A smartwatch is a wearable computer in the form of a watch; modern smartwatches provide a local touchscreen interface for daily use, while an associated smartphone app provides for management and telemetry (such as long-term biomonitoring). While early models could perform basic tasks, such as calculations, digital time telling, translations, and game-playing, 2010s smartwatches have more general functionality closer to smartphones, including mobile apps, a mobile operating system and WIFI/Bluetooth connectivity. Some smartwatches function as portable media players, with FM radio and playback of digital audio and video files via a Bluetooth headset. Some models, called ‘watch phones’ (or vice versa), have mobile cellular functionality like making calls.
While internal hardware varies, most have an electronic visual display, either backlit LCD or OLED. Some use transflective or electronic paper, to consume less power. They are generally powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Peripheral devices may include digital cameras, thermometers, accelerometers, pedometers, heart rate monitors, altimeters, barometers, compasses, GPS receivers, tiny speakers, and microSD cards, which are recognized as storage devices by many other kinds of computers.
Software may include digital maps, schedulers and personal organizers, calculators, and various kinds of watch faces. The watch may communicate with external devices such as sensors, wireless headsets, or a heads-up display. Like other computers, a smartwatch may collect information from internal or external sensors and it may control, or retrieve data from, other instruments or computers. It may support wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. For many purposes, a “watch computer” serves as a front end for a remote system such as a smartphone, communicating with the smartphone using various wireless technologies. Smartwatches are advancing, especially their design, battery capacity, and health-related applications. Health-related applications include applications measuring heart rate, SpO2, workout etc.
History of a smart watch early years
The first digital watch, which debuted in 1972, was the Pulsar manufactured by Hamilton Watch Company. “Pulsar” became a brand name which would later be acquired by Seiko in 1978. In 1982, a Pulsar watch (NL C01) was released which could store 24 digits, making it most likely the first watch with user-programmable memory, or “memorybank” watch. With the introduction of personal computers in the 1980s, Seiko began to develop computers in the form of watches. The Data 2000 watch (1983) came with an external keyboard for data-entry. Data was synced from the keyboard to the watch via electro-magnetic coupling (wireless docking). The name comes from its ability to store 2000 characters. The D409 was the first Seiko model with on-board data entry (via a miniature keyboard) and featured a dot matrix display. Its memory was tiny, at only 112 digits. It was released in 1984, in gold, silver and black. These models were followed by many others by Seiko during the 1980s, most notably the “RC Series”: During the 1980s, Casio began to market a successful line of “computer watches”, in addition to its calculator watches. Most notable was the Casio data bank series. Novelty “game watches”, such as the Nelsonic game watches, were also produced by Casio and other companies.
Seiko RC series
The RC-1000 Wrist Terminal was the first Seiko model to interface with a computer, and was released in 1984. It was developed by Seiko Epson and was powered by a computer on a chip. It was compatible with most of the popular PCs of that time, including Apple II, II+ and IIe, the Commodore 64, IBM PC, NEC 8201, Tandy Color Computer, Model 1000, 1200, 2000 and TRS-80 Model I, III, 4 and 4p. The RC-20 Wrist Computer was released in 1985, under the joint brand name “Seiko Epson”. It had a SMC84C00 8-bit Z-80 microprocessor; 8 KB of ROM and 2 KB of RAM. It had applications for scheduling, memos, and world time and a four-function calculator app. The dot-matrix LCD displayed 42×32 pixels, and more importantly, was touch-sensitive. Like the RC-1000, it could be connected to a personal computer, in this case through a proprietary cable. It was also notable in that it could be programmed, although its small display and limited storage severely limited application development. The RC-4000 PC Data graph also released in 1985, was dubbed the “world’s smallest computer terminal”. It had 2 KB of storage. The RC-4500 (1985), also known as the Wrist Mac, had the same features as the RC-4000, but came in a variety of bright, flashy colors.
