Google & LG Join Crowded Smartwatch Rumor Mill

| Analysis

Smartwatch Crystal BallThe 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.

Crowded House

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.

Google

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

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.

LG

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.

A First

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.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

7 Comments Leave Your Own

geoduck

If the OS on a SmartWatch freezes
Would it then be a StopWatch?

iMaciNTech.com

Samsung, start your copy machines… grin

James Leo Ryan

In some ways Apple has had a smart watch for a few years. I have an iPod nano which I have been wearing on my wrist for well over a year, and it includes a built in clock application which comes with something like sixteen different watch faces. The watchband is something not made by Apple but which I was able to purchase in the Apple store

wab95

Bryan:

Far be it from me to suggest that any of these tech titans you mention above - innovative giants all - that have, coincidentally post-Apple rumours of watch development, said development by the way that Apple have yet to either confirm or comment upon, announced their own watch making innovativeness, prowess and progress, could actually be aping imitating Apple, but your citations above provide a teachable moment.

If ever one needed objective proof of the lie that Apple is dying, dead, irrelevant, past its prime, lost its cool, its mojo, its je ne sais quoi, then here it is, in all of its inglorious abundance.

This is the meaning of mindshare and industry leadership. Without a word, all of their competition move in a common direction at the merest suggestion that Apple might, hear me, might be thus heading. Why? Because wherever Apple is heading is where they need to be stay in the limelight, or put less kindly, to stay relevant. That is the power of mindshare and the very embodiment of leadership, which without effort, guides and directs.

Not convinced? Google Glass. Google had to do their own announcement. No leak. Excitement about it? Sure, a fair bit. Imitation by the likes of Samsung, LG, MS, and…whomever also ran? Nope, at least none that has fanned the flames of the popular press. Leadership? Mindshare? You decide, but compare that to the press leak of a possible product that Apple haven’t breathed a word of, and about which the thundering herd cannot gallop fast enough to the watering hole of ‘me too’ and ‘we’ve been working on this so long’ (the Samsung doth protest too much, methinks).

In fairness, all of these fine, upstanding, and innovative companies have, no doubt, been working (so long or not so long, that is the question) on a watch, a bracelet, a pen, and who knows what else; but why announce the watch now? And why the watch and not, what, the toaster-fridge?

Mindshare. Leadership. Unmitigated power commingled with cool. Decidedly Apple.

Bryan Chaffin

Insightful comment as ever, wab95. I always look forward to your perspective.

wab95

Bryan:

Permit me to add, I do think that Samsung could succeed in this if they have two things: 1) an enabler (read Google); 2) a template to copy (read Apple).

If Google opens up the capacity for service integration to their OEMs, then Samsung are likely to refer to their post-PC playbook and make their first-gen device indistinguishable from whatever Apple puts on the market (I believe their word was ‘regrettable’ when told by Google that their first-gen phone was an iPhone look-alike, so they could develop a ‘regrettable’ watch).

The real selling point of the iWatch, if that’s what it’s to be called, will be its functionality and product/service integration. If Samsung can provide that for Android, they just might reverse their recent trend of distancing themselves from Android in order to make a boatload of cash provide a similar service. And why not? This would be consistent with their current alliance in not conceding the smartphone and tablet market to Apple. Google would, of course, disapprove of any undue resemblance between Samsung and Apple’s products; and Samsung would, of course, come out with a second gen (and likely much bigger) device.

Two ingredients, an enabler and a template, and Samsung (and Google) could be printing their own currency.

John Powell

I hope they all bring out great smart watches like Martian Watches its a win-win- for us at WristTalkers (c) if you want to read more we on FaceBook.
Great Brian Chaffin thank you i enjoy the read and will look at your site GeekTells.

Log-in to comment