What will be the big wearable tech trends and launches in 2022? We are already looking ahead to what is set to be another big year for all things wearables.
The question is, who and what will get us talking and mark new ground for the tech that lives on our wrists, in our ears and other parts of our bodies.
We've looked back to 2021 and along with our knowledge of what's brewing in the space, we've served up what we think is going to happen over the coming 12 months.
If you're wondering whether flexible fitness trackers and AR glasses are going to be the talk of the tech town year, here's our take with 22 wearable tech predictions for 2022.
1. Google Pixel Watch finally(!) happens
We've been reporting it for years, but it seems a flagship Google smartwatch will finally happen in 2022. And there's mounting evidence it's going to become a reality.
The completion of the acquisition of Fitbit, the decision to work with Samsung to revamp Wear, the leaks of alleged renders and software via Google's Android developer studio. It does feel like we are starting to get a real picture of what we can expect from a Pixel Watch.
It seems highly likely that it will run on Wear OS 3 and showcase a lot of what we've seen on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 as well as much stronger integration of Fitbit's health and fitness monitoring features.
There's speculation it could be powered by a Samsung-built chipset too, so maybe Samsung will be helping on the hardware as well as the software front to make sure the Pixel Watch hits the ground running.
Read our full guide to the Pixel Watch rumors.
2. Wear 3.0 fully rolls out
This is less of a prediction and more of one that we know is happening. We just don't know when. Our money is that will be sooner rather than later in 2022.
While Samsung has enjoyed a bit of an exclusive on showcasing new Wear in 2021 on the Galaxy Watch 4, we know a host of other Wear OS hardware partners are waiting in the wings to add new Wear to existing smartwatches too.
The TicWatch Pro 3, TicWatch E3 and Fossil's Gen 6 are among the smartwatches that are pegged to get Wear OS 3.0 in 2022 and we've started to get a sense how Wear without Samsung's UI on top could look when it does land on other watches.
Those watches can look forward to UI improvements, rebuilt apps and whatever Google has cooked up with Fitbit in terms of improving the health and fitness tracking experience for those compatible Wear watches.
Check our guide to Wear OS 3.0 smartwatches.
3. Smart rings join Oura to smarten up our fingers
The Oura Ring has proven that the ring form factor works, but there aren't many smart rings you can actually put on your finger right now.
In 2022, it seems it will have competition with the launch of the Movano Ring in the second half of the year. The female-focused smart ring is packed with sensors, and is set to be shown off at CES 2022.
And it feels like smart rings could finally get the recognition they deserve.
It seems like health and fitness tracking will be the killer features. We've seen patents from both Fitbit and Oppo emerge in 2021 mentioning connected rings, so it's certainly on the radar.
4. Smartglasses are the talk of the town
Meta and Snapchat were among the companies that pushed out connected specs, focusing on the kind that let you log your life in video and pictures. We've also seen the emergence in audio sunglasses when it feels like we've tried on more music streaming specs than ever before.
That trend of smartening up the eyes doesn't show any signs of slowing up. but it's now time to see improvements not just in the shooting and audio experience, but also in the way that the smarts presented and packaged. This is something smartglasses have struggled with, though there are signs that things are changing.
Better-looking and performing smartglasses are coming and we're ready to wear them and put them to good use.
5. Smartwatches go big on blood pressure
With heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring now pretty much a tracking staple on smartwatches and fitness trackers, blood pressure look set to be the next big metric that will become a mainstay on wearables in 2022.
Currently, only the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Huawei Watch D smartwatches promise to offer blood pressure readings from the wrist. In 2021, startup Aktiia launched a fitness and health tracker that could track blood pressure using optical PPG sensors without needing validation from a cuff-style monitor every few months.
We expect Samsung and Huawei will be joined by others that will give people the ability to strap on their wearables and use optical sensors to pay closer attention to their cardiovascular systems and prove valuable for those suffering with high blood pressure.
6. A Fitbit smartwatch with Wear OS
Talk of a Pixel Watch shouldn't of course detract from the fact that while Fitbit is now owned by Google, it's still launching devices under its own name and is planning to build "premium smartwatches built on Wear OS".
