Make no mistake, smartwatches will not just appeal to joggers and consumers with gadget fever. The list of BYOD devices might look a lot different next year, with smartwatches taking their places next to workers' laptops, phones, and tablets.
Analysts at Canalys predict 2014 will be a takeoff time where 5 million smartwatches will ship, a 900 percent increase over forecasted shipments for 2013. The igniters are going to be new entrants from such names as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, according to Canalys.
Of the tech giants, Samsung steals the limelight today with evidence of patent and trademark filings that more than whisper "full steam ahead." Samsung appears to be quite a serious contender in the wearables market. In the smartwatch competition, Samsung might be the vendor that beats the clock.
On August 3, South Korean website Moveplayer posted news about filings that Samsung made in May with the Korean Intellectual Property Office. The drawings revealed a wrist wraparound with a flexible screen. Other parts were made of synthetic materials and metal.
Screen Could Go Bendable
Details of the different design variations show Samsung was thinking about a curved, bendable screen covering approximately half of the device.
Samsung was also thinking about a small panel in the display with back arrow and home keys similar to a Galaxy handset. Drawings also revealed a speaker while the accompanying documents indicated that different straps could be attached to the screen to accommodate different wrist sizes. According to the documents, the device's functions allow Internet access, outgoing and incoming phone calls and texts, and storing of information.
Other recent filings reveal two moves for trademarks. In South Korea, Samsung registered Samsung Gear. In the U.S., Samsung applied for Samsung Galaxy Gear on July 29. The U.S. filing hints that this could be an Android watch.
"Gear" is also a word that, even beyond Samsung, fits the new breed of smartwatches coming our way.
Canalys analysts predict that the new breed is going to carry sophisticated software that does far more than count calories or pulse rates. In turn, the word "watch" will become less descriptive of what will actually be an Internet-connecting device on the wrist behaving as a multipurpose companion.
Canalys analysts would prefer a definition of the upcoming class of smartwatches as "smart wearable bands" that can run third-party apps and are designed to be worn, not carried. Features may include glance-at information, integration across sensors and hooks into web services. The devices will not fight for dominance over smartphones but will serve as companions to them.
Still, in the U.S. market, the Samsung name for wearables could pose a challenge when up against other names, if findings from market research company IDC are taken into account.
An IDC survey of 1,513 consumers asked which of the brands they would most trust to develop a wearable device that embedded communication functions and Internet features, and 39 percent picked Apple, 27 percent went with Google, 21 percent opted for Microsoft and 17 percent selected Samsung.
Eyes on Berlin
Samsung watchers are nonetheless poised to see if and how the tech giant will beat the other names to the punch in launching a smartwatch.
Chatter is only getting louder, too, with anticipation of the IFA consumer tech show scheduled for early September in Berlin, Germany. This is where the world's tech titans step up and make their announcements. One of those announcements could be Samsung's declarations about a smartwatch that eagerly hovers in the wings.