Citizen, the Japanese watch maker, is preparing a solar powered smartwatch for launch before the New Year. The company has plans to sell 3,000 of these watches with a price in the region of 80,000 yen, which is around $788. However, Citizen has already received three times this number of pre-orders. This could be because solar powered smartwatches are thin on the ground, which might appear surprising given that battery life is something of a struggle for most smartwatches, which need a daily, regular recharge. However, solar panels are necessarily relatively large and bulky and integrating them into a device that is already engineered to be as compact as possible is a challenge. Most of today's smartwatches are on the larger size of a wrist watch: if Citizen have managed to integrate solar panels that can provide the watch with effectively perpetual battery life, this is great news.
As for the device itself, it is expected that the new Citizen smartwatch will provide customers with ten features and notifications including incoming calls, text messages, emails, automatic compensation for changing time zones, together with a find-my-phone feature too. It isn't yet clear what will the watch look like; will it have a LCD or OLED panel to show the time, or a more traditional analogue display? Industry experts are predicting that the Citizen smartwatch will dispense with some of the more advanced features seen on modern smartwatches such as heart rate monitors, pedometers and activity monitors. Instead, the Japanese company will focus on making the new watch a great time piece with the benefit of smart features, which is something of a Japanese smartwatch trend. In broad terms, there are two styles of smartwatch available today. Some have a stronger focus towards the smart with a watch to the side and others focus more on the watch with integrated smart technology. Japanese watch manufacturers have so far tended to concentrate on the watch-with-added-technology side of things by designing and building products that make it easy to check the time, and can also include additional features. Of course, reducing the number of features on the smartwatch reduces the number of sensors and radios that drain the battery: it would seem more likely that the new Citizen timepiece will follow this strategy, especially considering it will include a solar panel, or even solar panels.
We have a little over three months before the New Year and to date there are no leaked photographs of the up and coming Citizen smartwatch – the image above is a placeholder. It's impossible to say where Citizen's design compromises are. However, sales of smartwatches have been relatively slow in Japan but perhaps this new model could help things. We look forward to Citizen revealing more details, such as availability, device compatibility and confirmed specification.