Will 2013 be the year of the smart watch?

Posted by Trent Nouveau

Smart watches have been around in one form or another for the last decade.

Nevertheless, the wearable computing device has failed to take off for multiple reasons: they looked ugly, were too bulky, had weak functionality, or the battery life was too short.

However, over the last nine months a number of new smart watches have emerged that could change consumers’ perceptions. Indeed, analysts at ABI Research project more than 1.2 million smart watches will be shipped in 2013.

"The strong potential emergence of smart watches can be attributed to several reasons," explained senior analyst Joshua Flood.

"Contributing factors include the high penetration of smartphones in many world markets, the wide availability and low cost of MEMS sensors, energy efficient connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth 4.0, and a flourishing app ecosystem."

According to Flood, the wearable computing device can be split into four categories: notification types, voice operational smart watches, hybrid smart watches, and completely independent smart watches. Notification type devices are the MetaWatch and Cookoo smart watches, for example, offering alerts for incoming calls, messages and other notifications. Voice operational smart watches enable users to conduct calls and speak some commands via the device such as Martian’s smart watch.

Standalone smart watches with their own OS are moving beyond a smartphone accessory. With the potential to be purchased as a standalone product without the need for a smartphone, they offer high functionality and can connect to other consumer devices like audio speakers.

"A good example is the Italian smart watch maker, I’m Watch. Other good possible archetypes for this category could be Apple’s hotly anticipated iWatch, Samsung’s Galaxy Altius and Microsoft is also reportedly planning to release a new touch-enabled watch for its Windows-based smartphones and tablets," said Flood.

"[Still], smart watches that replicate the functionality of a mobile handset or smartphone are not yet commercially feasible, though the technologies are certainly being prepared."