Wearables Week In Review

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Week In Review

Type My Name

A couple of weeks ago we were focused on advances with Google Assistant that could simplify wearable communication (Don’t Say My Name, April 26). But Google is clearly not putting all of its proverbial eggs in one basket, so to speak, and plans to add the Gboard app to Wear OS. Gboard, popular on Android, in one of those swipeable QWERTY keyboards with intuitive guesses as to what you want to write next. It’s not the first keyboard for Wear OS, it is certainly one of the better available options

The NPD Take:

  • Keyboard typing on a smartwatch? The idea seems somewhat ludicrous based on the size of the watch face and it promotes a vision of watches getting bigger and bigger over time. Just as the phone has evolved to be the size of a small tablet, perhaps the watch will evolve to be the size of a small phone? Let’s hope not!
  • While it’s easy (and I just did) ding the concept of a keyboard on a watch, it’s more a case of “no harm, no foul”. There’s no real downside to a better keyboard, and we don’t expect owners will be using it to write long messages. In other words, it’s a useful backup to the core voice interface.

Try Me? Buy Me!

Withings has launched a campaign to try and drive more demand, and sales, for their Steel HR smartwatch. The campaign allows you to try the watch for 30 days prior to purchase and if you don’t love it, you can return it, no questions asked. In addition, the company is offering $50 off most of the Steel HR range right now (so pricing starts at $180), and throwing in an extra strap to sweeten the deal.

The NPD Take:

  • The Withings Steel HR is a stylish watch that we would categorize as a hybrid device: it looks like a traditional analog watch, but with a small digital screen to provide details of heart rate and so on. It covers all the basics – notifications, heart rate, multiple sports tracking and so on. It’s hardly a top-spec smartwatch, but there again, most wearers do not need all that functionality anyway.
  • Taking a more pessimistic perspective, Withings’ campaign highlights the difficulty of selling smartwatches beyond a few key brands – Apple, Samsung, Fossil and Fitbit. The name recognition simply isn’t there and without strong brick and mortar retail presence, differentiation is a struggle. Will the campaign help? It will certainly get recipients of the campaign to take a fresh look at the Steel HR. Will it push them to try it? Perhaps…
  • Withings is not alone in looking to entice customers into the smartwatch world. The Apple Watch Series 6 was on sale for as little as $299 in April, while the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is currently $170 off (now starting at $230) on Amazon. In other words, close to the Steel HR price, for a lot more functionality.


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