A slow, resentful death?
Short History Lesson
Anyone who does more than keeping up with technology of the 21st century knows how far smartwatches go back in the past. Japanese watchmaker Seiko was one of the very first companies to pioneer in the field with its Data 2000(1983) and D409(1984), the former having an external keyboard for data entry and the latter, an on-board miniature keyboard. The RC-1000 by Seiko was the first to interface with a computer and was compatible with most PCs of the time including Apple’s and IBM’s. During those times many companies were already pushing out their versions of the “smartwatch”, but the most significant ones would undoubtedly be the 1994 Timex Datalink - the very first watch capable of downloading data from a computer entirely wirelessly and Steve Mann’s self-designed and developed, the very first Linux watch (1998).
Fast Forward to the 21st Century
By 2014, big dogs of the tech world were already shipping out their take on the smartwatch. Samsung’s Gear S, the Apple Watch, LG G Watch are only a few from the list - causing many to call the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show a “wrist revolution”. The Samsung Gear S2 was the game changer in 2015 with its iconic rotating bezel while Apple continued on with the same design. Over several new editions released every year ever since, smartwatches reached a new peak in 2017. The latest products from the dominating companies are the Samsung Gear Sport and the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE. Meanwhile several other companies including Huawei, Motorola, Asus brought their own versions running Google’s OS Android Wear. Classic watchmakers like Fossil and Tag Heuer also joined the game seeing the potential in emerging as a brand again.
But here’s where the sad part begins. Not being able to keep up with the revolution, several pioneering startups like Pebble and Fitbit who initially carved out the market for the other companies started falling back and eventually closed down. And it doesn’t end there.
Even though Samsung’s made some pretty timeless designs (S2 and S3), they lagged behind on software. Choosing to go with their own Tizen was a brave move but with no support and little to no actually useful apps on its store, Tizen soon lost its appeal, even though the design of the watch itself is still dearly loved. Unless Samsung takes a serious step regarding this software handicappedness, 2018 is going to be a dark, dark year for the company. These days the average consumer seems to want an Apple watch, just for the sake of it, but not a wearable. Fitness trackers like Xiaomis and Fitbits’ sales are going down at the same rate as the Apple Watch’s is elevating. In fact the Apple Watch was the best selling watch, globally, surpassing brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe in both 2015 and 2016. And Samsung is definitely lost for the moment here.
In conclusion, when once people thought smartwatches were going to become a must-have gadget, it is now slowly becoming a nice-to-have gadget and still gravitating. Overall the industry is going nowhere as the excitement and glow of wearables wear off and we seem to be in the early days of the slow, resentful death of the smartwatch.