The Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch. Smartwatch sales reached 1.9 million units last year. Albert Gea / Reuters
The Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch. Smartwatch sales reached 1.9 million units last year. Albert Gea / Reuters

Developers watch wearables industry for a game changer



BERLIN // Many people have already shifted to online platforms for banking and other everyday tasks — and now there is an even more timely method.

The advancement of the smartwatch has motivated Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to include a bill payment feature on its smart app on the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 watch.

But while such offerings sound like a huge step into the future, smartwatches themselves are struggling to make a widespread impact with consumers.

A host of new smartwatches was unveiled at the IFA Berlin consumer electronics show, with the brands attempting to convince that the latest level of technology will bring added value to our lives.

Apple is reportedly set to launch its iWatch this week, which could be the game changer for a genre that has so far failed to find a definitive market leader.

It emerged yesterday that Apple had invited top fashion editors to its Tuesday launch gala, fuelling speculation that it was preparing to reveal a smartwatch.

“There is a lot of hype about the iWatch at the moment, and looking at sales of the smartwatches they have not been defined by a leading category product yet,” said Omar Kassim, the founder of the UAE online electronics retailer JadoPado.

“If Apple does do something it will probably drive other manufacturers to emulate its creation.”

Global smartwatch shipments grew 400 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.

It said that the market was again driven by Samsung and its Gear models, which have now branched out into Tizen Linux and Android platforms. Sony, Pebble, Motorola, Qualcomm and others also have a presence. Smartwatch sales reached 1.9 million units last year.

IDC data shows that global shipments of wearables are expected to reach 19 million units this year and to cross the 100 million mark by 2018.

New releases include the Samsung Galaxy Gear S, which runs on the Tizen operating system and comes with a sim card, 4G and Wi-Fi, meaning it can run independently from a smartphone. Calls can be made and received, and messages and emails sent, although rather awkwardly with the tiny Qwerty keyboard.

“The Gear S is not a groundbreaker — it’s another watch in Samsung’s portfolio and I’m not sure why they have put a Sim card in it,” said Annette Zimmermann, the research director at Gartner. “If you think about battery life and have a sim card and 4G then it is not a good idea on a watch.

“In the next five years smartwatches will not be replacing phones — they will be add-on devices. We are waiting for a better design as they are all rather geeky at the moment, so mainstream consumers are not adopting them yet.”

Awareness of smartwatches is growing in China as vendors release devices priced in the US$50 bracket that cannot do much more than send messages, Ms Zimmermann added.

She said is could be down to Apple to get the design right, while the Android Wear platform could also lead to improvements.

Sony’s Smartwatch 3 was announced last week and runs Android Wear.

It is waterproof, provides a second screen when hooked up to a smartphone, plays music from the Walkman without having to connect and also features its own GPS system. It is to be released in Europe during the autumn for €229 (Dh1,089).

ioxborrow@thenational.ae

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