That came from straight from CEO James Park's mouth at Google's I/O developer conference back in May.
Park said: “In the future, we’ll be building premium smartwatches built on Wear that combine the best of Fitbit’s health expertise with Google’s ambient computing capabilities. This is just the beginning of how, together with Google, we can do even more to inspire and motivate people on their journey to better health.”
Currently, Fitbit offers its Versa and health-centric Sense watches and whether it's a new watch or one added to those Versa or Sense lines, we think this could be as intriguing a prospect as Google's own flagship smartwatch.
7. Apple, Samsung and Google chase to track your glucose
Talk of non-invasive glucose monitoring wearables has been described as 'impossible' by some experts, but that's not stopping the biggest names in the wearable game looking to add the feature to wearables.
Apple, Fitbit and Samsung have all reportedly made moves to make this kind of non-invasive monitoring a possibility.
Apple is apparently working on infrared sensors for blood glucose monitoring, while similar claims were made about Samsung and that its blood glucose tech could arrive in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. Unfortunately, those rumors appeared wide of the mark.
Will we see a big-name brand bring glucose monitoring in 2022? We'd say it's a possibility – but simply creating a glucose sensor is just the start. Getting through regulatory bodies and getting accurate tracking for everyone is a bigger challenge. While it might not be part of the Apple Watch 8 – we're confident we'll get the first concrete signs of progress in the coming year.
8. Oppo Watch 2 breaks out of China
The first Oppo Watch was one of our favourite smartwatches, let alone Wear OS watches. The Chinese tech outfit mades its successor, the Oppo Watch 2, official in China and we predict it will be planning to roll it out to the rest of the world in 2022 too.
The big questions will surround whether it will run on the same ColorOS it does in China or it will be a combination of Color OS and Wear, which the global version of the original Oppo Watch ran on.
Will it be packing Wear OS 3 out of the box too? We know that there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100 processor onboard, which seems to be one of the key component ingredients to making watches capable of running Google and Samsung's new Wear.
We anticipate it will arrive in two size models again just like it did in China, and the pricier version will get you extras like LTE connectivity and quicker fast-charging skills.
The original Oppo Watch went global in July 2020, and we anticipate we'll see the same sort of launch window for the Oppo Watch 2 in 2022.
9. Huawei HarmonyOS smartglasses
We know that Huawei has plans to spread its own HarmonyOS operating system far and wide across devices it makes and there's a strong indication that 2022 will see it packed into a pair of smartglasses.
The Chinese tech outfit has teased launching another pair of smartglasses that will be in the mould of the Huawei X Gentle Monster Eyewear II audio glasses it launched back in 2020.
Along with running on Huawei's operating system that's already packed into its Huawei Watch 3 and Watch GT3 watches, the connected specs will include interchangeable lenses, bone conduction speakers to deliver audio to your ears and have an onboard smart assistant too.
They look set to be released in China first, but we've got a feeling just like previous Huawei specs, these will be getting a larger global rollout in 2022 too.
10. Apple Watch Series SE 2
When Apple unveiled the Watch Series 7, we'd highly anticipated that a new Apple Watch SE would join it. Especially as it was only introduced as a more affordable alternative to its top end Watch in 2020.
It was actually our favourite of the two new Apple Watches that launched that year, and we think 2022 will be the year that the Series SE gets an upgrade.
We obviously don't know Apple's reasons for not ushering out a new SE in 2021, but we'd like to think it's working on more groundbreaking features to roll out on its Watches for 2022, where there will hopefully be less disruption to production and supply lines to build new smartwatches.
We'd like to think that a new Watch SE will introduce the new case and screen sizes featured on the Series 7 and will run on watchOS 9. It might bring in the health features that were missing from the original SE too like ECG and blood oxygen monitoring to help give it greater health tracking appeal.
11. An Apple Watch built for outdoor lovers
Over time, Apple has made its smartwatch a better fit for adventuring outdoors. It's added an always-on altimeter, improved cycling features and more recently added extra dust resistance protection. Now there's strong indications that it will make an Apple Watch that's made for rugged use.
