Competitors Gear Up In Anticipation Of Apple Watch Release

Days before the long-anticipated official release of Apple Watch, several brands are announcing their own major releases all hoping to capitalize on the forthcoming public attention and legitimacy that Apple may bring to the market, including:

Equipped with a new color e-paper screen, a 7-day-long battery life, and a new timeline-based interface, Pebble’s new Time smartwatch has become the most funded project in Kickstarter history in just one week, with a whopping $16 million in pre-orders so far.

One of the highlights of Mobile World Congress has been a well-received minimalist smartwatch from little-known Chinese manufacturer Huawei. Billed as its first play for the western markets yet, the Huawei Watch is backed by Android Wear OS.

Trying to recapture the attention of mobile phone consumers, Motorola announced earlier this week that a new version of its Moto Maker, the consumer-facing customization tool for Moto X, will be soon adapted to offer more personalization options for its smartwatch Moto 360.(Update: the customization site is now live.)

How will the Apple Watch stack up to all these eager competitors? Follow the Lab on Monday as we live tweet the event, followed by end-of-day recaps and implications for brands.

Header image taken from Huawei Watch’s official webpage

Myriam Joire: A Brief History of The Smartwatch

Myriam Joire, the well-known tech writer and Chief Evangelist for Pebble, took the stage at last week’s Wearable Tech Expo in NYC to deliver a fun and opinionated overview of the history of the smartwatch.  Providing a fascinating historical perspective, she started with the world’s first wristwatch— made in Switzerland by Patek Philippe in 1868 as a novel piece of jewelry.  At the time the pocket watch was king, and the idea of a timepiece on your wrist struck most as preposterous— especially as a commercially viable product.

Joire’s journey took the audience through the first LED watches in the 1970’s, followed by calculator watches and PDAs until we finally arrive at today’s watches (and not surprisingly Pebble’s latest product).  The key takeaway was that the next two years in the industry will continue to meet battery life and display challenges.  Users are starting to crave the full color displays they’re used to with smartphones, but delivering that quality in a wristwatch takes significant battery power.

In the near future, Joire expects voice recognition to become integral to smart watches since the form factor makes typing less than ideal.  She also voiced enthusiasm for predictive capabilities in smartwatch computing if we proactively give our data away (“We need to start to trust our technology”), as well as the proliferation of device pairing between smartphones and smartwatches.

Looking off into the distant future, Joire also wasn’t afraid to endorse what she sees coming next: device implants that actually are actually integrated into our bodies. “That counts as wearable!” she concluded.

Pebble Launches iOS App Store

Pebble, far and away the leading smart watch player at present, announced its highly anticipated iOS app store that features 1,000 apps and watch faces that can be found and downloaded with an iPhone. The Android version is still forthcoming, and Pebble says it will be available int he near future. The app store gives users a more intuitive software experience, much like Google Play or Apple’s App store. The addition of the Pebble Steel at CES this year demands such an interface, and with the app store users now have a software experience that matches the hardware. Pebble does seem to be making the most of its head start, and the more they do the more they become the wearable device to beat. 

Pebble Donates Watches To Engineering Schools

In an effort to expand the functionality of its smartwatch, Pebble announced its new project aimed at getting the watch and its SDK into the hands of engineering students by donating over 4,000 units to universities like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Standford, Virginia Tech, and others.  Right now, the market for smartwatches is still made up of early adopters, but by encouraging development of apps via their official SDK, Pebble, a frontrunner in the space, could potentially make the watches attractive to a more mainstream audience.  Only time will tell what comes of increased developer traction for the platform, but Pebble is looking like a strong competitor.

Ubuntu Edge Breaks Crowdfunding Record

The Indiegogo page for the Ubuntu Edge has now gathered over $10.3 million in pledges, knocking the Pebble smartwatch off its pedestal as the highest fixed crowdfunding campaign. The campaign, though, is still far off of its pace, as it needs to raise more than $20 million in six days to meet its ambitious $32 million target. It is, of course, still possible to raise that amount – it’s impossible to say what can happen in the last week – but if the present rate of growth continues $32 million is far out of range. Nonetheless, it’s an important milestone for those looking at crowdfunding as a continued form of financial growth.