Kindle Watch may or may not arrive in 2013. However, wearable computing, and in particular smart watches, are turning into the ‘Hot New Market’ in devices. Amazon will jump in sooner or later.
Here’s a list of the main existing and rumored smart watches. These will all be Kindle Watch competitors and provide great lessons for Amazon as to what Kindle Watch should be and what it shouldn’t be.
- Signs that Apple iWatch is imminent – Apple has trademarked ‘iWatch’ in Russia and Japan, Apple has hired the former CEO of Fashion House YSL as a Vice President of Special Projects.
- When Apple iWatch might arrive – Fall 2013.
- Possible Price – $250 to $450 range.
- Pros – From Apple, so it should work well with existing iPhones and iPads. Lots of accessories. Lots of Apps.
- Cons – From Apple, so it will probably not work well with Android and Windows phones. Straps will probably be called Smart Straps and be $55.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Huge. If Apple does a good job on this then Kindle Watch will only be left with the lower end of the market.
- Potential Innovations: Hard to say. Perhaps a very large curved screen that is more than just the watch face, it’s half the strap too. This is the area where Apple rocked other phone makers, and this is the area where iWatch might win again – a screen so large people don’t expect it. What better than having the strap be part of the screen?
Apple iWatch is unlikely to be the hard-to-stop juggernaut it would have been if Steve Jobs had been alive. However, it should be a very strong product. What does that mean? Instead of 80% market share, expect iWatch to gobble up 40% market share, including 70% of the upper end of the smart phone market.
Could iWatch be a flop? Well, only if smart watches aren’t a viable market. Keep in mind that a lot of Apple customers are by now trained to buy pretty much anything Apple releases (based on past great experiences). Only a real clunker would fail to sell. Perhaps there just isn’t a big market for smart watches – That would obviously result in failure too.
Samsung Smart Watch
- Signs that Samsung Smart Watch is imminent – Samsung confirmed its working on a smart watch, Samsung trademarked ‘Gear’ recently.
- When Samsung Smart Watch might arrive – Fall 2013 to End 2013.
- Possible Price – $100 to $400, multiple models.
- Pros – From Samsung, should be decently made, should be available everywhere, should be lots of models to choose from.
- Cons – Without Apple’s inspiration, will it be good? (Just being realistic here – even Apple is struggling without Jobs, so Samsung having struggles is a very realistic scenario).
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Huge. Samsung goes for the high-end and the low-end. If Samsung does a good job, it might be the end of Kindle Watch. Note: Apple customers will mostly choose iWatch. That means that a very good non-Apple Smart Watch would kill everyone other than Apple and that particular smart watch maker.
- Potential Innovations: Samsung certainly tries lots of things like gesture based navigation, stylus control, and new software ideas. Definitely expect to see some cool stuff in Samsung Smart Watch.
Samsung’s Smart Watches (for there will certainly be multiple models) will be a tough, tough competitor. They will also be more in direct competition with Kindle Watch and might play a big role in deciding how Kindle Watch does.
Quick Note on Samsung, Apple vs Kindle Watch
Just the strength of Apple and Samsung is a huge danger to Amazon’s Kindle Watch.
If one or both of iWatch and Samsung SmartWatch are strong offerings, it’ll become difficult for Amazon to dominate in smart watches, or even do well. As we will see further on in this post, smart watches might end up becoming a ridiculously tough market to compete in.
Amazon also has to consider the massive user bases Samsung and Apple have accrued. There’s no way Amazon can compete with those if it doesn’t bring a revolutionary (or revolutionarily cheap) Kindle Watch to market.
Google Smart Watch
- Signs that Google Smart Watch is imminent – rumors, a concept design for the Google Smart Watch, a patent for a Google Smart Watch. There’s also the fact that Google is making Google Glass and is therefore more likely to be doing other wearable computing devices.
- When Google Smart Watch might arrive – Fall 2013 to Fall 2014. It’s quite possible that Google views Google Smart Watch as its ‘secret’ project, while Google Glass is its public project.
- Possible Price – $100 to $200. Very, very likely that Google cares an awful lot about location based advertising and views Google Smart Watch as a means to track customers and advertise to them. It would, therefore, sell Google Smart Watch at a very cheap price.
- Pros – It’ll be priced to sell, it’ll run on Android and probably work well with Android phones and tablets.
- Cons – Might look like something the cat dragged in, won’t be easy to use (more oriented towards tech people).