A tough Apple Watch was rumored for a 2021 release and according to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, someone who generally has his finger on the pulse as far as what is happening at Cupertino, it's going to happen in 2022.
This new version of Apple's Watch is said to be designed for extreme sports, increasing scratch resistance and we anticipate it will give the waterproof rating a boost too.
It'll be a different proposition to the current Apple Watches, but with the likes of Garmin and Polar offering outdoor watches with more smartwatch features, it won't be huge surprise to us that Apple fancies taking a bite out of some of those outdoor watch sales.
12. AirPods Pro 2
We tipped Apple's second generation AirPods Pro to land in 2021, but instead we got the AirPods 3rd Gen, which should mean its top end buds will get updated in 2022.
Previous speculation had suggested that Apple would ditch its stem design for something similar to other truly wireless earbuds and introduce a new control system in the process.
We expect that the launch of the Beats Fit Pro in 2021, which are essentially a sportier version of the Pro, will give us an idea of the kind of features we can expect. They carried an IPX4 water resistance rating, Apple's H1 chip and improved support for using them with Android phones.
13. Google gets back into the AR glasses game
This is another one we pegged for 2021, but there's more reasons now that with Apple tipped to enter the AR glasses space, that Google will be eyeing up a return the space too.
We know that it's already made acquisition moves having bought up Canadian startup North, who were working on its second generation pair of augmented reality glasses when it was snapped up.
More recently, job listings have pointed to moves by Google to build an Augmented Reality OS team to work on an innovative AR device. The team is being led by someone who previously worked at Meta (Facebook) and seems to be a strong indication that Google is ready to give AR hardware for the mainstream another go.
14. Garmin Fenix 7 challenges for the throne
Garmin's outdoor watch feels like its due an upgrade and the timing of alleged leak images seem to suggest a successor to the Fenix 6 is on its way.
In terms of Fenix 7 features we could expect, based on those leaked images, solar power will be on board like the 6 Series and it looks like a new Stamina metric will be added to the already massive amount of stats Garmin's multisport giant can deliver.
When could the Fenix 7 launch in 2022? Previous Fenix watches landed during the summer months, though the timing of the these renders may point to an earlier release.
Read our review of the Fenix 7.
15. Huawei Watch GT Runner goes worldwide
Huawei's smartwatches have emerged as really strong options for runners and it seems Huawei is all too aware of that having snuck out the launch of the Huawei Watch GT Runner in China.
The Watch GT Runner is strongly based on its Watch GT 3 smartwatch, offering all of the same features in a more lightweight design. It's also offering addition desirable features for runners including an extra ‘floating’ antennae, which enables dual-frequency GPS already found on the GT 3 to improve outdoor accuracy.
It's also improved its TruSport system, to improve the accuracy of running-focused metrics such as VO2 Max, Running Ability Index, Training Effect and Recovery.
Launched in China first in November, we think there's a strong chance the GT Runner will be given a chance to take on the Garmins and Polars of this world much further afield.
16. The Meta/Facebook smartwatch
We've already seen Meta glasses so it perhaps shouldn't be too much of a surprise that in Meta's metaverse there's room for a smartwatch and we've already had the evidence to suggest it's very much in the works.
We first heard the rumors of a Meta smartwatch back in February, back when Meta was still called Facebook. That smartwatch was apparently being prepped for 2022 and would run on an “open-source version of Google’s Android software.
Later in the year around the time of that Meta rebrand, we got our first alleged look at that Meta watch, found inside of a Facebook app with the codename Milan attached to it. The solitary image showed a watch with a detachable strap and most notably, a camera.
Meta demonstrated the use of a smartwatch in its vision of a Metaverse summoning contacts in the Messenger app, so we probably aren't that far away from another camera-packing piece of tech from Meta to live on our bodies.
17. Wearable lines blur
While the fitness tracker form factor is now well established, 2022 will see the lines between bands and smartwatches blur further.
