Trade shows dominate the tech world, but their power and influence is waning in the age of the tech super-brand. Big companies increasingly prefer to announce products outside of the noise of a big tech show, and it was slim pickings at MWC this year.
The main event was the unveiling of the Huawei Watch 2, a follow up to 2015's successful Android Wear smartwatch. With a premium build and design the Huawei Watch was a surprising success story from the Chinese company, which has built its reputation from a purveyor of cheap smartphones.
So what of the Huawei Watch 2? Well there are two models including the Huawei Watch 2 Classic, which follows in the footsteps of the LG Watch Style and Samsung Gear S3 Classic to add a premium design ethos.
Like the LG Watch Sport, fitness features are the order of the day, and the Huawei Watch 2 is packed with sensors including GPS and heart rate for accurate distance tracking and even VO2 Max analysis. However, you only get 4G on the standard Huawei Watch 2, not the Classic.
It's a familiar story that brands are now focusing on sports features, which has emerged as the main "killer app" for smartwatches. The presence of GPS means that brands can promote their devices as workout and health devices, and it's been a familiar story across smartwatches since 2016, including the Apple Watch 2, LG Watch Sport and Samsung Gear S3.
The SteamVR stable grows
While the world was wondering why Nokia re-released its 3310 in 2017, over at GDC there were big waves happening in the world of VR.
The big news was that SteamVR – Valve's virtual reality platform – is no longer limited to just the HTC Vive. The LG SteamVR headset prototype crams in a 3.64-inch diagonal display with a 1440 x 1280 resolution per eye, a refresh rate of 90Hz and a 110-degree field of view. It's a little higher than the Vive and Rift on resolution, but overall the experience is very similar to HTC's offering.
Elsewhere, Microsoft has also dropped more details on its Windows Mixed Reality VR platform. The company has signed up Lenovo, HP, Dell Acer and 3Glasses. We got a look at the Acer headset at GDC, and the company also dropped details of a forthcoming Xbox VR headset as well.
It comes as we got a picture of the early leaders of the VR race after the inaugural holiday period – and unsurprisingly, it was the Sony PlayStation VR that came up trumps. In an interview with the New York Times, Andrew House, global chief executive of Sony Interactive Entertainment, revealed that the company shifted 915,000 PSVRs in the first four months on sale. That compares to industry estimates of 420,000 and 234,000 for HTC Vive and Oculus respectively.
So what does that tell us? Firstly, that despite reports that VR is still not matching expectations, there's an appetite among gamers to get their hands on VR headsets. It also shows that price is a huge factor, given that at $500 the PSVR is the cheapest of the full-factor headsets on the market.
And it also tells us that Oculus has a big problem. Despite pioneering the market, it's a distant third in a three horse race, and manages to be neither the best, the cheapest or the most accessible.
Android Wear 2.0 incoming
We've also managed to get some more information on the rollout of Android Wear 2.0 this week. Fossil is set to push the update out in the next couple of weeks, with Polar updating its watch in April.
Of course, the lack of an Android Wear 2.0 update for the Sony SmartWatch 3 has got owners of the ageing device in a spin, but there's good news. A developer has managed to get a port of the software working on a SmartWatch 3 and even says that the NFC could be used for Apple Pay. It's still early days, but for those really wanting Google's new OS, a fix could be on its way.
Wearable sales on the rise
And despite a quiet MWC, there's good news for wearable tech in the form of sales figures revealed by IDC. Shipments of wearables increased 25% in 2016 to total 102.4 million devices. Fitbit was the big winner but saw its market share decline to 22% as competition from Xiaomi and co starts to bite. Apple's market share dropped to just 10.5%, but the figures don't show the full extent of Apple Watch Series 2 sales.
It shows that the market for wearables is maturing and devices are starting to reach the mainstream. It could be a big 2017 for wearable tech.
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