The unannounced smartwatch market is getting pretty crowded, as Google and LG both shouldered their way in with rumors of their own projects. The Financial Times reported that Google's Android team is working on a smartwatch, and LG is working on something that may or may not run Android.
It's entertaining that even in the world of rumors, Apple leads and others follow. The smartwatch craze kicked off with Apple's iWatch rumors. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has 100 people working on the project, and that report was later backed up by The New York Times and Bloomberg.
Apple got so much positive press on this rumor, Samsung felt compelled to tell the world that it has been working on a smartwatch "for so long." Now we have Google and LG in the mix, too.
The source of the Google rumor was attributed merely to the "Silicon Valley rumor mill," something even more vague than "sources familiar with the matter," but The Financial Times appears confident in its story. The newspaper said that the device is being developed by Google's Android unit, rather than the X Lab where other wearable projects like Google Glass are being developed.
Like the other smartwatch rumors and confessions, we don't have any details on what precisely Google's smartwatch will do, but it is being developed as an "extension to the smartphones that run" Android.
Google has a smartphone-related patent, too, called "Smart-watch including flip up display." It appears to be a patent for the concept of a smartwatch that includes a flip up display. As I sit at my desk, I await with bated breath all the Apple bashers to chime in with how insane it is that Google could be granted a patent on such an obvious idea.
Google Smartwatch Patent Figure
Be that as it may, this is just one minor patent, I'd be shocked if Google wasn't working on a smartwatch. In fact, when I was poking fun at Samsung for presuming it could mainstream a new product category, I specifically said you could count on Google and Microsoft to be working on their own smartphones.
The difference between Google and Samsung is that Google could actually succeed.
Speaking of companies that won't succeed, LG Electronics had its me-too hat thrown into this ring. An unnamed source told The Korea Times that LG was working on a smartwatch.
“It is one major part of many currently non-commercialized products under development by LG Electronics,” the source said. “The company has spared no efforts to invest in products that it believes are must-haves to stay ahead technology wise in the market, whatever the situation maybe.”
LG Electronics is so far ahead of the smartphone market, it's come back around to the back 2 percent of market share. That's quite the feat.
In case I'm not being clear enough, LG has as much chance of mainstreaming a new product category as Samsung, and Samsung has none. Neither company has any kind of track record doing this sort of thing, so unless Google delivers some kind of Android-based concept they can build on, you can discount either company as a serious competitor to Apple's iWatch, should that device ever come to market.
This is the first time that I can think of when so many companies have been rumored to be working on an unannounced product category. While smartwatches themselves aren't new—the idea has been around for decades—a smartwatch as a companion to a smartphone is new.
This is also the first time we've gotten an advance glimpse at the rest of the industry trying its best to make it look like they aren't reacting to Apple. The entire world knows that Apple shaped the smartphone market in its image, and this time around everyone wants that same world to know they were working on smartwatches before Apple's iWatch was released.
And yet, Apple will still set the direction and expectations of this product space. I have no doubt that the same resources that make Google Now a compelling feature for Android smartphones will help make Google's smartwatch very cool, but it will still be Apple that sets the overall bar for these other companies.