Smart watches: They arent just for geeks anymore
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Smartwatches don't have to look ugly to be functional. Clothing and accessories designers are collaborating with engineers to produce computerized wristwatches. The designers hope people will want to wear them all day and night.
Apple is preparing to release a watch line that includes an 18-karat gold edition. So rivals know they need to think beyond devices that look like miniature computers. If the watches aren't attractive, the market won't grow beyond a small niche of users.
"The big brick on the wrist is not what a fashionable person is going to wear on a day-to-day basis," says Cindy Livingston. She is CEO of Sequel, a Timex business that makes traditional watches under the Guess clothing brand. That's especially true for women, she says. Many of the existing smartwatches are simply too big for their wrists.
At the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Guess said it's partnering with Martian Watches to make a line of fashionable smartwatches. Guess took its leading line of traditional watches, Rigor, and incorporated Martian's technology. From a distance, the new Guess Connect watch looks like a Rigor, with analog hands and a crown, or dial, on the right. Closer inspection reveals the addition of two control buttons and a small, one-line display for notifications near 6 o'clock.
LG, meanwhile, consulted with outside design experts and a sister company that makes fashion and home-decor products. Its first smartwatch was rectangular primarily because of production constraints. A round model followed just months later.
The Consumer Electronics Association projects that U.S. sales of wearable devices will reach 31 million this year. That is up 61 percent. Most will be health and fitness devices, such as step counters. Although general-purpose smartwatches are expected to reach just 11 million, or about a third of all wearable devices, that's more than quadruple what was sold in 2014.
Those seeking specialized functions might not care about design. But those looking to wear something around the clock might, says Ralph de la Vega. He is head of AT&T's mobile and business solutions division. Apple will "raise the bar," de la Vega adds. "Others are going to have to work hard to stay up with it."
High fashion won't come cheap. The new high-fashion smartwatches will cost about $450 compared with $200 to $300 for typical smartwatches today.
At CES, Garmin says it partnered with designer Jonathan Adler to make patterned straps for its Vivofit 2 fitness tracker. They are to be sold in sets of three for $40. And Sony is making a stainless steel edition of its SmartWatch 3 for $50 more, or $300.
Critical thinking challenge: What makes a smartwatch smart"?