Market Insight

Baselworld round-up: Wristwatch makers embrace Android Wear

March 24, 2016

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Android Wear has been implemented on the following watches:

  • Fossil announced two new Android Wear smartwatches, the Q Wander and Q Marshall, under its Fossil brand, and the Access, under the Michael Kors moniker.
  • Casio showcased its first Android Wear smartwatch, including an external camera that uses the smartwatch as the viewfinder.
  • Nixon introduced a ruggedized smartwatch designed for surfing and snowboarding.

The Swatch group introduced the Tissot Smart Touch, which unlike other smartwatches is solar powered, but still offers smart features like notifications, directions and others.

de Grisogono partnered with Samsung to produce a limited edition luxury Gear S2 Classic, covered with precious metals and jewels. It will also include some exclusive watch faces. The price is likely to be in the range of the Apple Watch Edition ($10,000+).

Our analysis:

2016 will be the year when wristwatch makers will make their first real steps into the smartwatch game. Large watch manufacturers have utilised expertise from wearable technology companies to enter the smartwatch market at its nascent stage. Although some manufacturers dipped their toes in towards the end of 2015, 2016 will be the first year when they will truly try and target their addressable markets.

Already trends are beginning to emerge. Manufacturers are utilising expertise from technology companies to help build their smartwatches. From the hardware side, Fossil acquired Misfit in November 2015 and has put its resources into the new Q series smartwatches. From the software side, a number of manufacturers have chosen Google’s Android Wear platform as the operating system. This gives them access to the growing number of Android Wear applications, verifying their product’s smart credentials, and it also expands Google’s Android Wear range. Technology companies have tried proprietary operating systems in the past with limited success, and for a company whose main focus is not technology it would be a great risk and cost to attempt it.

The variety in design is another emerging trend. All the Android Wear smartwatches introduced have adopted the more conventional circular display rather than the rectangular display that is used on the Apple Watch or the first generation of Android Wear smartwatches. This makes the device feel more familiar to the potential buyer who is used to wristwatches. However, the designs and specifications range from rugged to luxurious. Nixon and Casio have created smartwatches are aiming for the sporty and active consumer. The Fossil group (through Michael Kors and the Fossil brand) and Tissot are targeting a more mainstream market, while the de Grisogono Gear S2 Classic is targeting the highest price tier of luxury.

The option to choose a specific watch design is a very important element of the watch. It is not just a functional piece of technology, but it is on display at all times and hence could be perceived as a fashion accessory. The greater choice may sway some people to purchasing a smartwatch over a traditional wristwatch, but there are still issues to be addressed. Battery life is the most common one, and Tissot’s solar powered solution will be the ultimate test of whether lesser functionality is a compromise prospective smartwatch users are willing to take not to worry about keeping it charged.

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