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Huge. Google targets the lower end of the market like Amazon. Both companies take the long-term view i.e. get devices into customers’ hands and then make money from them down the line. They are in direct competition in many areas.
- Potential Innovations: Hard to say. Google might leverage some of the same ideas it’s used in Google Glass.
A Google Smart Watch would be interesting. How does it fit in with Google Glass? How does it fit in with Android devices? I think Google’s Smart Watch can only benefit from everything Google is learning from Google Glass.
Microsoft Smart Watch
- Signs that a Microsoft Smart Watch is being worked on – Just rumors.
- When Microsoft Smart Watch might arrive – Fall 2013? Fall 2014?
- Possible Price – Hard to say. Microsoft seems very interested in the high-end and business markets. It’ll probably try to go with a $250 to $350 Smart Watch aimed at the corporate market and the upper end of the consumer market.
- Pros – It’ll work well with Microsoft devices and PCs. It should be well-made if Surface is any indicator. It’ll run on Windows, which, thanks to Windows 8.1, should be familiar and easy to use.
- Cons – It might not work well with Android and iOS. It will be expensive. The first 2 versions might be quite terrible.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Moderate. Microsoft will target the business market and the high-end consumer market. Amazon doesn’t cater specifically to those markets.
- Potential Innovations: Microsoft certainly delivered well-made devices with Surface RT and Surface Pro. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Microsoft delivered a really well-made Microsoft Smart Watch.
Microsoft is the Dark Horse. With Surface Pro and Surface RT it showed it can make beautiful hardware. With its trackbacks on Windows 8.1 (start button), and Xbox One (DRM restrictions reduced), it has shown that it’s willing to listen to feedback. After a string of failures in hardware (apart from the Xbox), Microsoft has been edging closer and closer to getting things right and delivering a real winner. The Microsoft Smart Watch might be it.
Qualcomm TOQ Smart Watch
- Signs that Qualcomm TOQ Smart Watch is imminent – Qualcomm filed a name trademark for a device called “Qualcomm TOQ” back on June 26th.
- When Qualcomm TOQ might arrive – Never. Qualcomm has a long history of talking about things they never release (Foldable Tablets, Mirasol eReaders).
- Possible Price – $250 to $300. Qualcomm, if it releases, is perhaps going to target the high end.
- Pros – Qualcomm makes it.
- Cons – Arrival in doubt.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: None. It’s highly unlikely that it arrives and thus can’t be considered a threat at this stage.
- Potential Innovations: Qualcomm has a LOT of technology, including some very cool things. It could spice things up if it does get Qualcomm TOQ Smart Watch to market.
Here’s what Qualcomm describes it as –
a “personal communication hub in the form of a wristwatch; portable electronic devices for transmitting and reviewing text, data, image, and audio files, hands free device for mobile phones; battery chargers.”
That certainly suggests a smart watch that communicates with your smart phones and tablets.
(Hon Hai Precision) Foxconn Smart Watch
Hon Hai is the company that manufactures iPhones, Xboxes, and most of the electronics devices we use.
- Hon Hai (also known as Foxconn) has confirmed and demoed its Smart Watch (more on Foxconn’s Smart Watch).
- When Foxconn Smart Watch will arrive – Fall 2013 supposedly. Wouldn’t it be fun if they named it the Fox. What’s that on your wrist? A Foxconn Fox.
- Price – Perhaps in the $100 to $200 range. Foxconn is the King of making devices cheap. Would not be a surprise if the FoxConn Fox Smart Watch were one of the cheapest (while still very well made).
- Pros – Foxconn makes all the best hardware devices.
- Cons – Foxconn makes all the worst hardware devices too. It literally makes every other consumer device sold in the US. It would be Foxconn’s first attempt at selling its own consumer device in a Hot New Market.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Not really. Foxconn doesn’t really have much of a brand in the US or anywhere else.
- Potential Innovations – Foxconn might release a rather cheap Smart Watch that interfaces with Apple devices. All those people who bought an iDevice despite it being slightly out of their budgets will probably love the eminently affordable Foxconn Fox SmartWatch.
FoxConn is an extremely dangerous company in the long run. No one else can manufacture like it can. No one else can manufacture at scale like it can. Apple perhaps didn’t learn its lesson fully from what Samsung did (went from supplier to most dangerous competitor). FoxConn can be just as dangerous a competitor in the long run.
It would be one heck of a cosmic joke if Apple’s death came at the hands of its chip supplier and its device manufacturer. If Foxconn does well in devices, then it might very well happen.
