aNewDomain — Tick tock. If new smartwatches made the same sounds as old clocks, the dent made on the surrounding CES din would have been even stronger. It seemed as though a new smartwatch sprang up every time you turned around at CES 2015.
I counted over 35 smartwatch exhibitors at this year’s extravaganza, ranging alphabetically from Alcatel to Withings. Quite likely there were even more. Thirteen vendors chose to present their watches in a smartphone showcase hosted by CES. Other smartwatches got rollouts at media events like CES Unveiled, Pepcom, Showstoppers and at vendor-specific press conferences.
The footprint from watches this year approached tablets’ penetration level back at CES 2010. Five years ago, tablet manufacturers weren’t about to wait for Apple’s then impending first iPad. Now, with the Apple Watch around the corner, competitors are pulling out all the stops on getting their new smartwatches out the door fast.
Companies are coming into the market from all kinds of directions. Garmin, a maker of GPS equipment and gear, entered the smart-device space for the first time with three models that beg to be taken on camping or hiking trips to rugged places. Withings, a specialist in healthcare monitoring devices, has brought its own brand of expertise to bear on smartwatches, which are now priced as low as $150.
Some watches are focused on athletics, while others harp on aesthetics. Polar, for example, already has a long history as a sports watch manufacturer. On the other hand, Swarovski, a maker of women’s jewelry, has now teamed with Misfit on the Swarovski Shine Collection, a family of watch bands, bracelets and pendants which are compatible with a huge crystal housing Misfit’s sensor technology.
Here are six of the most distinctive new smart watches from CES 2015
LG Audi Smartwatch
Consumer electronic titans like LG and Sony have been among the earliest pioneers of the smartwatch biz. LG’s latest entry wasn’t formally announced at CES. Instead, it was teased at an Audi press conference on Tuesday and then tracked down afterward by the press.
Unlike LG’s three current watches, which run Android, the new one runs webOS. Also at CES, LG rolled out TVs with WebOS inside. But, as it turns out, LG will make the new watches for Audi, presumably for use with in-car systems.
At the show, a prototype of this slick new watch was outfitted with messaging, email, calendar and health-oriented apps. It offered a metallic finish and a leather strap.
GoldKey Secure Communicator
GoldKey hails from the land of computer security, so it’s not astonishing to find capabilities for secure email, encrypted cloud storage and the Gold Pay payment system aboard the company’s new watch.
It’s not astounding, either, that GoldKey chose gold as the color for the chassis.
What’s surprising is that, if you forget about the wristband, GoldKey Secure Communicator looks a lot like a miniature Android phone. Similarities include the navigation buttons, which show up below the bezel, plus a volume rocker and power button on the right-hand side. The watch also features a microphone at the bottom edge, a 5 MP camera at the top edge and a SIM card slot on the left-hand side for 3G GSM network connectivity.
Evidently, these similarities are hardly accidental on GoldKey’s part. In its promotional materials, GoldKey contends that “a serious user can shed the conventional cell phone by moving a SIM card to the Communicator and leaving the old phone behind.”
Epson, a name familiar from the world of printing, entered the smartwatch arena at CES with a highly specific niche watch. As its name makes clear, the Epson Runsense is a watch for runners. Touted as waterproof up to 50 millimeters, the watch comes in three models.
All models, including the entry-level SF-510, provide GPS for tracking pace and distance. All give you a finish time estimate plus a “stride sensor” for calibrating stride length in case the GPS goes down.
Epson rolled out the three new watches — along with Pulsense activity trackers and the M-Tracer MT500GII Golf Swing Analyzer — at a CES press conference early in the week.
Alcatel One Touch
Budget-friendly smartwatches are now emerging, and Alcatel is one of the first to offer one in the $150 price range.
The Alcatel One Touch uses its own OS — with its own apps and icons — but it’s able to display notifications from both Android and iOS smartphones. (So far the watch can receive notifications from more Android apps than iOS apps.) The One Touch also includes its own weather, compass, phone finder, camera, shutter, music player and stop watch apps, which is a pretty impressive line-up.
Also, in a clever move, you don’t need a dock for the One Touch, because a USB port is included in the strap. Right now, rubber straps are all you can get, but metallic bands are due out soon.
Lenovo Vibe Band VB10
Lenovo introduced its first wearable at CES, and the Android 4.4-based device is set to sell at the even lower price point of $89 when it ships starting in April.
The Vibe Band VB10 features an E Ink display for low power consumption. Battery life for this always-on gadget is touted at seven days. Supporting 150 characters on the screen at any one time, the Vibe Band is designed to show notifications for texts, calls, social media and so forth.
It will also work as a pedometer and heart rate monitor.
The Bluetooth LE (low energy) connectible device is aimed at compatibility with both Android and iOS phones. It will come in a choice of gold, black, and silver.
And that’ll do it. It’s sure to be an exciting year for telling time, among a number of other things.
Second Image: Courtesy of GoldKey
Third Image: Courtesy of Alcatel