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Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets

Samsung's Galaxy Gear and other new smartwatches equipped with fitness apps could squeeze the mobile health gadget market.

Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies
Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies
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The new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, part of an expanding new category of wearables, comes with a number of apps that could appeal to fitness enthusiasts. Coupled with similar products already announced by Sony and expected soon from Apple and Qualcomm, the Galaxy Gear might have a major impact on the mobile health app market, depending on how the technology evolves, observers say.

Among the 60 apps available for the Galaxy Gear, which ships Sept. 25 at a retail price of $299, are a step-counting accelerometer. Purchasers also get a customized Azumio app they can use to monitor their heart rate, measure their calorie output, and take pictures of the food they eat with the Gear's built-in camera.

When used with a mobile communications device, the smartwatch can be used to send e-mail, surf the Web and share information through social media. The latter feature could potentially be used with "gamification" apps that enable people to share with others their fitness achievements in running, walking or weight loss.

The Samsung smartwatch can be synchronized with the company's new Note 3 phablet but not yet with its Android smartphones. It won't be able to coordinate with any other company's smartphones, at least initially.

[ Fitness gadgets are not the only market segment that might be affected by smartwatches. Read Tablet Sales Face Growing Threat From Smartwatches, Phablets. ]

Josh Flood, an analyst with ABI Research, told InformationWeek Healthcare he was underwhelmed by the Galaxy Gear. He was disappointed that it didn't come with a flexible screen that could wrap around the wrist to make it more interactive. And while the Gear's camera makes it unique among smart watches, he can't figure out why someone would use that camera in preference to the one that comes with all smartphones.

Nevertheless, he said, if the Gear and other smartwatches take off, the sheer size of companies like Sony, Samsung and Apple would be "very concerning" to companies that making health tracking devices. "It's possible it will cannibalize the market for healthcare trackers," he said. "The question is how Samsung will market it and whether they're going to focus on the healthcare market. It was reported earlier this year that Apple plans to make a big push in the fitness area."

Sony, which will soon launch its second-generation smartwatch, said about 300 apps were available for the device, including some fitness software.

Malay Gandhi, chief strategy officer for RockHealth, a San Francisco-based accelerator of digital health startups, said that Samsung's smartwatch would not pose much competition to makers of fitness devices. "It isn't in a position to take a big chunk of the wearable market and it's obviously not a replacement for phones," he said.

As for the long-range prospects of the Gear and other smartwatches in healthcare, he said, "The real question is whether people like the wristband-phone combination or do they want to integrate that into one device."

One interesting contrast between that combination and the current generation of fitness trackers, such as the Jawbone UP wristband, the Nike Fuel Band and the Fitbit Flex, is that the latter aren't capable of getting a cellular connection wirelessly through a smartphone, Gandhi notes.

However, he pointed out, there are no apps for the Gear that are not also available in smartphone versions. "Samsung pulled some stuff they liked from the wearable space [to create the Gear] and then added in some third-party apps," he said.

It has been predicted that Samsung will ship 1.2 million smartwatches worldwide this year and 7 million in 2014. But whether this product and others like it will be a success depends on how the technology evolves, Gandhi said. The killer app for wearables won't be software but a platform that can be used by a wide variety of sensors, he predicted.

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jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2013 | 2:34:53 AM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
I see this happens a lot especially with products from smaller companies. Then all that technology will get integrated into one of the bigger company products and everyone will be in awe. Smaller companies really do get the short end of the stick when it comes to marketing and press. What I don't understand is that if this technology is out there, why can't the Gear already come equipped with it, and why can't it have Android support if thats what all the Samsung smartphones come with.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 6:22:41 PM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
Fitbit users: can you see trading your Fitbit in for a smart watch that did other things as well?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 4:28:54 PM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
There's probably a sweet spot design to aim for where the watch can do a lot independently but becomes even more powerful when used on in combination with a phone.
AbhayD263
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AbhayD263,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/6/2013 | 2:50:13 PM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
iPhone 6 Specs and Release date - http://techgot.blogspot.in/201...
LokifishM270
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LokifishM270,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/6/2013 | 2:23:46 PM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
Not all of them need to be paired with a phone. There are three I know of that don't. One of them was even shown at the same event the the Gear was announced at but got no press.
There is another one called the TrueSmart that has access to the Play Store (so tens of thousands of apps), is IP67 rated, can act as a standalone or paired with a phone. It can also integrate with most smart houses and smart appliances.
The third was released months ago and again, no press.
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/6/2013 | 1:51:03 PM
re: Smartwatches Could Outshine Wearable Fitness Gadgets
I can definitely see a use for smartwatches in the fitness industry, but their benefits -- at least in my opinion -- are still negated by the fact that you still need to have a smartphone nearby. If these companies can find a way to allow a smartwatch to function independently, I think they would be a knock-out for fitness-minded people.
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