It's time for smartwatches

It's time for smartwatches

Imagine the convenience of not having to fish out your phone from your pocket or bag every time the message alert chimes - and still be able to read your e-mail. You can do so with a smartwatch.

A smartwatch is a wristwatch with smartphone-like functions that alert you when you have an incoming call, a new e-mail message or an upcoming appointment. It is usually paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Compared with the first wave of geeky-looking smartwatches like the original Pebble, the current wave pays attention to the latest fashion sense.

Mr Kelvin Kao, a director at a social media company, told Digital Life that he bought Pebble's latest Steel smartwatch because he was swayed by the watch's "cool innovative tech feel, while still looking sleek and professional".

The new wave of smartwatches, such as the LG G Watch R and Samsung Galaxy Gear S, also tells their wearers how many steps they have taken in a day and monitor their heart rates, giving them the functions found in GPS sports watches made by Garmin, Polar and others.

"The main features that attract consumers to smartwatches are infotainment and fitness capabilities," said Mr Roeen Roashan, an analyst at research company IHS Technology.

"You want to be able to read e-mail, receive notifications and, most importantly, track your health," he said.

National shuttler Derek Wong, 25, said the Gear S has helped his training. "It's been a great companion in helping me monitor my body condition during training," he said.

Around 2,000 smartwatches were sold in the first quarter of this year in Singapore, according to market research firm GfK. The figure quadrupled in the second quarter. In the third quarter, nearly 10,000 smartwatches were sold.

Mr Gerard Tan, GfK's account director, said: "We are seeing rising adoption of smartwatches, as consumers become more receptive to the product as its technology continues to develop."

Worldwide, 1.52 million smartwatches were sold last year, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research.

In the first half of this year, 1.6 million units were sold. ABI Research has predicted that 5 million units will be shipped in the second half of this year.

The bullish outlook can be attributed to the entrance of two tech giants - Google with its Android Wear OS and Apple with its upcoming watch.

Mr Nick Spencer, senior practice director of ABI Research, said these two factors are "absolutely foundational" for the rise of smartwatches.

"Just look at how the iPhone drove the smartphone market to the benefit of many," he said.

Google's Android Wear, announced in March, is a mobile operating system designed for smartwatches that integrates Google Now technology, such as Google Voice Search, and mobile notifications into a smaller form factor.

With the dominant reach of Android, more smartwatches can be expected to be dressed up in Android Wear, such as Sony's third-generation SmartWatch and Asus' first ZenWatch. Both will be launched in Singapore soon.

As for Apple, its highly anticipated Apple Watch was announced two months ago to much fanfare and with fashion and technology heavyweights attending the launch.

Apple's entrance will be good for the wearables segment, said Mr Ben Wood, chief of research at market intelligence firm CCS Insight. "It is going to raise consumer awareness of wearables to higher levels."

Digital Life compares six of the latest smartwatches in the market and takes them out on a trial run.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

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