The beginning of every year can be an interesting time for technology, and it often sets the tone for the rest of the year. Where smartphones are concerned, Samsung has certainly set a tone for 2016 with the release of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, and LG is soon to follow. Mobile World Congress is where we saw Samsung unveil their latest and greatest, along with LG, but there wasn’t much on the smartwatch front, or at least not where Android Wear was concerned. Regardless, the tone has been set with the announcement of some more fashion brands and more watches running Android Wear hitting the scene. This week saw Fossil announce a range of new watches – including some that wouldn’t look out of place on a lady’s wrist, like the massive Q Founder would have done – and Nixon as well as Michael Kors joined the party, too.
When we reviewed the Fossil Q Founder towards the end of last year, we found that there was a lot to love, and also a lot to hate. Since then however, battery life has improved, and a Marshmallow update appeared fairly quickly after other watches, too. Now, the firm has more options for people looking for a very simple smartwatch. There might not be an OLED display here or a fancy heart rate sensor, but Fossil is a brand that people know and trust. They might not be getting the absolute best when they buy a Fossil, but they get a good-looking watch for a not-so-bad price. It’s nice to see the brand expanding their options in smartwatches with the same approach. The Q Wander in particular looks quite modern.
Nixon, meanwhile, have partnered with Qualcomm to bring us the first Snapdragon 2100 powered smartwatch and one that also features a fully-circular OLED display and a chunky sports-focused build and design. The orange one looks particularly fetching to my eyes, and with some interesting software additions, the Nixon Mission is much more than just a smartwatch for the sake of it. This might be one of the more comprehensive smartwatches announced this week, but it won’t be available until later this year.
Michael Kors meanwhile, announced a pair of attractive-looking watches, including one that was designed from the ground up for women, unlike options from Huawei and Samsung that were simply different “Editions” of a previous watch. My fiancee wears a nice Michael Kors, and while this release wouldn’t instantly get her to move over to a smartwatch, it’s a prime example of how brands could lead to more sales. Users that know of Fossil and Michael Kors will be more likely to buy into a new technology if that trusted brand is trying to sell it to them. The same can be said for active users that know and love Nixon’s products, they make some good-looking watches, and they’re the type of people to be interested in the software features, but not from someone like LG or Samsung, but a watchmaker or watch brand.
Whether or not these new watches will lead to an out and out sales increase for Android Wear is something we’ll have to wait and see on – these don’t launch until later this year – but this is a great example of why Google was right to follow this path. While the Apple Watch is distinctly-Apple and proprietary and expensive and well, recognizable as being an Apple product, Google kept what people like about watches to begin with; choice. I wear a Fossil smartwatch, but to a lot of average users, it’s just a Fossil watch that just happens to connect to their Android phone. These new brands could help turn a new audience on to the fact that smartwatches aren’t something just for geeks or anything like that, but for everyone.