Timex has announced its first 3G-enabled smartwatch, the Ironman One GPS+, and it will work as a standalone device with cellular connectivity. It features four hardware buttons and a touch screen.
The smartwatch features a 1.5-inch low power Mirasol colour display and runs on Qualcomm’s Brew platform. It has 4GB of in-built storage and Bluetooth connectivity. Timex claims a battery life of 8 hours with GPS enabled.
The watch can now be pre-ordered at $399.99 and will be available in autumn this year. The price includes free 3G access on AT&T’s mobile network for the first 12 months of use.
By partnering with Qualcomm and using its existing display technology and software platform Timex will not have to invest large amounts of money into software development and engineering. In addition, the partnership with AT&T will place its product in AT&T’s shops and posters thereby increasing the awareness of the general public about their new range of devices. Qualcomm stands to benefit from the Timex’s branding on the design thanks to Timex's existing range of watches and their presence in the market. Qualcomm's previous Toq smartwatch lacked both the support of an established watch brand and a carrier partner.
In the end of 2013, Qualcomm announced their first attempt at a smartwatch with the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch. Like the Ironman, the Toq featured a new Mirasol display, developed in house. Much like e-ink technology that is found on eReaders or on the Pebble smartwatch, it is always on but offers colour images. This means that there is no need for additional electronics to always be vigilant for when it is tilted to glance at the time which gives it a battery life advantage over LCD screens. Furthermore, it maintains the familiarity of a watch face when idle rather than a blank screen.
AT&T gains experience in a new category of cellular-enabled device alongside offering the greatest device selection available. By including the only cellular-connected sports oriented smartwatch alongside the smartphone-dependent multifunction smartwatches from Samsung AT&T seeks to maintain that image.
IHS does not expect the complimentary 12 months of 3G data to impact the performance of AT&T's network because the amount of data transmitted will be small from a smartwatch. But its brand name would feature on any marketing campaigns launched by Qualcomm or Timex.
Unlike other smartwatch makers, initially Timex's model will not deliver a full communications and notifications experience with upcoming calendar appointments or updates on new twitter followers. Instead, the Ironman One GPS+ will come with an email address enabling messaging on the go, with an option to respond with pre-configured messages or by typing on an onscreen keyboard. In addition, it will feature an option to allow a select group of people to follow one’s run in real-time. This will appeal to a niche group of fitness focussed consumers interested in some capabilities of a smartwatch but do not want to carry their smartphone around all the time.
Timex’s entry into the smartwatch market is a key moment for the wearables industry. Unlike tablets that were effectively a new category of mobile devices, watches have been around for centuries, without much change in their functionality. The Ironman seeks to change the public's expectations about watches by combining cellular connectivity, a low power colour screen and health functionality. But it is relatively expensive for a product which must change consumer perceptions to succeed. For each of the brands involved – Qualcomm, AT&T, Timex – there are good reasons to attempt to establish a new market category, but IHS sees the Ironman as an experimental product which is more important as a sign of things to come than for its direct impact on the market.