Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tag Heuer team with Google to build smartwatch

The high-end Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer has announced it is to build an Android Wear-powered smartwatch, but it may do little to boost interest in smartwatches.

The firm, a part of the luxury goods-maker LVMH Group, is forming a partnership with Google and the chipmaker Intel to create the device.

Switzerland dominates the high-end watch sector but it remains to be seen whether it can reproduce the same interest so-called wearable tech.

Jean-Claude Biver, president of LVMH's watch division, claims that the move into making smartwatches made sense and that Tag Heuer's device would stand out from other smartwatches [BBC].

Limited market

However the take-up of wearable devices has been relatively slow.

Smartwatches main let-down is that they drain power too quickly and have to charged on a regular basis. The design of many devices has also been criticised. Indeed some have all the aesthetics of a brick, albeit a rather small brick.

Smartwatches have to be tethered to a smartphone by Bluetooth and enable a user to receive notifications without having to delve into their pocket.


But there are limitations to the devices. Given the size only a small amount of information can be shown and inputting information, even with voice commands is often fraught with problems.

Nonetheless Google and Apple have both invested millions of dollars in developing devices, although Apple's first smartwatch is not due to hit stores until April.

The Apple Watch will be available to pre-order on 10th April, and will go on sale on the 24th April. It will initially be available in nine countries, including the UK, Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and France.

But those wanting to own the much hyped device may need to dig deep into their pockets with the most expensive 18 karat gold model costing around $17,000 or £13,500. Most will likely opt for the cheapest model priced at about starts at $349  or £299.

Android wear

Google currently offer four devices in its Play Store. The Samsung Gear Live, the LG G watch, the Moto 360 and the Asus ZenWatch. Prices start at £169 and those buying directly from the Google Play store get a £50 credit to purchase films, music, books or apps.

Some devices even claim to be waterproof, and sport toughened glass. But without power, the ability to charge the device and without a decent data connection, smartwatches are less than useless.

Data issues

Take an international traveller for example. Standing at Heathrow waiting for a flight, the watch might prove to be invaluable as it alerts the user to the latest flight updates, emails, nearby deals and weather information at one's destination.

Having boarded the flight, there is the issue of whether the device would be considered an electronic flight risk and, like phones and laptops, be required to be switched off. Even if it were to comply with FAA rules, even with a Bluetooth link to one's phone, there would be little one could do other than perhaps control music playback. Furthermore, by the time the traveller arrived at their destination the watch would surely be flat.

But aside the power issues there is the problem concerning data usage. At home, it is unlikely to be a major issue. But data roaming is notoriously expensive, and without that all important data connection the electronic wizardry in the device is somewhat useless.

Traditional competition

Indeed it hard to envisage smartwatches pushing out traditional watches which may be self winding, solar powered or contain batteries that last for years. Tradition watches also come in a variety of form factors to fit many different needs. There are expensive Rolex watches that may simply tell the time, or the ever popular rugged Casio range of G-shock or Pro-Trek watches which may offer such things as temperature and barometric readings, an altimeter, a compass and lunar phases.

But it's early days yet. With a traditional watch maker such as Tag Heuer's moving towards smartwatch technology others may follow suit. Indeed a Casio G-shock or Pro-Trek smartwatch may well increase interest in what otherwise remain a niche market

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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