Facebook is reportedly developing a smartwatch to take on Apple, and while those of us who have been aware of Facebook’s shenanigans for several years now are crawling, there’s clearly a market for Facebook hardware – look at the success of its smart screen, Portal.
But a smartwatch can be a different story. If you’ve read between the lines, Facebook’s interest in wearables may not come as a surprise. We already know it’s messing with a couple AR glasses with Ray-Ban, and diving blogs from their Facebook Reality Labs have suggested “soft bracelets, ”“ Haptic gloves ”and“wrist-mounted wearables“As key elements for interaction with AR interfaces. However, these were more theoretical. This alleged smartwatch is very genuine and could possibly include two cameras, a heart rate monitor and connections to Facebook’s social media platforms.
According to The edge, the unnamed and unconfirmed Facebook smartwatch will have a 1080p autofocus camera on the back and another on the front for video calling. This is somewhat strange when you consider how most smartwatches are designed. However, it seems that Facebook is taking the same kind of approach as the Fitbit Blaze, where the watch itself can be jumped out of a stainless steel frame. Any videos or photos snatched from the wrist can be shared with Facebook’s other apps, including Instagram. The report also claims that the watch comes in white, black and gold and supports standalone connection via LTE.
One recently Information report confirms some of these details and adds that the watch runs on an open source version of Android. (Although eventually planning to build its own operating system. As we say: Good luck.) The watch is also intended as a way to connect to other health and fitness services, such as Peloton and Strava, without had to go through either Apple or Google. Messages on the watch will reportedly “focus on fast interactions that would otherwise happen with a smartphone.”
Of course, Facebook is planning a kind of AR ecosystem that involves a smartwatch. These are publicly dropped tips on detecting electrical signals from your brain to your hand for motion control, a technology called electromyography. And while it sounds like science fiction, there are already accessories that do this, and Apple just announced its own version of this comes in watchOS 8 later in the fall.
There’s a hell of a lot to unpack here, but for the most part, it’s unclear where a Facebook smartwatch should fit in an increasingly crowded landscape. At Google I / O, Google and Samsung announced that they were teaming up to create one “Overall” Wear OS. It was a bold announcement, and if companies can pull it off, it’s likely to be the dominant platform that anyone other than Apple and iOS users will flock to. Huawei and OnePlus are two other companies that have recently announced their own smartwatches. (Though the latter was a complete travesty.) Then there is the annoying fact that Apple Watch completely dominates the field with a years-long lead that left the competition distorted. Another potential problem is third-party app ecosystems – the lack of developer support for Tizen OS is precisely why Samsung switched back to Google’s Wear OS. Considering that both reports say that Facebook is aiming for an advanced watch in the $ 300- $ 400 series, it should deliver here. Sure, it has a decent number of its own apps, but these alone will not be enough to convince users already invested in other platforms to switch.
Not only is Facebook late for the game, but it has the difficult task of convincing consumers that they should trust Facebook with their personal health data. When Google originally bought Fitbit, it sparked fears that Google would misuse Fitbit’s tax on health data. So much so that at that time it led to many consider Fitbit alternatives, although it took more than a year before the agreement was officially approved. Facebook ranked last in Insider’s 2020 US Digital Trust Surveyand a 2019 NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll found that 60% of Americans do not trust the company at all when it comes to protecting personal data. Health data is even more sensitive. It raises the question of whether a Facebook-created health feature will be compelling enough to convince users to give their smartwatch a try – especially when FDA-cleared heart health features on smartwatches are now common and other monitoring features for sleep apnea and blood sugar level rumored to be on the way.
I’m well aware that if you want your health data to remain private, smartwatches are definitely risky. But we are far past that now. These devices can and have saved lives, and despite an early skepticism, laptops are not going anywhere. Why choose a smartwatch made by a company whose founder called early users “Dumb fucks” for trusting him? Why trust the company that had a full-page fit of rage in several national newspapers because Apple introduced stronger confidentiality features? I have two drawers bursting with smartwatches launched in 2020 – there are plenty of them less hurt to choose from.
But Facebook seems unaffected by the fact that its awful reputation may not inspire people to spray on its smartwatch. According to The Verge, the company is already working on the second and third generation of smartwatch, although the first will not launch – if launched – for at least another year. Who knows, Facebook could always prove us all wrong. And if it does not, we can all seize the popcorn and watch the catastrophe unfold.