Wear­ables to Watch

Smart wear­ables are chang­ing al­most as fast as the sweep hand on a stop­watch.

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Din­neen & Dan Booth

The more ob­ser­vant among you may have no­ticed that Ap­ple has started sell­ing watches. If this is news to you, then you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion be­cause though they tick in si­lence, wear­ables are vir­tu­ally unmissable right now.

Th­ese tiny gad­gets are a big deal, evolv­ing from a niche mar­ket aimed largely at fit­ness fa­nat­ics to an in­creas­ingly main­stream ad­di­tion to your fam­ily of toys. By 2020, it is pre­dicted that the sec­tor will be worth $57 bil­lion in rev­enue an­nu­ally.

Where once wear­able tech would merely record data to be in­ter­preted by your com­puter or smart­phone, now it acts as a con­duit for in­for­ma­tion, push­ing your calls and mes­sages to your wrist and telling you when you have a so­cial me­dia alert. Oh, and they tell time.

While wear­ables used to be man­u­fac­tured from util­i­tar­ian plas­tic and rub­ber, to­day’s cut­ting-edge prod­ucts are fash­ioned from the kind of ma­te­ri­als usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with high-end wrist­watches – rose gold, stain­less steel and fine leather.

With tra­di­tional time­pieces serv­ing as de­sign in­spi­ra­tion, smart de­vices of­fer stun­ning mod­els that would look chic on Fifth Av­enue, and in fact, some of the name­plates are strik­ingly fa­mil­iar as well.

As with the smart­phone and tablet mar­kets, the big com­mer­cial bat­tle to con­trol the eco-sys­tem is be­tween Ap­ple and Google with their Watch OS and An­droid Wear soft­ware.

The phone you use will typ­i­cally drive the smart­watch you buy – al­though the An­droid Wear OS loaded on most of the newer smart­watches pre­viewed here now works with iPhone, but only if the phone sports iOS 8.2 or higher. Two very im­por­tant caveats: The iPhone sup­port doesn’t ex­tend to older An­droid phones, and while the watch is sup­ported, not all your apps will be. Need­less to say, Ap­ple’s watch is left to its own de­vices.

As ever, in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy this early in its de­vel­op­ment is a risky busi­ness. Much has changed in this cat­e­gory just in the last six months, and more changes are on the way. So it’s a pretty good bet that be­fore the ink is dry on this story, some­thing else new will have hit the mar­ket.

So do try to keep up.

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