The FES Watch, an e-paper timepiece developed by a Sony subsidiary, first broke cover a year ago on Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake. Since then it’s expanded to Sony’s own crowdfunding portal First Flight, and this month it’ll finally see a release — albeit a limited one — in Japanese stores.
The MoMA Design Store on Omotesando will carry the FES Watch from this Saturday, while Isetan in Shinjuku — the boutique department store that Apple used for the Apple Watch launch — will sell it from December 1st. In choosing these two locations, Fashion Entertainments, the Sony subsidiary producing the FES Watch, is clearly taking a design- and style-first approach to the release of its first product; Tokyo’s countless electronics stores are being left out for now.
The FES watch — which really is just a watch, not a smartwatch — will be sold through the Japanese MoMA online store, too, and it’s also still available through First Flight with shipping set for Saturday. Sony isn’t revealing anything about a wider release except to say that it plans to bring the FES Watch to other stores in time. The watch sells for a tax-inclusive price of ¥29,700, or about $242.
Owners of the Apple Watch can now download the software that allows for richer apps.
The long-awaited software update for Apple’s first wearable device was made available on Monday following a delay brought about by a bug found during the testing process.
Apple last Wednesday delayed the Watch OS 2 software, which was supposed to greatly enhance the capabilities of its smartwatch, including allowing the device to better run third-party applications. The company didn’t say at that time when the software would be available.
The delay of Watch OS 2 echoed the setback a year ago when Apple’s iOS 8 mobile software for iPhones and iPads launched with numerous bugs that caused problems with Wi-Fi, the Touch ID system and other functions. An update that quickly followed caused even more issues. Apple finally resolved the problems more than a week after iOS 8 launched.
Apple, which updates its mobile software every year, needs to keep the system fresh to maintain customers’ interest in its products and to ensure that software developers keep making apps for its devices. The refreshes are also vital to keep Apple in step with competitors like Google; predictive technologies in iOS 9 serve as a counter to the predictive capabilities that Google Now and Google Now On Tap can deliver to Android device users.
A high percentage of Apple’s device owners update their phones and tablets within a few weeks or months after the software hits the market. As of August 31, 87 percent of Apple mobile device usershad upgraded to iOS 8, while 12 percent were still using iOS 7, leaving a tiny fraction running yet older versions of Apple’s mobile software. On Monday, Apple said that half of its base has upgraded to iOS 9, which was released last Wednesday. By comparison, as of September 7, only 21 percent of Android device users had installed Lollipop, the latest version of Google’s mobile software, which launched in late 2014.
Given the new capabilities found in Watch OS 2, it’s likely that Apple Watch users are eager to upgrade.
The update issued Monday lets apps run directly on the Apple Watch, meaning they can tap into features like the heart-rate sensor, microphone and video playback. Previously, all apps had to run through an iPhone, which limited their capabilities and caused many Apple Watch users to complain about slowness and lack of functionality. Other features include new watch faces, a nightstand mode and a “time travel” feature to look at upcoming appointments, alarms and events.
Some apps that take advantage of Watch OS 2 include the AirStrip patient-monitoring app, CNN, Facebook Messenger, the Kayak travel-booking app, the iTranslate language translator app, the Strava fitness-tracking app and the GoPro app that acts as a remote viewfinder for the camera.
Samsung last week announced the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic smartwatches at the IFA trade show in Berlin.
The product specs of the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic are the same. The main difference between the two is in the design of their faces — the Gear S2 Classic looks more like a regular watch, while it’s obvious the Gear S2 is a smartwatch with apps.
They run Samsung’s Tizen operating system and can sync with any device having 1.5 GB of RAM or more, running Android 4.4 or later.
Designed by Italian post-modernist designer and architect Alessandro Mendini, both watches are round and customizable, have various sensors, and come preloaded with apps.
Optional 3G connectivity includes an e-SIM card with voice capability, allowing greater functionality without a smartphone nearby.
Things of Beauty
“I like the approach,” enthused Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC. “First and foremost, they look like watches.”
Earlier Samsung Gear smartwatches “look like miniaturized computers. The aesthetics weren’t really there, and the navigation was pitiful,” he told TechNewsWorld. “These new watches are elegant and look like high-end watches.”
The circular look “is a smart choice for a smartwatch design, because the most popular traditional watch designs are round,” remarked Angela McIntyre, a research director at Gartner.
