Get your wrists ready for a new device category. Google is reportedly developing a smart watch, joining similar efforts by Apple and Samsung.
A report this week in the Financial Times, citing a source "briefed on the project," said that Google is developing an Android watch that can act as a peripheral to that platform's smartphones. The technology giant has been publicly demonstrating another wearable computing device, its interactive Google Glass glasses.
Last year, a Google smart watch patent gained attention. Originally filed in late 2011 and granted a year later, it describes a device with a wristband, a base, a "flip up" display, a wireless transceiver, and a tactile user interface.
'Co-Operative Electronic System'
Recently, a patent application by Apple, filed in August 2011, came to light. It described a "bi-stable spring with flexible display" that can lie flat or be curled and be either rigid or flexible. It has been compared to slap bracelets that users slap on a wrist to wrap and curl in place.
That application also described the device as being part of a "co-operative electronic system," which might describe remote communication via Bluetooth with an iPhone in your pocket.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Apple had a team of about 100 product designers working on a watch product. Earlier this week, Samsung confirmed that it also is working on a smart watch. According to rumors, the device will have a tile-based interface, act as a music player and e-mail reader, and can be paired with another device, such as a smartphone.
A variety of smart watches are already on the market. LG makes one, the GD910, which has a touchscreen, an MP3 player and voice recognition, and the company has also confirmed it is working on new smart watch models, as well as on a Google Glass-like product. In 2009, Samsung released a model that it called "the world's slimmest watchphone."
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, Sony showed a splash-proof SmartWatch with Bluetooth connection to Android smartphones. Other smart watches from small companies included the Cookoo, I'm Watch, the Martian, the Meta Watch, and, from Casio, the G-Shock GB-6900. The Pebble Watch has received a great deal of publicity, following its success raising a large amount of funding on the crowdsourced Kickstarter Web site.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said that smart watches, and wearable computing in general, may have reached a "tipping point," given the inexpensive availability of "tiny sensors, powerful processors and connectivity."
He said that, aside from their novelty, smart watches could present information from a smartphone that the wearer might want to be more easily visible, such as weather, caller ID, or the name of a song playing in your ear. Greengart also noted that mobile e-commerce, such as digital wallets, might be more convenient living on your wrist than on your phone.
Al Hilwa, program director for Application Development Software research at IDC, pointed out that there is a "big gaping space on our wrists" where many of us used to wear watches. He said wearable devices "are likely the next big opportunity," and both he and Greengart noted that wearables could be a step on the way toward the ultimate wearables -- personal computing devices embedded in our bodies.