Smartwatches are on the rise. As the devices and platforms have matured in the past few years, it has become clear that smarwatches are on the fast track to mass adoption. Device makers have been tinkering with the concept for a while now, and it looks like things are all lined up for a major hit; and when that happens, entrepreneurs need to know how to take advantage of the opportunity. The short answer: smartwatch apps. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
First: A brief history of smartwatches.
The smartwatch is a fairly recent phenomenon, appearing in its current form in 2012. One of the early innovators in this area was Pebble, which got its start as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. Sony also created the Sony SmartWatch in late 2012 with similar intentions.
The basic idea was that people wanted a wrist-mounted device that could deliver phone notifications and help streamline basic functions so that it wouldn’t be necessary to pull out a smartphone for every little thing.
In 2013 a whole slew of smartwatches began to roll out: Sony Smartwatch 2, Qualcomm ToQ, Samsung Galaxy Gear 2; in general none of these products was truly impressive, but they each served to make small innovations and pique people’s curiosity further. 2013 was year where we explored what would make a smartwatch successful, and that education became apparent in 2014.
2014 was the real watershed year for the smartwatch. Early in the year we got the Pebble Steel, and three different Gear smartwatches from Samsung, one of which, the Gear Fit, was a hybrid smartwatch/fitness band. This fitness angle would prove to be an important factor in smartwatch development through the year.
Soon after, Google announced Android Wear, a specialized, card-based version of Android built for watches. LG, Motorola and Samsung all brought out Android Wear models later in the year, including a few round-faced devices, which created a lot of interest.
Microsoft came out with the Microsoft Band, which provides the wearer with not just smart notifications and interactivity, but also a huge number of sensors which would help the wearer understand themselves better. This strongly supports the “quantified self” lifestyle which has become a focal point for wearables. Of particular interest is the Microsoft Band’s cross-platform compatibility—working with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices.
And last but not least, Apple has announced the impending release of their Apple Watch. Somewhat uncharacteristically they’ve announced the product prior to release, which gives developers and entrepreneurs time to get a head start on smartwatch app development.
So what’s coming in 2015?
2014 brought us ever closer to the dream wrist-worn device. Android Wear seems to have taken smartwatches in a very positive direction, focusing on simplicity and visibility, getting the right information to the user at a glance. IT has paid off, and Android Wear devices have attracted a growing user-base.
Microsoft has likewise stepped up, focusing their device in terms of accessibility and sensor density. The Microsoft Band has been continuously sold out at retail stores! Even Samsung’s new devices on the proprietary Tizen platform was a vast improvement over their earlier Gear watches. Everything is looking better and better.
So, enter the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch will take us in another new direction when it arrives, offering a more interactive version of the smartwatch, which I think will be very popular. The Apple Watch is heavily reliant on apps to create a full-featured smart device. It also experiments with new input and UI tools, like the Digital Crown and Taptic Engine. This naturally makes the Apple Watch a strong candidate for entrepreneurs interested in smartwatch app development.
This is a key moment, in which entrepreneurs and early movers can recognize and pursue opportunities ahead of the competition. The Apple Watch is coming, and that means more than just the release of a hot new device; every manufacturer and platform will have a response to this momentous release. This will be the catalyst of a new generation of smartwatches and smartwatch apps.
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