Sony SmartWatch 2
- Sony Smart Watch 2 is confirmed. Here’s a CNet review of the Sony SmartWatch 2.
- When Sony Smart Watch 2 will arrive – September 2013. Confirmed.
- Price – Sony SmartWatch 1 was $149 at launch and is now at $99. Smart Watch 2 will perhaps be $129 to $149 at launch.
- Pros – This is the second iteration. It should be much improved over the slightly disappointing first one (as claimed by reviewers). Sony generally makes very good devices (construction wise). Sony Smart Watch 2 will have NFC and be water-resistant.
- Cons – Sony Smart Watch 1 isn’t really very smart or impressive.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Not really. Sony has lost its magic touch in devices not named Playstation 4.
- Potential Innovations – Not very many.
Sony didn’t really deliver with Smart Watch 1. It seems to like to prod and probe without really fully committing itself. It’s an interesting strategy, but it leaves the markets open for companies that go all out (Kindle is one example).
Pebble Smart Watch
- Pebble SmartWatch is already available. You can also buy it from BestBuy.
- When Pebble will be available – Already available.
- Price: $149.
- Pros – Made by a small, hungry start-up that was funded via Kickstarter, ePaper screen so impressive battery life, already available. The App ecosystem is just kicking off.
- Cons – No LCD screen so no color and people who like LCD won’t buy it.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Slight. Kindle Watch is unlikely to have an ePaper screen, so Pebble is playing in a slightly different market.
- Innovations: Lots. Perhaps the biggest innovation was to get huge crowd funding and show there’s big demand. Would be interesting to find out if some of the Smart Watches currently being worked on by the Giant Tech Companies were inspired by the success Pebble saw in its crowd funding efforts.
Pebble proved there’s demand for smart watches. Nothing quite like getting tens of thousands of people to pay $150, 6-9 months in advance, to show there’s market demand for a product. However, is this a market of hundreds of millions of device sales per year? Or is it just a niche market with a very enthusiastic customer base that is creating the false perception that the market is huge.
Quick Note on Fitness Smart Watches
We won’t discuss fitness smart watches like WearIt (article discussing WearIt) and Nike+ Fuel. Those are targeting a different demographic and aren’t really going after the same market as the Smart Watches discussed here.
Android.ly Smart Watch
- Android.ly is already available. You can buy it for 150 pounds. It’s made by a group in India that includes a lawyer (handy when Apple claims it has patented the concept of a watch worn on the wrist), a computer programmer, another founder, and a teenager.
- Available Now!
- Price: 150 pounds ($229).
- Pros: A full android device with USB port, camera, makes and receives phone calls, large screen, interesting shape, GPS, full Android Store, full Android operating system.
- Cons: Unknown company, priced very high, screen looks sketchy (or perhaps they just don’t know how to take proper photos).
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Unlikely.
- Innovations: A lot. Who would have thought a small watch could take calls, be a full Android device, and have a USB port. Have to give credit to them for delivering quite an impressive device.
It’s quite a full-featured watch –
The watch does not just make and receive calls but has a capacitive 2″ touch screen and can be used for text messaging, emails, music, games and anything else your heart may desire.
The watch also comes with a 2 mega pixel camera, GPS, WiFi compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity and a male USB port at the end of the watch strap, making it the smallest android device in the world.
If I had 150 pounds lying around, I would definitely give this a try. The fact that it’s a smart phone+watch makes it a winner.
Neptune Pine Smart Watch
- Neptune Pine is set to ship in Fall 2013. It’s made by a startup based in Montreal.
- Availability – Fall 2013. More details on website (link on previous line). Also see discussion at Quartz about the Montreal based startup that, like Android.ly, is making a full smart phone+watch.
- Price – $335.
- Pros – Very impressive tech specs including WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC. Looks good. Dual Cameras. Like Android.ly, this is a FULL Android Device. It’s a phone too. Supports full Android.
- Cons – Price. Will this company be able to deliver? It’s not easy making a consumer device.
I’m definitely going to buy this. Have to support any Montreal teenagers who make cool watches instead of demonstrating on the streets for vague reasons.
It’s very interesting to me that the only two smart watches I actually find exciting are Android.ly and Neptune Pine. Perhaps Apple and Samsung will get the memo too and release full devices, not just Phone accessories. Actually, pretty sure at least one of them will deliver something as exciting as Android.ly and Neptune Pine.
