The past few months have seen a flurry of rumors surrounding supposed smartwatch prototypes from several giants of mobile tech. Companies like Apple, Google, LG, Samsung, and Microsoft have all found themselves at the blogoshere’s rumor mill as speculation—of varying legitimacy and detail—swirled around what’s shaping up to be the next big thing: wearable mobile tech. With devices like Pebble’s crowd-funded offering making waves, 2013 might be the year of the smartwatch.
Following the whirlwind success of Pebble’s Kickstarter, the smartwatch hype hit a fever pitch in February when Bloomberg reported that unnamed sources had told them that Apple had assembled a team of over 100 individuals, covering every aspect of product design, from engineering to marketing, to develop a wrist-worn device. The revelation about the so-called iWatch led to a series of claims from other companies about similar devices being in the pipeline, at varying stages of development. Google’s Android team—separate from the X unit that’s working on Glass—is reportedly taking on the task of designing a Google branded smartwatch. Likewise, LG is toying with the idea of wearable devices—one alleged smartwatch and something similar to Glass—that run on either an Android or Firefox based OS.
Determined not to be left behind, Samsung’s Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of mobile business, said: “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long. We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.” And although the company has kept its lips sealed about specifics, sources familiar with Microsoft’s supply chain claim that they’ve ordered component parts for 1.5 inch touchscreen displays and interchangeable wristbands. The designers and engineers responsible for Xbox accessories and the Kinect sensor are reportedly hard at work on the device.
These rumors aren’t indicative of the first time the industry has tried to make “Fetch” happen. In 2004, Microsoft debuted their wrist-worn SPOT device, an early take on the smartwatch that allowed users to access data over FM radio waves, including stock information, weather reports, and news. A prohibitively high cost—the SPOT watch was $800 at launch—and cumbersome subscription fees for MSN Direct led to the device’s demise in 2008. Similarly, Samsung has struggled with its own wearable tech track record.