Google, LG Reportedly Joining Apple, Samsung in Smartwatch Race

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-03-22
 
 
 

Google and LG Electronics reportedly are the latest tech vendors looking to develop an Internet-connected smartwatch.

Separate reports have the two companies each working on their efforts to create smartwatches, and The Korea Times also is reporting that LG is working on another wearable computing device that the news site said will rival Google Glass.

Industry observers have been talking for several years about computer systems that users can wear. Analysts at ABI Research said in February that the wearable computing device market could grow to 485 million device shipments by 2018.

The issue has been pushed to the forefront in recent weeks with reports that Apple is developing a smartwatch—being called the iWatch—and that the company has created a 100-person development team.

Samsung officials on March 19 confirmed that they, too, were developing a smartwatch, opening a new avenue for its heated competition with Apple.

"We are working very hard to get ready for it," Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, told Bloomberg. "We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Now Google and LG reportedly are getting into the smartwatch competition. According to a report in the Financial Times, the search engine giant's Android group is developing the device that could be used in tandem with a smartphone.

Google's interest in a smartwatch shouldn't come as a total surprise. In October 2012, the company filed patent documentation in the United States for such a device that would include—along with a wristband and a base—a "flip-up portion." The base would include such components as a processor, wireless transceiver that could connect to a wireless network and a user interface. The flip-up portion would offer displays that could be seen whether it's open or closed.

Google has declined to comment on reports that it's working on a smartwatch.

Google executives have been much more forthcoming about their Google Glass efforts, which they unveiled in July 2012. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has in recent weeks been promoting the eye-mounted computing devices very publicly, and at one point said they were a good alternative to smartphones, which he said were "emasculating."

According to The Korea Times, an unnamed "source familiar with the matter" said a smartwatch is one of several "non-commercialized" products being developed by LG as it looks to remain competitive in the rapidly innovating mobile technology market.

"It is one major part of many currently non-commercialized products under development by LG Electronics," the source told the Korean news site. "The company has spared no efforts to invest in products that it believes are must-haves to stay ahead technology-wise in the market, whatever the situation may be."

This isn't LG's first foray into wearable computers. In 2009, the company unveiled what officials at the time called a WiFi-enabled "watch phone," which included a small touch-screen, an MP3 player and a built-in speaker.

Vendors for years have been looking to put computer technology in wrist watches. A company called Fossil offered a smart PDA that ran on the Palm mobile operating system and included a virtual keyboard and touch-screen. Fossil in 2003 partnered with Microsoft to create the SPOT device. Sony rolled out a smartwatch that ran Google's Android OS, while Pebble offers smartwatches that connect to iPhones and Android smartphones via Bluetooth.

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