that (likely) arrives in 2023.
Big-brand kids smartwatches break cover
If we had a nickel every time we've been asked about a Fitbit smartwatch or Apple Watch for kids, we'd be, well, many dollars richer. The good news in this regard is that the big names appear prime to offer more serious wearables focused on kids.
Sure, we've had a few generations of Fitbit and Garmin trackers aimed at children, but the area certainly deserves richer competition than it's had over the last few years. And following reports that Fitbit and Google are working on a dedicated smartwatch for kids - Project Eleven - we think that we could start to see some serious waves here in 2023.
Fitbit Charge 6 arrives
After letting the Versa 4, Sense 2 and Inspire 3 run wild and free in 2022, we think Fitbit returns to the trusty Charge lineup in 2023. We've already seen rumors emerge that a new version of the flagship fitness tracker is in the works - and the timing feels about right.
Design changes are rumored to be at a minimum, which certainly makes sense after the revamp of the Charge 5, but don't be surprised if Fitbit launches the Charge 6 with an innovative tracking feature.
Apple Watch Series 9 will take the plaudits
Apple made a big smartwatch play in 2022 when it released the Apple Watch Ultra. And while we think that it's a device that's given a refresh next year, we also believe the pendulum and emphasis swings to the next Series smartwatch in 2023.
Very little has been rumored about the Series 9 so far, but, after the Series 8 allowed the Ultra to take the spotlight in September, we think Apple will provide a pretty substantial upgrade.
We don't think this comes in the design department, but it does feel relatively likely Apple could revamp the chipset and move to a 4nm fabrication process, for example, and drastically improve things like battery life.
Alternatively, the Series 9 could see Apple continue down the checkbox of health tracking features and go big on something like blood pressure monitoring. It may even do the (seemingly) impossible and provide some kind of non-invasive glucose monitoring solution.
Whatever it is, we think it'll be the Series 9 that headlines the Apple smartwatch range in 2023.
Whoop creates a fuller experience
Since the Whoop 4.0 arrived, we've been mightily impressed by its sleep tracking and recovery insights. The unobtrusive design, as well, has forced us to reach for it time and time again.
Interestingly, though, the lack of a screen and the emphasis on recovery also creates one of Whoop's core issues - there's currently not a huge incentive to wear it on days in which you're not going to be super active. With no display, you don't get any daytime downtime benefits from the Whoop.
Since there don't appear to be any plans to launch any new hardware any time soon, we're betting that Whoop will continue to refine the software experience in 2023 and provide renewed motivation to strap it on at all times.
Actual hearables will make a comeback
It's been a strange few years in the hearables space. What once appeared to be the next great frontier for wearable manufacturers to fight over has remained relatively dormant, with companies instead offering every conceivable take imaginable on a pair of wireless earbuds with ANC.
Very few have harnessed the ear as a place to track data from, however, and we think that's ripe to change in 2023.
We saw Honor announce the first-ever wireless earbuds with a temperature tracker inside back in February, and we think that similar innovations will be a trend in the coming year.
The Huawei Watch Buds go on tour
We were pretty blown away by the Huawei Watch Buds when they were announced earlier this month - so much so that the smartwatch/earbuds case took home our prize for 'Innovation of the Year' for 2022. The sad news is that it's currently only available to buy in China - but we think that changes in 2023.
Now, is this a prediction, or just something we really want to see happen? We're not quite sure ourselves at this point. Onto the next one.
5G seeps back into our consciousness
As anybody who's got 5G running on their smartphone can attest, the experience is still far from what was advertised a couple of years back.
The lack of 5G infrastructure means that you can very quickly go from blazing-fast, low-latency utopia to an overall speed performance that's actually slower than 4G. Not only that, but 5G has also made devices more expensive to manufacture and given networks the opportunity to hike up plans.
With 5G in its common form being pretty rough, then, it's no surprise that it's just not really been a trend in the wearable industry - and also no surprise that we're not yet living in Mark Zuckerberg's unnerving metaverse with smartglasses glued to our heads.
We think that begins to change in 2023. Alongside the AR/MR devices that look set to release, we think 5G is touted heavily (again) as the game-changer that enables new experiences to flourish.
It also feels likely we see 5G on a smartwatch in 2023, but whether its applications are as meaningful as in other wearable segments is up for debate.
Mental health tracking expands
While our wearables have become experts in tracking all facets of our physical health, the progress regarding mental health tracking has proved less linear. Off the back of a couple of developments we witnessed in 2022, though, we think stress tracking is ready to break out over the coming year.
We've seen startup Happy Health test the same waters as Fitbit first did a couple of years back with the Sense and its EDA sensor, and the Fitbit Sense 2 saw the development of this becoming a continuous tracker.
This sensor monitors perspiration on the skin, which is linked to stress responses and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and we think we're going to see it land on a few more wearables in 2023.
Given that we've seen Fitbit file a patent for bipolar and depression detection relatively recently, mind, don't be surprised if the Google-owned company continues to stay one step ahead of the competition when it comes to mental health.
OnePlus returns to the battle
Eagle-eyed fans of the Wareable Hotlist will know that we actually predicted this last year, but, since the company didn't play ball, we're going to double down and say that the OnePlus Watch 2 definitely, definitely arrives at some point in 2023.
In truth, a year out of the game was probably exactly what was needed following the lackluster performance of the debut OnePlus Watch. If a second-gen model does launch, let's hope the software experience is a little more polished.
Next-gen Huawei Watch arrives
We've all had a good laugh with the Huawei Watch 3 series over the last couple of years, haven't we? There have been more versions of it than you can shake a stick at, and, broadly, the generation has been a pretty solid one.
In 2023, however, we're expecting the Huawei Watch 4 and Watch 4 GT. As ever, they're likely to first arrive in China before making their way to other regions, so this could still be one we're waiting deep into the year to get our hands on.
Qualcomm W5+ changes the landscape
Qualcomm wowed us midway through this year when it announced its new Snapdragon W5+ platform for wearables, but we're yet to really see the smartwatch industry - chiefly, Wear OS vendors - take advantage of the technology.
We do know, however, that 25 devices were said to be in the pipeline to receive it - and only one, the Oppo Watch 3, has launched. That means we're in store for a potentially game-changing year of Wear OS smartwatches - especially if W5+ can deliver what it promises on paper.
As revealed by Qualcomm during its initial announcement, battery efficiency is a huge beneficiary here. In fact, estimations show that even high-powered smartwatches could receive 50% battery gains over those running on the Snapdragon 4100+ platform.
Of course, rivals such as Apple will no doubt be working on their own chipset improvements for 2023, as well. But in the event these only represent minor efficiency tweaks, Wear OS watches could be about to take a huge leap over the competition.
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