For the past couple of years we've noticed a shift in focus of dominant players in the smartphone space. As the smartphone market moves from rapid expansion to a maturing phase, the companies on top don't want to be left behind in the same way the notebook PC vendors were at the start of the smartphone/tablet race.

At the same time, continued reduction in transistor feature sizes and power consumption have enabled a new class of low power SoC. ARM's product offerings in particular extend both up and down the power curve. There's Cortex M for ultra low power devices, often perfect for wearables, and then a range of Cortex A CPUs for higher end wearables all the way up to smartphones, tablets and eventually servers. 

Initial successes in the wearables space were specialized pieces of hardware. For example, pedometers and health trackers like the Fitbits of the world. Most of these designs leverage Cortex M series CPU cores. More recently however we've seen a more serious push into the world of smart watches. Initial plays here were more disorganized in terms of hardware and OS selection, but we're beginning to see some consolidation on the heels of Google's Android Wear announcement. 

At last month's Google IO we saw the first official Android Wear devices launch from LG and Samsung. Later this summer we'll also see the arrival of the Moto 360, an arguably much more appealing Android Wear device thanks to a greater focus on design. I've spent the past couple of weeks with LG's G Watch and am still toying with the best way to present my thoughts on the device. In short it seems like a great platform if you're a developer, but honestly lacks the battery life (I measured under 9 hours of actual use, display on but dimmed on a single charge) and feature set today to really convince me as a consumer.

Last month we soft launched our new Wearables content section at AnandTech, with ARM graciously agreeing to be a launch sponsor. ARM's support will allow us to likely do some wearable giveaways in the not too distant future too.

The path to wearable computing becoming something more substantial however demands a lot of things to change. If we're talking about watches we need better battery life, the functionality needs to improve as well (although I am impressed by some of what's already been introduced for Android Wear). I'm curious to get your thoughts on the wearable space. What would it take for you to add yet another computing platform to your life? Is anyone out there waiting for the perfect smart watch? I know I stopped wearing watches nearly a decade ago, and to go back I'll likely need quite a bit of convincing in terms of a great product.

If you've got thoughts on this space, we'd love to hear them as they'll help shape our coverage going forward. Leave your comments below.

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  • smunter6 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I've had a pebble smartwatch for over a year now and I love it. Is it perfect? No. Is it for everybody? No. Will I wear a smartwatch every day for the rest of my life? Absolutely.

    Wearables still have a long way to go, but they're already ahead of where android was in the early days. I look forward to seeing how the technology will evolve going forward.
    Reply
  • Klug4Pres - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I don't really see the point of wearables, except in niche applications.

    A lot of people carry a device with a 5-inch screen that you can use for phone calls, messaging, maps/gps, browsing, video, light gaming, and it has essentially all-day battery life.

    If we already have one of those, why would we want something else with a small screen and a tiny battery?

    Obviously I am just talking about smartwatches. There could be all kinds of small device like pedometers, heart rate monitors or something completely different that people might wear and that would have a niche.

    But general-purpose wearable computing doesn't seem like a great idea.
    Reply
  • lothinator - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I stopped wearing a watch 15 years ago for a reason.

    Until we have eyeball/nerve implants that you leave in 24/7, are completely unobtrusive, and don't need replaced every time we buy a new phone thus doubling/tripling the cost... then ... no. Just no.
    Reply
  • Aegrum - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    I received a Skagen watch as a gift this year after having not worn a watch in over a decade. It took some getting used to, but I'm back to feeling naked without it. The amount of time saved from not pulling out my Nexus 5 and hitting the power isn't significant, but its enough to justify its place on my arm. And then there's the fashion aspect. I'm consistently complimented on its attractiveness in various meeting I have, which as vain as it sounds, makes me enjoy it more. That's why the Moto 360 looks so enticing to me. It retains the classic, fashionable style while adding additional functionality that saves me from having to interface with the phone.

    But as you said, battery life is the chief concern. I charge my phone at the end of the day, so the watch would need to parallel its battery life. Also, I'm concerned about charging logistics. So far the watches seem to have specialty charging cradles, which may be fine for a typical day, but very often I have had to find a mini-USB cable to do some immediate phone charging. Granted the watch is a far less critical device than the phone, but still, it would be nice if there were a standard.

    Functionally, I need the watch to do only a handful of things. Tell time (duh), notify me of important information (calendar events, traffic alerts), search for information via voice, and allow me to respond to SMS via voice. Those things would warranty the ~$250 barrier of entry to me.

    I look forward to your coverage of these moving forward as I'm sure they'll be as informative and relevant to my interests as the rest of your site is.
    Reply
  • SleepyFE - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Do you mean searching through your contacts list or google-ing? Reply
  • Aegrum - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Both, probably. Initiate a phone call via voice. Google search via voice. I'm not looking for a full page of info, but if I say "OK Google, what year did Iron Man come out?" it'd be cool if it came back with "2008". Reply
  • TheTurboFool - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Just tried that with Android Wear. "OK Google, what year did the movie Iron Man come out?" Results:

    May 2, 2008 (USA) with the poster for the film as the background.

    So no, it didn't give JUST the year, but it did answer the question perfectly.

    It does notify me of everything you asked for, currently, and allows me to respond to SMS, emails, initiate calls via voice, and more. Everything you said, starting at $200. Although I bought the G Watch for $230.

    And I take my watch off the charger at around 8:00AM every day, and when I put it back around midnight I usually have around 30% life left.
    Reply
  • Murloc - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    whoa 8 AM every day, you are one lucky man! Reply
  • geo2160 - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Well, it's pretty simple. it's not there yet. The smartwatch market will be able to bloom only when it will have decent representatives in every price segment. In an ideal world, I would expect to pay 40 to 70$ for a low end smartwatch with good battery life that does all the essential stuff, like being and actual watch and taking care of my notifications. A simple charging charging mechanism is also a must. If anyone wants to spend more than that they should be able to get better build quality, fancy design, better screen and additional sensors.

    Oh, and for me personally, an always-on screen that shows me the time is mandatory since it is still called a watch. An improved Mirasol screen with better refresh rates and colors would be ideal, but AMOLED would also be ok.

    I know I'm asking too much for a <100 dollar device, but it will be hard for the manufacturers to convince me that I actually want to use one. It will be even harder for them to convince the less tech-savvy masses to buy them.
    Reply
  • 01nb - Friday, July 11, 2014 - link

    Got my G watch yesterday. I changed the band to leather immediately.

    Since then, my phone has barely left my pocket.

    This is precisely why I bought it.

    I will likely move over to the 360 when it drops, as I prefer the style.
    Reply

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