What It’s Got and What It Does
The Gear S2 (and Gear S2 Classic) has a 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLEDscreen with 360 x 360 resolution at 302 ppi. It has a 1-GHz dual-core processor.
The watch is always on, and it has a battery life of two to three days, Samsung said. It can be charged wirelessly.
The Gear S2 has 4 GB of internal memory and 512 MB of RAM. Users can access contacts, notifications, messages and email.
It supports voice input, emoticons and keypads, and comes loaded with preset text responses.
Other features include voice memo, Find My Device, power-saving mode, safety assistance and a privacy lock.
The Gear S2 comes preloaded with health and fitness apps and can display news, maps, navigation, weather information and the user’s schedule. It also has a music player and a gallery.
It supports WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and near-field communication.
Packed inside the 11.4-mm thick Gear S2 are an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate and ambient light monitors, and a barometer.
Smartphones Are So Yesterday
A rotating bezel lets Gear S2 users navigate the interface. Side buttons access various preset apps and functions.
The apps on the Gear S2 show Samsung “can utilize the whole watch face, which is still a challenge for the Moto 360,” Gartner’s McIntyre told TechNewsWorld.
NFC technology enables mobile payments on the S2 and the inclusion ofFidMe allows users to store digital loyalty cards.
FidMe is one of Samsung’s five global partners for the Gear smartwatch, the others being Yelp, Baidu, Apposter and CNN. Samsung is working with partners across various industries to broaden the applicability of its smartwatches.
The S2 can be used to control smart locks powered by UniKey and Yale Real Living locks.
“Samsung likes to be out on the leading edge, and their vision is an NFC wearable hooking up with an IoT ecosystem,” IDC’s Llamas remarked.
Calling all Devs!
Developing Tizen apps will be critical for the success of Samsung’s Gear line, said Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC.
The Galaxy S2 can connect to Android phones from other makers, which “is key, because most of the buyers of this watch will likely have Android phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. However, Samsung “has to work hard with specific publishers to bring them to the platform.”
Samsung “will have to fight for the attention of app developers,” observed McIntyre, “who are busy coding for Apple Watch OS2, Android Wear watches and Pebble watches.”
More than half of the Apple Watch owners polled said they find Apple Pay “magical,” while another 42 percent see it as “convenient,” according to data from research firm Wristly.
Apple Pay is proving popular with many Apple Watch owners.
A hefty 80 percent of 1,000 Apple Watch owners surveyed in the US and UK by research firm Wristly have already used Apple Pay at least once. Among the people who haven’t used it, 5 percent said they don’t “perceive a benefit,” another 5 percent said they have security concerns, and around 15 percent said they their payment needs are already being met. But 29 percent of the non-users said one of the main reasons they don’t use Apple Pay is because their credit card provider doesn’t support it.
Apple Pay launched in the US in October as Apple’s first foray into contactless mobile payments. Using an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch, people can pay for items on the go at supported retailers via NFC (near-field communication) technology. Apple Pay usage is notably high among the Apple Watch owners polled for several reasons. But a major one is likely convenience.
To use Apple Pay with an iPhone, you have to pull the phone out of your pocket or purse and then make the transaction via the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. With an Apple Watch, your payment method is already there on your wrist. All you need do is double-tap the watch’s side button, select the credit or debit card you want to use and hold the face of the watch to the payment terminal. The watch will vibrate, and a check mark appears on the screen to confirm the payment. You don’t need a password or Touch ID as you do on an iPhone. The watch will ask for a password if you take it off your wrist. But as long as you keep it on, a simple double-tap does the work.
That convenience may be the reason why half of the Apple Watch owners polled who use Apple Pay called the service “magical,” while another 42 percent dubbed it “convenient.” Only 4 percent found it “not that useful,” while another 3 percent said they have other concerns about using Apple Pay. Further, 79 percent of the Apple Pay users said they prefer to use it on their watch versus their iPhone.
Drilling down further, 62 percent of those polled who use Apple Pay said they prefer to buy from retailers due at least in part to the business’s decision to support Apple Pay. And 86 percent of those people said they look for the Apple Pay logo when they’re at the checkout counter. If Apple’s payment option is available, 81 percent of Apple Pay users said they will use it.
Though most of the Apple Watch owners polled may enjoy Apple Pay, Apple still faces a challenge expanding the service’s reach, both in the US and abroad. In the US, Apple has lined up a healthy list of banks and credit card companies to support Apple Pay. But it’s still facing a long haul getting more retailers to jump on board. Retailers have to set up the necessary NFC terminals in order to accept Apple Pay, a process that takes time and money. In the meantime, rival services such as Android Payand Samsung Pay are now ramping up. Samsung Pay doesn’t require NFC and can work with any magnetic strip card reader, so it holds at least that advantage over Apple Pay.
