Swatch is developing its own operating system for an all-new smartwatch intended to compete directly with Apple Watch and Android Wear, according to company CEO Nick Hayek (via Bloomberg). The new smartwatch will be an addition to the Tissot brand, a subsidiary of The Swatch Group, and is set to launch towards the end of 2018.
With its debut so far out, details remain scarce on both the watch itself and the Swatch-made user interface, but Hayek mentioned that the technology will require less battery power and will "protect data better." According to Hayek, the company's strategy will give Swatch the chance to become a worthy competitor to Apple and Samsung wearables because of its focus on a beefy battery which wouldn't require users to charge the watch every day, or every other day, like Apple Watch.
Swatch’s approach will work better because it’s trying to “think small” as one of the biggest problem for wearable devices is battery drainage, Hayek said, speaking at the Biel, Switzerland headquarters of Omega, another of 18 brands that Swatch produces.
“There’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturize and have an independent operating system,” the CEO said.
Luca Solca, an analyst who follows the luxury watch industry, pointed out that Swatch's own-made OS could be the company's first mistake. “People use smartwatches expecting to use the same apps they have on their mobiles," Solca explained. "A proprietary operating system defeats the object.” Swatch said it is willing to give its OS to third parties for the creation of apps, and about half of the parties interested originate from small companies in Silicon Valley who "don’t want to be dependent on Android and iOS."
The Tissot brand is set to launch its first smartwatch (seen in the image above), called the Tissot Smart Touch. The watch was announced a year ago and was set to launch in 2016, but it never appeared for users to order. When it does, Smart Touch will be a solar-powered wearable able to connect to iOS and Android smartphones, and include abilities like leading users to lost keys.
The Smart Touch will also include accessories like a standalone weather station that connects to the wearable and offers "hyper local weather information" like temperature, humidity, and air quality. With a debut so far out, it's unclear whether Swatch's new smartwatch will include any of the Smart Touch's features, or even what it might look like.
Although some smart wearable companies, like Fitbit, are facing troubled waters in the market, Apple Watch has become a "magnificent success" for Apple thanks to a boost in holiday sales in 2016. If the Swatch smartwatch debuts in late 2018, it would likely enter the market as a competitor to the Apple Watch Series 4.
Right now, rumors are understandably focused on the 2017 Apple Watch Series 3, with some suggesting the line's first major form factor change, and others theorizing that the wearable will see yet another iterative update this year with feature additions including cellular connectivity and the expected under-the-hood performance enhancements.
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I have not one problem with my AW2’s battery life. Even yesterday, after wearing it for 17 hours (including running 14 miles), I still had over 40% battery life when I removed the watch and set it on my bedside charger.
Only if the watch were tracking sleep, would it currently need longer battery life. And even then, I believe Apple would come up with a much better solution than having to wear a device on one’s wrist. I sleep with nothing on. I’m certainly not going to wear a watch to bed!
In the beginning, the AW was marketed high to so that it would offer aspirational qualities. The gold watches and link to fashion were part of this (the other part was to have something available for wealthy and stylish folks that might avoid a geeky plebeian aluminum or stainless wrist computer.). All this was to assure initial success in the Battle for the Wrist. This was about buzz building and it worked. The gold was retired. Now the ceramic is there for a tech and style crowd (think Rado).
Now, By keeping mildly upgrading the performance of the original design and having it at a price point below the original design Apple has created access to the budget constrained end of the market (youth, businesses, insurance) by targeting other wearables.
At the upper market end, Apple will continue to conquest the timepiece/jewelry segment and at the lower end it will bring the aforementioned budget customers into the market. This alone will continue erode the businesses of traditional watchmakers as well as the newer wearable firms.
When you add into the mix the stickiness of Apple's h/w s/w Services ecosystem, the potential breadth and depth of penetration of the virtuous cycle opportunity standing before Apple (and the likelihood of vicious cycles against the watch/wearable manufacturers) is amazing and set to accelerate as more features and better performance come and things like IoT become more prevalent.
Nick's attempts here, first the Bellamy and now this are about all a watchmaker can do, but I don't think what are pale competitors, on the tech content, will be enough to stem the tide. It's kind of like adding acetylene lamps onto your coaches even as the motorcar is increasing in popularity. Aping a specific functionality on an increasingly obsolete technical platform, can be no savior or growth avenue, it is a delaying tactic at best.
Additionally, I don't think Nick's secondarily offered USP of security can move the needle against Apple; only a fool would claim that they might develop better security than Apple. It can only realistically be a dig against Android (because lousy Android security) but if a (normal person, not super anti-walled-garden technogeeks) person is really serious about security they probably are on iOS already and are unreachable or will grow unreachable as the AW matures and the iOS users buy their next wrist device.
As a boy, I always wanted an Omega because Moon & Olympics... as an adult, I've had two nice Omega's but in a daily basis I wear my Apple Watch. ((What comes in the future when a kid today hears of a custom NASA Apple Watch on the ISS (acrylic crystal instead of glass) or the first manned SpaceX or BlueOrigin flight? Or hears the USOC is using the AW to improve training and augment data capture?))
Many think that Swatch's 45% decline in profit was due to chinese macroeconomics, but I think the decline is more permanent. There may be a rebound of some kind, but that ball will bounce lower and lower each time as the customers become less accessible. Even Swatch's adapted application of Sloan's Ladder of Success will, due to externalities and limitations Swatch's own tech portfolio, begin to shed steps, making it harder and harder to get a young customer in the house and to retain that customer against the encroachment of smart watches.
Watchmakers are going to have to contend with the collapse of their margins and markets as they are relegated to a niche of occasionally worn jewelry for people wanting to make a statement or who buy into the Patek Philippe "heirloom" marketing b.s.