Hello, smart watch. Goodbye, smartphone? Samsung and Qualcomm made emphatic plays for consumers' wrists Wednesday, with snazzy smart watches that can take photos, make calls and scan the Web. Sony's SmartWatch 2 is due this month.
Apple and Google are likely to follow, presaging an era in which Americans may soon look like characters out of Star Trek, pressing buttons on newfangled watches to view videos, snap and send photos, look up stock prices and check their vital signs. Even the merged Microsoft -Nokia could enter the fray.
Aside from a potential gold mine -- Gartner estimates the smart watch market will reach $10 billion by 2015 -- technology companies envision a hot new category that could alter the way people consume and exchange data .
It's analogous to what happened when Apple reshaped the phone and tablet industries with iPhone and iPad in 2007 and 2010.
Since then, Apple and its rivals have been searching for the Next Big Thing. In this case, it's a small device you can wear. And after millions of consumers ditched their watches for smartphones the past few years, suddenly the wrist is cool again.
Americans increasingly are wearing wristbands like Jawbone Up and FitBit Flex to monitor their health. Non-health functions on such devices are the next logical tech step, says Tom Kemp, CEO of Centrify, a computer -security company that partners with Samsung. "Why not a device that plays music while you jog?" he says. "It could also be an access card to gain entry to buildings."
What's most likely to happen is that smartphones and smart watches will work in tandem, as Samsung's Galaxy Gear does with the Note 3.
An interesting sidelight to this watch blitz is the escalating turf war between Samsung and Apple. For the first time, Samsung has beaten Apple to the punch, ratcheting pressure on Apple, which is likely to announce a new iPhone next week.
One funny tweet making the rounds Tuesday said it all: "The Samsung Watch doesn't tell normal time. It just has a countdown until the Apple watch is available."
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