The Timex Datalink wristwatch, was introduced in 1994. The early Timex Datalink Smartwatches realized a wireless data transfer mode to communicate with a PC. Appointments and contacts created with Microsoft Schedule+, the predecessor of MS Outlook, could be easily transmitted to the watch via a screen blinking light protocol.
In 1998, Steve Mann invented, designed, and built the world’s first Linux wristwatch, which he presented at IEEE ISSCC2000 on 7 February 2000, where he was named “the father of wearable computing”. See also Linux Journal, where Mann’s Linux wristwatch appeared on the cover and was the feature article of LJ Issue 75. Seiko launched the Ruputer in Japan – a wristwatch computer with a 3.6 MHz processor. It was not very successful, since instead of a touchscreen it used a joystick-like device to input characters (much like high scores in arcade games), and the small screen with a resolution at 102×64 in 4 greyscales made it hard to read large amounts of text. Outside of Japan, this watch was distributed as the Matsucom onHand PC. Despite the rather low demand, the Matsucom onHand PC was distributed until 2006, making it a smartwatch with a rather long life cycle. Ruputer and onHand PC applications are 100% compatible. This watch is sometimes considered the first smartwatch since it was the first watch to offer graphics display (albeit monochrome) and many 3rd party applications (mostly homebrew).
In 1999, Samsung launched the world’s first watch phone, the SPH-WP10. It had a protruding antenna, a monochrome LCD screen, and a 90-minutes of talk time with an integrated speaker and microphone.
In June 2000, IBM displayed a prototype for a wristwatch that ran Linux. The original version had only 6 hours of battery life, which was later extended to 12.It featured 8 MB of memory and ran Linux 2.2. The device was later upgraded with an accelerometer, vibrating mechanism, and fingerprint sensor. IBM began to collaborate with Citizen Watch Co. to create the “WatchPad”. The WatchPad 1.5 features a 320 × 240 QVGA monochrome touch sensitive display and runs Linux 2.4. It also features calendar software, Bluetooth, 8 MB of RAM and 16 MB of flash memory. Citizen was hoping to market the watch to students and businessmen, with a retail price of around $399. Epson Seiko introduced their Chrono-bit wristwatch in September 2000. The Chrono-bit watches feature a rotating bezel for data input, synchronize PIM data via a serial cable, and can load custom watch faces.
In 2003, Fossil released the Wrist PDA, a watch which ran the Palm OS and contained 8 MB of RAM and 4 MB of flash memory. It contained a built in stylus to help use the tiny monochrome display, which had a resolution of 160×160 pixels. Although many reviewers declared the watch revolutionary, it was criticized for its weight (108 grams) and was ultimately discontinued in 2005.
In the same year, Microsoft announced the SPOT smartwatch and it began hitting stores in early 2004. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Objects Technology, an initiative by Microsoft to personalize household electronics and other everyday gadgets. For instance, the company demonstrated coffee makers, weather stations, and alarm clocks featuring built-in SPOT technology. The device was a standalone smartwatch that offered information at a glance where other devices would have required more immersion and interaction. The information included weather, news, stock prices, and sports scores and was transmitted through FM waves. It was accessible through a yearly subscription that cost from $39 to $59.
The Microsoft SPOT Watch had a monochrome 90×126 pixel screen. Fossil, Suunto, and Tissot also sold smartwatches running the SPOT technology. For instance, Fossil’s Abacus, which was a variant of the Fossil Wrist PDA, retailed from $130 to $150.
Sony Ericsson teamed up with Fossils, and released the first watch, MBW-100, that connected to Bluetooth. This watch notified the user when receiving calls and text messages. Though the watch was not popular as it would only connect and work with Sony Ericsson cell phones.
In 2009, Hermen van den Burg, CEO of Smartwatch and Burg Wearables, launches Burg the first standalone smartphone watch which has its own sim card and does not require to be tethered to a smartphone. Burg receives the award for the Most Innovative Product at the Canton Fair in April 2009 Also, Samsung launched the S9110 Watch Phone which featured a 1.76-inch (45 mm) color LCD display and was 11.98 millimetres (0.472 in) thin
Sony Ericsson launches the Sony Ericsson LiveView, a wearable watch device which is basically an external Bluetooth display for an Android Smartphone.