We've already seen some impressive hybrid tracker/smartwatch examples like the Huawei Watch Fit, Huawei Watch Fit Mini (pictured) – and the Oppo Watch Free was announced in 2021 following in Huawei's design footsteps.
And even the Fitbit Charge 5 increased screen size to offer more smartwatch style features.
2022 could be the year that we see the rise of the smartwatch/fitness tracker mash-up. We're going to need to come up with a better name to describe it though.
18. Xiaomi Mi Band X gets flexible with fitness tracking
Get ready for wearables to get more flexible. We've spoken and seen wearable form factors that promise more screen than band, and budget fitness tracker experts Xiaomi could be the first to make one that we'd actually want to wear.
Photos of an internal presentation at Xiaomi HQ emerged in 2021, which appeared to show discussions about a device dubbed the Xiaomi Mi Band X. In that presentation, there's mention of a device with a “360 flexible scroll screen without strap.”
We've already seen this wearable with a flexible scroll screen demonstrated by ZTE with the Nubia Watch, but it lacked polish and wasn't greatly executed as an idea.
Xiaomi has made huge strides with its wearables and if there's any company that can innovate in this space in the right way, we'd put our money that the Mi Band maker is fully capable of doing that.
19. A wearable that tracks alcohol
Imagine if your smartwatch could track how much alcohol you have in your system? It seems that the prospect of that becoming a reality is not that far away as you might think.
That's because companies like UK-based outfit Rockley Photonics are making major breakthroughs with sensor technology that can go beyond the monitoring already available on wrist-worn wearable devices.
The company has already created a wearable reference design capable of tracking a range of cutting-edge biomarkers, including alcohol, glucose trends and blood pressure.
While that reference design is not destined for consumers, it was revealed that Rockley is a supplier for Apple, which if we connected the dots, could hint that Cupertino sees huge potential in the technology.
Apple might be largely interested in Rockley's ability to measure glucose and blood pressure from the wrist, but an Apple Watch that can track alcohol might not be wildly out of the realms of possibility either.
20. Amazfit Zepp OS comes of age
In 2021, Amazfit decided it was time to make premium smartwatches, and introduced its Zepp OS operating system on the Amazfit GTR 3 Pro, GTS 3 and GTR 3 watches. That new OS most notably added an app store to its watches for the first time, but it wasn't exactly brimming with apps.
It's highly likely that's going to have to change if Amazfit wants to keep up with the likes of Google and Huawei who are also making sweeping changes with their smartwatch platforms. Huawei finds itself in a similar position with its HarmonyOS and the need to bolster its new storefront with apps.
It will be a race to see who can convince developers to bring those apps and Amazfit may have to think smart about the way it brings some bigger name apps into the fold.
21. Peloton gets more wearable
2021 was a year for Peloton where it started to look at where its future lay outside of exercise bikes and treadmill. It kicked things off with a wearable acquisition when it snapped up gym wearable startup Atlas Wearables. Then there were rumors it was putting that acquisition to good use already as reports emerged of a Peloton heart rate monitor wearable being in the works.
Peloton then officially teased Peloton Guide, a strength-training focused workout platform that hooks a camera up to your TV to track your movements. That new Guide system also comprises of a heart rate monitor armband to track workout intensity and we think this won't be the last of Peloton looking to wearables to improve it fitness tracking experience.
As we've seen with other wearable-centric fitness platforms like Apple Fitness+, Peloton would be be smart to bring smartwatches, fitness trackers and heart rate monitors more into the equation to stay ahead of the competition.
22. OnePlus gets smartwatches right the second time
The OnePlus Watch that had been rumored for years and finally showed its watch face in 2021, but it was a bit of disaster.
It was a buggy mess when we put it to the test, and while OnePlus over time issued fixes and made improvements, it felt like the damage was done. We don't think it will be put off by smartwatches and will take another stab at it. This time though, they'll learn from its mistakes made with the first watch.
While it was a problematic software experience, there were positives on the hardware front. There are the foundations of a strong smartwatch here, so by getting that custom operating system up to scratch, a OnePlus Watch 2 at the same affordable price would be an attractive prospect.
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