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A glimpse of the smartwatch of 2020

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 8, 2015
Fashion is a big driver, as is battery life, and more functions.

zeclock kronoz
The ZeClock smartwatch from Kronoz will sell for US$99.

What will smartwatches look like and how will they function in 2020?

Today there are already hundreds of models from dozens of vendors, some focused on fashion, while others have a sleek, modern design and functions that include cameras, cellular or Wi-Fi wireless connections and more.

In five years, some industry insiders said they would like smartwatches to be as fully functioning as smartphones, only smaller and able to run apps as well as make calls and take photos.

Others said smartwatches will be restricted to a limited number of functions, while still tied to smartphones or other devices, in order to preserve battery power.

At International CES this week, there were many opinions on how smartwatches will evolve in the next five years. Some smartwatch makers expect their future devices will have more functions and internal components like a Near Field Communications chip for making mobile payments as the upcoming Apple Watch will do with Apple Pay.

Others disagree, at least for now, about adding in NFC or any other form of payments capability.

"We don't think [payment capability] is what a fashion-focused consumer wants," said Rob Pomponio, senior vice president for creative services at Guess Watches, a subsidiary of Timex.

Pomponio was on the show floor at CES showing off the Guess Connect smartwatch that uses technology from smartwatch maker Martian. The Guess Connect is expected to go on sale sometime in the fall for about $350. The Guess Connect can receive alerts and make calls with a Bluetooth connection to an Android or iOS smartphone, among other functions.

But it's most notable feature isn't smartwatch technology at all. "Our biggest feature is that the Connect looks like a watch," Pomponio said from the Martian booth on the show floor. Like the Mica watch supported by Intel, the focus of the Connect is to get users interested in smartwatches through their fashion sense.

Pomponio said a business executive in New York City might want an elegant-looking watch like the Connect to receive notifications and texts from a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. An OLED strip at the bottom of the watch face can be used to read texts, but quick responses can be made via voice-to-text to keep the operation hands-free.

Along with Guess Connect, there were watches from Martian and a dozen other lesser-known vendors in a special smartwatch section at CES. They included Beijing-based RibX Tech, with a smartwatch that uses a titanium alloy for ruggedness. Also smartwatch makers Burg, Cogito and Kronoz each showed several different models, including some with voice capabilities. Most will sell in the coming year for $100 to $300. Kronoz had an analog-faced smartwatch called the ZeClock that will sell for $99 later this month, and will include a microphone and other capabilities.


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