Vyzin Electronics Private Limited launched a ZigBee enabled smart watch with cellular connectivity for remote health monitoring called VESAG.
Motorola released MOTOACTV on November 6, 2011.
Pebble (watch) was an innovative smartwatch that raised the most money at the time on Kickstarter reaching $10.3 Million between April 12 and May 18, 2012. The watch has a 32-millimetre (1.26 in) 144 × 168 pixel black and white memory LCD using an ultra low-power “transflective LCD” manufactured by Sharp with a backlight, a vibrating motor, a magnetometer, ambient light sensors, and a three-axis accelerometer. It can communicate with an Android or iOS device using both Bluetooth 2.1 and Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low Energy) using Stonestreet One’s Bluetopia+MFi software stack. Bluetooth 4.0 with low energy (LE) support was not initially enabled, but a firmware update in November 2013 enabled it. The watch is charged using a modified USB-cable that attaches magnetically to the watch to maintain water resistance capability. The battery was reported in April 2012 to last seven days.Based on feedback from Kickstarter backers, the developers added water-resistance to the list of features. The Pebble has a waterproof rating of 5 atm, which means it can be submerged down to 40 metres (130 ft) and has been tested in both fresh and salt water, allowing one to shower, dive or swim while wearing the watch.
In 2013, the claim to first ever smartwatch to capture the full capability of a smartphone was laid by startup Omate with the TrueSmart. The TrueSmart originated from a Kickstarter campaign which raised over 1 million dollars, making it the 5th most successful Kickstarter to date. The TrueSmart made its public debut in early 2014. Consumer device analyst Avi Greengart, from research firm Current Analysis, suggested that 2013 may be the “year of the smartwatch”, as “the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough” and many consumers own smartphones that are compatible with a wearable device. Wearable technology, such as Google Glass, may evolve into a business worth US$6 billion annually and a July 2013 media report, revealed that the majority of major consumer electronics manufacturers were undertaking work on a smartwatch device at the time of publication. The retail price of a smartwatch could be over US$300, plus data charges, while the minimum cost of smartphone-linked devices may be US$100.
As of July 2013, the list of companies that were engaged in smartwatch development activities consists of Acer, Apple, BlackBerry, Foxconn/Hon Hai, Google, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, VESAG and Toshiba. Some notable omissions from this list include HP, HTC, Lenovo, and Nokia. Science and technology journalist Christopher Mims identified the following points in relation to the future of smartwatches:
The physical size of smartwatches is likely to be large.
Insufficient battery life is an ongoing problem for smartwatch developers, as the battery life of devices at the time of publication was three to four days and this is likely to be reduced if further functions are added.
New display technologies will be invented as a result of smartwatch research.
The success level of smartwatches is unpredictable, as they may follow a similar trajectory to netbooks, or they may fulfill aims akin to those of Google Glass, another wearable electronic product.
Acer’s S.T. Liew stated in an interview with British gadget website Pocket-Lint, “… I think every consumer company should be looking at wearable. Wearable isn’t new … it just hasn’t exploded in the way that it should. But the opportunity’s for billions of dollars’ worth of industry.
On 9 September 2014, Apple Inc. announced its first smartwatch called Apple Watch to be released in early 2015. On 24 April 2015, Apple Watch began shipping across the world. Apple’s first try into wearable technology was met with considerable criticism during the pre-launch period, with many early technology reviews citing issues with battery life and hardware malfunctions. However, others praised Apple for creating a potentially fashionable device that can compete with “traditional watches,” not just the smartwatch industry in general. The watch only turns on when activated (either by lifting one’s wrist, touching the screen, or pressing a button). On 29 October 2014, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band, a smart fitness tracker and the company’s first venture into wrist-worn devices since SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) a decade earlier. The Microsoft Band was released at $199 the following day, on 30 October 2014.