At last, a gold-coated Apple Watch featuring the signature of three-term Russia President Vladimir Putin has arrived on the market, and could be yours for just over $3000.
The Russophilic smartwatch, produced by a Russian-Italian jewellery brand called Caviar Perna Penna, costs 197,000 rubles ($3,073) and also depicts the Moscow skyline and the double-headed eagle of Russia’s coat of arms.
Jewelers Caviar made headlines last June when they produced an 18-carat gold iPhone 5S, hand-etched with a portrait of the Russian leader, which the company described as “the best way to express patriotism.” But following a rebuke from Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov — the President does not approve of his likeness being used by manufacturers for commercial gain, he says — production was halted.
Though still beyond the price range of most buyers, the Putin Apple Watch can be yours for less than a third the price of the Apple Watch Edition — the gold Apple watch without the former KGB officer’s face on it — which starts at $10,000.
Putin, Lenin, Peter the Great
The “Putinwatch” is limited to 999 units and jewelery maker Caviar is also producing editions devoted Tsar Peter I — the 17th and 18th century Russian sovereign known as Peter the Great — and Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.
The communist leader’s version eschews a gold finish for a more demure rhodium cladding, whose gray color signifies strength, endurance and power, say Caviar.
Caviar’s Apple Watch Epoca Lenin edition
Anna Lobova, the company’s PR manager explains the choices:
“All [these] leaders are very respected by people and they have some things in common — all of them are innovators and very principal persons with strong ideas and they do a lot for [the] evolution, development and independence of Russia,” she says.
Sales are strong, she claims, but refuses to reveal numbers, beyond saying that the watches are selling at more than twice the expected rate. Currently the watches are only available for purchase in Russia but Lobova says there has been significant interest internationally. “In the near future we planning to make a delivery to Saudi Arabia, China and USA,” she says.
Caviar’s Apple Watch Epoca Peter the Great edition
But who’s buying them? “Now most interest we got from Moscow, our Moscow customers always prefer to get all new items first,” she says, adding that most are over 35-years-old and “owners of a business or top managers in a big corporations.”
Incredibly, this is not August’s first Putin-related luxury watch news. Last week, his spokesman Peskov was pictured wearing a limited edition Swiss watch estimated to cost more than $600,000 — several times his official Kremlin salary — drawing allegations of corruption from opposition leaders.
Peskov claims the watch was a wedding present from his new wife, former Olympic figure skater Tatiana Navka.
The latest wearable tech device can calm you down or energise you with the stroke of a finger
Bad moods can come out of nowhere and last for hours, ruining perfectly pleasant afternoons with their lingering pessimism. But the latest form of wearable tech claims to have an antidote, with a watch that can apparently transform your mood.
The watch, Doppel, uses electric pulses to clam you down or boost your energy, vibrating against your wrist with a gentle electronic beat. One stroke of the dial creates a slow, calming beat, while a quick squeeze of the watch creates a faster, energising pulse. The pulsations are designed to have a similar effect to music, and are imperceptible to anyone other than the watch-wearer.
“Fast musicpumps you up, slow music chills you out – it’s something that happens to you without you even realising it,” says Nell Bennett, who designed Doppel. “But playing music isn’t always possible. If you’re in a meeting and you’re feelingstressed and panicky or angry, you can’t say, ‘Don’t mind me while I just listen to some calming music’. This is a way to subtly and easily calm yourself down or pump yourself up on the go.”
“We wanted to create something very intuitive, which reflects habits humans already have, like stroking your temples”
Doppel was designed by four students – a mechanical engineer, a material scientist, a quantum physicist an a designer – at a double masters program at Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. The group ran tests on more than 40 people to determine the effects of their watch.
“We could see a direct change in terms of people calming down. We found people’s focus doubled and their reactions times also improved, which is rare,” says Bennett. “It’s an effect that seems to happen with anyone, whether they like the product or not. Even those who said they found it distracting didn’t actually show a decrease in concentration. We like to think of it as technological doping or performance enhancing technology.”
