Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Pre-Apple Watch, the more time passes the less seems to happen

In some ways, many things have changed since I last wrote in this blog.

  • Android Fit is out in the Lollipop OS update, as is Apple's HeathKit
  • More Android Wear devices are out
  • Samsung has released a bunch more watches, and more significantly, a medically-advanced band reference design (Simband)
  • Apple Watch has been announced

But in many ways nothing has changed, nor is going to change for many months.

During this time, we can predict:

  • More Android-based hardware will be released, but there won't be a "killer design"
  • Samsung will continue its shotgun experimentation with consumer design
  • People will continue to rumourmill about Apple Watch

But the bottomline is everyone will be waiting for the Apple Watch launch to see how big the smartwatch market will actually be. At least 24 million, according to UBS.

In the meantime, niche parts of the market are shaping up in a very interesting way.

One example of this is the approach from current tracker leader Fitbit, which has carefully upscaled its range to just below smartwatch level (or fitness super watch as it labels it).

More significantly, its two future devices have constant heartrate detection, underlining that this is now a standard feature in the market.

Certainly, I'll be picking up a Charge HR band when they're released.

And similarly the other devices that are catching my eye are those that input some elements of smartwatch functionality within the classic watch aesthetic.

Prime example is current Indiegogo project Nevo (above), which is a nice analogue watch with Misfit-like activity indicator lights around the dial. It can also alert you to notifications. Best of all, it looks like a nice watch. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

If only Nike+ could connect the dots...

Having finally suffered from the dreaded Fitbit Sweat Rash, I've bought three new straps for my Flex.

Looking at the new straps, I really hadn't realised just how hammered the original two pink straps had become.

Coincidentally, yesterday I got an email from Nike reminding me to replace my running shoes every 300 km. Interestingly, according to Nike+, my current pair have done almost 600 km.

If software was connected to sales, it could offer me a discount.

But, as with so many aspects of the health/fitness wearable industry, there's plenty of data in the system, but few smarts on how to use it effectively.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Apple Watch - a sub-standard health wearable?

Amidst all the hype, there was an interesting take on the Apple Watch from one expert.

Although Apple hasn't revealed full details about HealthKit and how it will integrate with the watch - which won't be out until early 2015 anyhow, Niharika Midha, who covers medical devices for GlobalData called the Apple Watch a "robust offering".

But noted its, "health and fitness trackers are largely dependent on the iPhone's WiFi and Global Positioning System capabilities, which is a considerable drawback in comparison to other vendors.

"For example, the Samsung Gear S has a built-in GPS and can be used to track activities without requiring connection to the handset."

Indeed, GPS seems to be surprising omission, as many sports watches have this feature as standard. It seems unlikely size would be an issue, although the impact on battery life might be.

"At present, the product is not substantially superior to existing devices in terms of health tracking mechanisms," Midha comments, although adding that presumably Apple will make a watch with standalone GPS functions at some point.

Indeed, when it comes to dedicated medical wearable devices, it's not even clear that a watch configuration would be optimal.

"Google's development of smart contact lenses targeted towards monitoring glucose levels in diabetic patients is potentially groundbreaking," he notes. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Signal, noise and Apple Watch

I'm always interesting in people making predictions, particularly after reading Nate Silver's The Signal and The Noise.

The nicest thing we can say about them is that they're always wrong. Still, we can learn a lot from their mistakes.

Currently I'm pondering the 'news' that Analysys Mason reckons 1 million smart watches will be sold in 2014. That's likely not a terrible prediction. It's a nascent market, with the Pebble still having the largest install base.

However, Analysys Mason reckons 13.6 million smart watches will be sold in 2015.

An oddly precise number, but the uplift is - of course - predicated on the news that the Apple Watch won't be released until "early 2015".

What's interesting about the prediction, however, is that to my mind it assumes that more than 85 percent of smart watches sold in 2015 will be Apple Watches.

(That's assuming growth of 100 percent for the non-Apple devices that no one cares about. Even if they sell 3 million units, Apple takes 78 percent of the market.)

In that sense, then, Analysys Mason isn't predicting the growth of the smart watch market but the growth of the Apple Watch market; a market that currently doesn't exist.

Friday, 15 August 2014

For the busy doctor, email would save more lives than Fitbit

Two great quotes:

For the most part, health wearables are worn by the "wealthy and well."

"Doctors would love to be excited about wearables — they're gadget guys at heart — but their day-to-day is spent battling 30 year old fax machines to get your last lab report." says Jeff Tangney, CEO of Doximity, which makes a social communication platform for clinicians.

"For a busy doctor, the ability to use email would save more lives than a Fitbit."

Read the article over on VentureBeat.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Android Wear is GO

On the back of the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, the first Android Wear watches have been released.

LG's G Watch ($229/£159) and Samsung's Gear Live ($199/£169 - more expensive in the UK for some reason) can now be pre-ordered for early July delivery.

Motorola's much anticipated 360 (around $250) is expected sometime during the summer.

On the wrist

Of course, the point of this first generation of smartphones is - like the Pebble - to link to your phone and act as a notification point for messaging and Google Now, as well as providing the opportunity for voice search.

They will also sync with peripherals such as heart rate monitors, although it's not clear that these devices will attract the  fitness crowd per se. Design-wise, they're just a bit professional.

Next up, let's see if Apple can fulfil its "50 million sales" expectations...