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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  • isa - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    To clarify, in my use case of a smartwatch in lieu of a smartphone for certain situations (athletics, social outings), I'm OK with a limited battery life. 8-10 hours under continuous GPS use, perhaps a two days otherwise. The rumored generator ideas are interesting, though.
  • OreoCookie - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    As someone who wears an analog watch on a daily basis, I cannot see a place for a smart watch right now: all of them are ugly, the battery life is too small and, most importantly, I don't see a use case for them. Of course, there are other wearables out there, but I don't want yet another device which starts buzzing when I receive a message or an e-mail, I don't think this is what a smart watch or another wearable will be about.

    I think there are small things a wearable can and should do:
    - The battery life should be measured in days or weeks. Perhaps a built-in generator similar to an automatic caliber of an analog watch can generate enough electricity so that it never needs to be charged if it is in regular use.
    - A wearable could help with authentication/location-awareness similar to keyless go systems for cars.
    - I don't think a screen is necessary. That'd improve battery life tremendously.
  • Sttm - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    I am only going to carry 1 device, wearable or not.
  • pruett365 - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    I'd like to see a watch like a Casio G-Shock with call and text alerts as well as the ability to answer the phone if I have a Bluetooth headset. I don't mind sensors for working out, however I don't need apps on a watch. The screen is too small and awkward.
  • mathew7 - Monday, July 14, 2014 - link

    I agree with this. 1st functions should still be a watch.
    I think passive LCD matrix would be enough (still allowing several virtual designs) with BT4 connectivity, so when you check the time you could see notifications (maybe you missed the phone vibrations, or even keep them off).
    I would jump right now on the G-Shock watches, if they would not have such low phone compatibility (My Z1C does not seem to be compatible with the app).
    Anything with less than 1 month of connected use is unacceptable. Slim design has extra points (because of "inconveniences" with my motorcycle jacket sleeve+glove, I actually stopped wearing watches)
    PS: while I was wearing a wristwatch, it only came off during showers (or sweating and washing in general). So please don't defend the current crop with nightly charging. Even weekly is not acceptable.
  • vFunct - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    Unless the wearables are marketed as jewelry (which Apple actually appears to be headed towards?) and not as a functional device, then they might be usable.

    Watches are meant to get you laid, not to tell time.

    Having a glorified calculator on your wrist is the best way to repel women.
  • zhenya00 - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    I gave up wearing a watch over a decade ago when I started carrying a phone. That is, until recently when I got a Nike gps watch that allows me to track my runs without having to carry a bulky phone. Getting used to wearing it has taken some time, but even as someone whose phone is never far from his side, I can see the eventual appeal of this market if someone can get it right. The market right now is reminiscent of the early MP3 players; nobody has taken the time and effort to really get it right yet. (Visit the smart watch section at your local big box, it feels like it's outdated already) While I can see the benefit of displaying phone alerts, it's going to take more than that to popularize these. It has to look great. It needs a couple of days of battery life and an extremely easy charging solution. (Taking off a watch to charge is far more inconvenient than plugging in your phone as it sits on your bedside table, and the big appeal of a watch is that it's always on you, which it won't be if it's always charging.) it needs to offer additional functionality you don't have from your phone. Personally, I'll be disappointed if it requires a phone nearby to be useful as the entire point to me will be to let me get untethered from my phone more. I don't expect to make phone calls from it yet, but gps tracking separate from the phone would be nice, among other metrics it might track.

    I think the entire industry is throwing things against the wall to see what works which kind of masks the fact that they are waiting in anticipation of what Apple is going to do. Samsung can buy all the advertising in the world telling us how cool they are, but when it comes down to it, nothing they are releasing right now has any chance at all of widespread popularity unless Apple first makes a watch desirable.
  • darkich - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    I'll just fast forward two decades into the possible future scenario to show you how I see wearable computing potential.

    Almost everyone is walking around with glasses that seem no different than today's discrete fashion designs of common glasses, or sports glasses with foto sensitive lenses.
    Many of them have them simply tucked over the forehead, placing them over the eyes only occasionally.
    But what they're wearing is actually a near indestructible(made by ultra durable materials) , fully augmented and connected, artificially intelligent personal assistance computer with completely adaptable screen(from no displayed content to UHD 3D content that can cover an entire field of vision) scanning, diagnosis, sensory array and a camera that can record in 3D to such definition that two persons communicating with each other can send a near- realistic image and sounds of their respective surroundings to each other.
    One can basically visit another place without having to be physically present there.

    Do I need to add that the computing power of the device also allows for truly immersive, augmented 3D gaming? Internet, multimedia, and education too?

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  • OreoCookie - Sunday, July 13, 2014 - link

    Maybe we should take wearable more literally: Apple has recently hired quite a few people from the fashion scene. Traditional watches have a life span of years if not decades. Smart watches are obsolete after three, four years.

    So instead, what if the wearables of the future are very inexpensive additions to fashion (shirts, shoes, etc.)? If they are simple, they could be powered by small generators which convert body motion into electricity (just like automatic calibers do). So instead of a smart watch you buy shoes that also happen to have integrated sensors … (I know that clip-on sensors for shoes already exist, I chose that example deliberately.)

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