“If you’re in a meeting and you’re feeling yourself getting stressed and panicky or angry, you can’t say: ‘don’t mind me while I just listen to some calming music'”
The device is currently a prototype, but has the backing of 820 Kickstarter donors who have pledged £111,194 to turn Doppel into a widely-available product. The device could be useful for sportsmen – “I use it for running a lot, because it can energise you at the start of a run and help you keep pace with a beat,” says Bennett – but once Doppel is a reality, he expects the device will be used bybusy professionals.
“We don’t envisage it as being used in sport – that market is so saturated. We see it as being used by professionals with a stressful working lifestyle,” says Bennett. “There’s nothing invasive about it at all. It’s not like caffeine which isn’t necessarily very good for you. It’s not dangerous in any way. It’s as dangerous as listening to music – i.e. not very.”
The team have already met their target of £100,000 on Kickstarter
At £200 for a limited edition Doppel, the product isn’t cheap. When there are thousands of apps out there all claiming to alter your mood for just a couple of pounds, it could be difficult to justify forking out £200 for the privilege of having a small heartbeat pulse gently against your wrist.
But if you’re stressed out and overworked, then perhaps £200 is a small price for a moment of true calm.
Get ready for simpler designs and new features on your smartphone apps, with developers applying the stripped-down concepts they employed for the Apple Watch.
When building an app for Apple Watch, Mikael Berner and his team at EasilyDo quickly learned that their work could carry over to the iPhone.
The EasilyDo developers found it sometimes took too long for users to find the information they wanted in the company’s namesake app — which acts as a virtual assistant by managing your email, calendar, travel information and services like LinkedIn. When you’re wearing a smartwatch, you need to be able to glance down and see what you’re looking for without digging through menus.
Deciding that also made sense on the iPhone, the developers restructured their smartphone app to also be “more micro-moment,” said EasilyDo CEO Berner, showing quick glances of information that’s relevant to what you’re doing at a particular time. If you’re heading out on vacation, it won’t display a menu with all of your travel information, as the phone app did before. Instead, EasilyDo will notify you about gate changes or pop up your boarding pass while you’re in the airport. It then will display your hotel’s address after you land or provide other information based on what you need in that moment.
Apple Watch hasn’t hit the market yet, but its tiny screen is already changing how our iPhone apps look and feel. Some of the simple, “glanceable” functions found on Apple’s first wearable will make their way to smartphone apps, as will more minimalist designs. And it’s not just about making the phone and watch apps work together seamlessly, but actually incorporating watch features — like new functions and different design schemes — in the iPhone. The result, developers hope, is less digging through menus and a streamlined experience for users.
“A large population is going to get used to the nibbling the watch lets them do,” Berner said.
Not all companies will make tweaks to their iPhone apps that are obvious to users, but others, such as EasilyDo, American Airlines, BetterWorks, Citi and Evernote, are making changes to their main phone software because of the watch.
Apple Watch, which Apple first unveiled in September, costs $349 to $17,000 and hits the market on April 24. The device — which comes in three models, two sizes, a couple metal finishes per model, and with various bands — requires an iPhone 5 or later device to operate and can do very little when not connected to a smartphone.
The value of a wristwatch is typically defined by its materials, design, features and brand. For the new Apple Watch, all those factors will apply, but so will something else: apps.
Apple on Monday held a media event to explain how its long-awaited Apple Watch works and how much it costs. Just as important, it also demonstrated what the watch was capable of doing with apps made by other companies.
If the watch is going to succeed, those other companies will have a lot to do with it because few devices — not even those made by Apple — will sell well without the help of a whole lot of app developers.
“All of Apple’s devices really come alive with third-party apps, and it’ll be the same with the watch,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research.
When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, it was essentially a blank slate. When the App Store opened a year later, the device became much more than a fancy phone.
Just by downloading an app, the iPhone could become a musical instrument, a medical device, a TV remote and gaming device. It became the ultimate Swiss army knife of gadgets.
“The Apple Watch will be instrumental in taking the wearables market to the next level of growth,” CCS chief of research Ben Wood said in a statement Tuesday. “If successful, it’ll create a rising tide that will lift the whole market.”
The highly anticipated smartwatch, unveiled in September alongside Apple’s new smartphones, will start at $349 and come in three versions: standard, luxury and sport.
CCS Insight’s prediction for the Apple Watch is certainly on the high end. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster in December predicted sales of 8 million for 2015. Wall Street has forecast sales of 12 million to 15 million. Apple has reportedly asked its suppliers to manufacture 5 million to 6 million watches for its first quarter of release.