Acer Smart Watch
- Acer has said that it will release an Acer Smart Watch in 2014.
- Available – 2014.
- Price – Unknown. It’s Acer so it’ll be low-end or mid-end.
- Pros: Acer makes a lot of devices, some of which are really good. Acer definitely knows how to make decent devices. I have a 120 Hz 3D Monitor from Acer that has been spectacular (well, only use the 120 Hz part, so don’t know about the 3D).
- Cons: Acer sometimes makes terrible devices.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Quite High. An Acer Smart Watch will target the same markets as the Kindle Watch. Acer is strong in Asia and Europe.
- Innovations: Hard to say. Acer sometimes makes really good devices. Perhaps Acer’s Smart Watch will be a winner too.
Acer jumping into Smart Watches makes sense. It already makes a lot of devices. It already has retail paretnerships and the supply chain and relationships and partners it needs to make, distribute, and sell a Smart Watch.
Asus Smart Watch
- There are rumors of an Asus Smart Watch. There is also a high probability that Google’s Smart Watch (like Google’s Nexus Tablets) will be made by Asus.
- Available – Unknown.
- Price – Unknown. It’s Asus so there will probably be a low-end Asus Smart Watch and a high-end Asus Smart Watch.
- Pros: Asus makes some very good devices. Asus understands technology very well.
- Cons: Asus sometimes skimps on quality.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: High. Asus might deliver both the Google Smart Watch and its own Asus-branded Smart Watch. Both of these will compete directly with Kindle Watch.
- Innovations: Asus tries some really interesting things. It had started the netbook craze (before handicapping it to protect its laptop business).
An Asus Smart Watch has a decent chance of doing well and grabbing 5% to 20% market share. It’s also very likely to compete directly against Kindle Watch.
- Dell has confirmed that it is looking into wearable computing – a Dell SmartWatch makes the most sense.
- Availability – Unknown. Perhaps in 2014.
- Price – Unknown. Knowing Dell there will be a variety of prices, though it might focus on business and be expensive.
- Pros: Dell makes some really good technology (monitors, Alienware). Will be customizable. A variety of models.
- Cons: Dell makes some really bad technology (some of the computers). Might be expensive.
- Threat to Kindle Watch: Moderate. If Dell releases a winner, then it will definitely affect Kindle Watch sales. However, the chances of Dell releasing a winning Dell SmartWatch are somewhat low.
- Innovations: Don’t really expect much from Dell in terms of innovations.
It’s really interesting that so many companies, including slow movers like Dell, are getting into the Smart Watch space. It’s one thing for it to be a proven market. It’s quite another to assume that two crowd-funded successes means there is a big market. If the market is so big, then why isn’t Sony’s SmartWatch a big success?
Perhaps no one has made the right Smart Watch. Perhaps no one has sold the right Smart Watch vision (why do you think Apple is hiring YSL’s CEO). Perhaps there is no market for smart watches.
Kindle Watch vs Kindle Watch Competitors – Closing Thoughts
As Quartz puts it – Smart Watches don’t have any visionary ‘one smart watch to rule them all’. What we do have is an intensely competitive market in the making. The strong demand for crowd-funded smart watches suggests there might be a huge market for smart watches (might being the key word). 34% of smart phone owners have stated a desire to own a smart watch. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee a huge smart watch market – it merely dangles the promise of it.
There are perhaps big opportunities for Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and all the other Smart Watch contenders. A device that is exceptionally well made and/or is very innovative has a high chance of doing very, very well. If it is a truly big market, then even 2 to 4 companies might prosper and thrive.
Apple and Samsung are, quite understandably, the heavy favorites. However, Amazon and Google and Microsoft can’t be ruled out. Neither can the upstarts like Pebble and Android.ly, some of which are being very innovative.
I’d like for Android.ly and Neptune Pine and Pebble to have a shot, since they have the most interesting ideas and the best actual devices. However, without the support of a giant like Samsung or Foxconn or Microsoft, they don’t really have much of a chance.
Amazon and Kindle Watch have their work cut out. If Kindle Watch skimps on both quality and innovation, then it will struggle in the emerging, extremely competitive smart watch market. If Kindle Watch gets it right on quality and/or innovation, then it has a great chance of capturing a significant portion of the emerging Smart Watch Market.
The last twist? Kindle Watch might be the most amazing device ever invented and it might still fail. What if everyone’s bet on there existing a latent, huge, emerging smart watch market are wrong?