Smartwatches becoming the new trend
Smartwatch season has begun, with Sony, Samsung and Qualcomm just three major manufacturers promoting their smartphone companion devices at IFA. But one major feature is lacking on all of them: maps.
I’m surprised by this. On Google Glass, which works with Android smartphones via Bluetooth just as these smartwatches do, the maps functionality was the standout feature when I tested it. Turning your head rotates a small map hovering in your field of view and it’s arguably the main reason I’d buy Glass if it came on the market today.
To see this lacking on smartwatches came as a huge surprise.
During IFA, I mentioned this to one of Sony’s mobile marketing managers who seemed fascinated by the concept and vowed to report the idea back to the company. Samsung, too, has numerous apps on its Galaxy Gear watch, but maps are not amongst them. Qualcomm has skipped maps in its Toq device, and there’s no appearance of a map on the Sonostar watch, nor on the Cookoo.
Smartwatches paired to a smartphone could easily exploit the phone’s GPS and other location sensors to their advantage; having a small map on a wrist simply point the direction you need to walk almost seems like an obvious killer app.
Certainly there would be challenges relating to orientation, and that’s one reason Google Glass has accelerometers, gyroscopes and rotation sensors built into its circuitry. It seems bizarre these same features are not a core component of the first wave of smartwatches.
Perhaps there’s no perceived demand for small watch-based maps, or it could be the considerable space limitations within a smartwatch make sensor additions too challenging.
As far as I’m concerned though, if you can fit a video camera in a watch, you can fit the tech to make wrist-based navigation a reality.
There are a number of contenders yet to show off an entry into the smartwatch market. Apple’s so-called “iWatch” is tipped for a 2014 unveiling, as are competitors from Microsoft and Google, not to mention Acer and LG.
Plenty could change over the next 12 months, and it probably should: at least one research group has suggested shipments of smartwatches in 2014 could hit 8.9 million globally, rising to an astonishing 214 million by 2018.