All eyes will certainly be on the Apple Watch when it finally launches. Smartwatches have been available for the last couple of years from companies like Pebble, Motorola, and LG, but none have been able to attract widespread consumer interest. Indeed, smartwatches are still a niche market that may or may not succeed, depending in part on the impact that the Apple Watch has on the industry, according to CCS Insight.
“The current love affair affluent US consumers have with the iPhone guarantees a strong start for the Apple Watch in its home market,” the CCS Insight noted. “However, if sales of the Apple Watch fail to meet expectations it could hurt the whole smartwatch market.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While it’s impossible to absolutely predict what kind of response to expect, some folks are trying. Over the last several months, Piper Jaffray’s Munster has been surveying nearly 1,000 US-based iPhone owners to gauge their likelihood of buying an Apple Watch. He found that the figure was at an all-time high of 10 percent in September 2013 (a year before it was announced) but has since fallen to 7 percent of current iPhone owners.
Looking beyond Apple Watch, CCS said it sees the wearables market in general growing over the next few years. The company says that by 2018, 172 million wearables will be sold worldwide, up from the 29 million that were sold in 2014. The company says that smartwatches and fitness trackers will be the most popular wearable devices by 2018, with others like wearable cameras and eyewear grabbing just a small sliver of the market.
Despite claims that Apple Watch will be a make-or-break for smartwatches, CCS seems bullish on the technology. By 2018, the company says that 44 percent of all wearable sales will be in the smartwatch category.
Eyewear, like the discontinued-for-now Google Glass and Sony’s just-announced Smart EyeGlass, will post 3 million unit sales in 2018, according to CCS. But unlike other wearables that will cater mainly to consumers, CCS argues that eyewear will be mainly sold to businesses that have real-life applications for the technology.
By 2018, over 340 million wearable devices will be in use worldwide — a figure eight times greater than now — according to CCS Insight’s predictions.
The Apple Watch may be the most eagerly anticipated gadget of the year, but it also has a lot of doubters, who say the $350 device is too pricey or that the design is clunkier than the Moto 360. Or the critics may just be down on the smartwatch category altogether.
But, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the Apple Watch possesses several unique strengths, including a variety of designs, Siri integration and, yes, the ability to fight “the new cancer”: sitting. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference yesterday (Feb. 10) in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook likened today’s smartwatches to early MP3 players before the iPod came along.
“We weren’t the first company to make an MP3,” Cook said. “They were fundamentally too hard to use, and the user interface was really bad.”
Cook was clearly drawing parallels to today’s smartwatches. Android Wear devices, for example, involve a fair amount of swiping to get things done. The Pebble Watch, which uses a somewhat awkward button-based interface, is now on more than a million wrists, but that doesn’t impress Cook.
“There are several things that are called ‘smartwatches’ that are shipping,” he said, “but I’m not sure you could name any.”
So how does Apple plan to shake up the market? By “changing the way you live your life,” according to Cook. And that could include saving it. Apple’s CEO told conference attendees that the Apple Watch will give you a little tap 10 minutes before the hour if you haven’t moved within the hour. Why?
“Because a lot of doctors believe that sitting is the new cancer, right?” Cook said.
Apple’s CEO said a lot of his employees who use the watch are now standing up and moving around at 10 minutes before the hour. In addition, the Apple Watch has the ability to track your activity and exercise. But that’s not all the Apple Watch will do for health.
Dexcom’s upcoming Apple Watch app, for instance, will be able to help diabetes patients report glucose levels on a graph by working with a tiny monitor that’s inserted under the skin. The app has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Cook believes that, just like the iPhone, the app selection for the Apple Watch will be a huge differentiator to separate Apple’s offering from those of its competitors.
“The things third parties are working on? — I’m super excited about,” Cook shared. “Just like when the App Store came out, and you remember the tagline, ‘There’s an app for that?’ And the way you felt with your favorite apps, and so you’re going to have a feeling like that.”
It’s not as if other smartwatch platforms are standing still. At last count, there were nearly 200 Android Wear apps in the Google Play store, 4,200 Pebble apps and watchfaces and more than 1,000 Tizen-based apps.
With Google I/O coming up in May, we expect to see many more enhancements for the Android Wear platform in general, as well as new designs to battle the Apple Watch. Pebble, too, has promised new hardware and software for this year.
However, Cook seems confident that the Apple Watch will rise above the competition, and will be much more than a novelty.
“There’s just an enormous number of things that it will do,” Cook said, “and I think you’re going to find it something that you’re going to think, ‘Wow, I can’t live without this anymore!'”