In October 2015, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Gear S2. It features a rotating bezel for ease of use, and an IP68 rating for water resistance up to 1.5 meters deep in 30 minutes. The watch is compatible with industry-standard 20 mm straps.
At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Razer released the Nabu Watch, a dual-screen smartwatch: integrates an always-on illuminated backlit display, that takes care of some pretty standard features as date and time, and a second OLED screen, which is activated by raising your wrist, allows access to extra smart features. Luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer released TAG Heuer Connected, a smartwatch powered by Android Wear.
On 31 August 2016, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch, with a higher specifications, there are at least two models, the Samsung Gear S3 Classic and the LTE version Samsung Gear S3 Frontier.
The top smartwatches that debuted at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show included the Casio WSD-F20, Misfit Wearables Vapor and the Garmin Fenix 5 series. Apple released on September 22, 2017 their Apple Watch Series 3 model which offers built in LTE cellular connectivity allowing phone calls, messaging and data without relying on a nearby smartphone connection.
Samsung introduced the LTE Galaxy Watch.
In its September 2018 keynote, Apple introduced a redesigned Apple Watch Series 4. It featured a larger display with smaller bezels, as well as an EKG feature which is built to detect abnormal heart function.
In Qualcomm’s September 2018 presentation, it unveiled its Snapdragon 3100 chip. It is a successor to the Wear 2100, and it includes greater power efficiency, and a separate low power core that can run basic watch functions as well as slightly more advanced functions, such as step tracking
Types of smart watches
Apple Watch is a line of smartwatches designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc. It incorporates fitness tracking and health-oriented capabilities with integration with iOS and other Apple products and services.
Apple Watch relies on a wireless connection to an iPhone to perform many of its default functions such as calling and texting. However, Wi-Fi chips in all Apple Watch models allow the smartwatch to have limited connectivity features away from the phone anywhere a Wi-Fi network is available. Series 3 LTE Apple Watches are able to be used without needing to be consistently connected to an iPhone, though an iPhone is still required to set up the device. First generation and Series 1 and 2 Apple Watches require an iPhone 5s or later with iOS 11; the Series 3 and later LTE models require an iPhone 6 or later with iOS 11 or later.
The Apple Watch was released on April 24, 2015 and quickly became the best-selling wearable device with 4.2 million sold in the second quarter of the 2015 fiscal year.
The second generation of Apple Watches were released in two tiers in September 2016: the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2, while the first generation was discontinued.
The Apple Watch Series 3 was released on September 22, 2017 alongside the discontinuation of the Apple Watch Series 2.
The Apple Watch Series 4 was announced on September 12, 2018, with the Apple Watch Series 1 no longer being produced.
Samsung Gear S
Samsung Gear S is a smartwatch designed and marketed by Samsung Electronics. It was announced on August 28, 2014, as the successor to the Samsung Gear 2 and was released on November 7, 2014. The smartwatch can be modified to run Android 5.1.1 or android wear 6.0.1
Its successor, the Samsung Gear S2, was released on October 2, 2015.
Support extends to at least the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 running android 7.1.1.
LG Watch Urbane LTE
The LG Watch Urbane is a smartwatch released by LG Corporation on April 27, 2015. There are gold and silver models, each with a 22mm-wide interchangeable strap. The watch has IP67 dust and water resistance.
The LG Watch Urbane was equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, 512MB of LPDDR2 RAM, and 4GB of eMMC storage. The OLED display is a POLED variant, with an equivalent resolution to a square display of 320×320, with capacitive touch input.
The watch communicates with its companion Android phone or iPhone using Bluetooth v4.1LE, and has 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n WiFi for synchronizing Google Services data.
The watch has 9 axis movement sensors (gyro, accelerometer, compass), barometer, and heart rate sensor. The watch has a microphone which is used with Google Assistant’s speech recognition. Unlike newer Wear devices it doesn’t have a speaker, it can only vibrate for alerts. The watch charges through contacts on its back, which connect via sprung “pogo” pins to a magnetically clamped puck, and the puck has a microUSB connector and thus requires an external power source.