Smartwatch shipments soared 316 percent in Q4 2015, outpaced Swiss watches for the first time

By | Tech Spot

I’ve taken multiple jabs at the usefulness of smartwatches over the past couple of years. To many (myself included), they simply don’t serve a purpose or fill a need – they’re a solution waiting for a problem to happen.

Nevertheless, major technology brands have continued to pump out the high-tech wearables and slowly but surely, consumers have started to come around. In fact, smartwatch shipments during the fourth quarter of 2015 actually surpassed those of traditional Swiss watches for the first time ever according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

Global shipments of smartwatches hit 8.1 million in Q4 2015, up from just 1.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Swiss watch shipments, meanwhile, slid to 7.9 million during the same period, down from 8.3 million in Q4 2014. Or in other words, smartwatch shipments grew by 315.6 percent while Swiss watch shipments fell by 4.8 percent.

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said the Swiss watch industry has been very slow to react to the development of smartwatches. In fact, Mawston likened the Swiss watch industry to the (incorrect) myth about ostriches sticking their heads in the sand and hoping smartwatches will go away.

That’s not to say that every Swiss watchmaker has been ignoring the smartwatch trend. Tag Heuer, for example, launched an Android Wear smartwatch of its own late last year. Priced at $1,500, the Tag Heuer Connected Watch was a hot seller during the holidays and forced the company to ramp up production to meet demand.

Advertisements

Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers

The growing number of smart devices that interoperates with smartphones could leave text messages, calendar entries, biometric data, and other sensitive user information wide open to hackers, security researchers warn.

That’s because most smart watches rely on a six-digit PIN to secure information traveling to and from connected Android smartphones. With only one million possible keys securing the Bluetooth connection between the handset and the smart device, the PINs are susceptible to brute-force attacks, in which a nearby hacker attempts every possible combination until finding the right one.

Researchers from security firm Bitdefender mounted a proof-of-concept hack against a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch that was paired with a Google Nexus 4 running Android L Preview. Using readily available hacking tools, they found that the PIN obfuscating the Bluetooth connection between the two devices was easily brute forced. From that point on, they were able to monitor the information passing between the watch and the phone.

The findings aren’t particularly surprising. Six-digit PINs have always contained one million possible combinations. Security engineers have long known that’s hardly enough entropy to prevent a determined hacker from arriving at the right sequence of numbers. Still, the research is important because it comes at an important time. With the explosion of relatively new smartwatches and other wearable smart devices, the data traveling over Bluetooth connections is growing ever more sensitive. Smart device manufacturers would do well to create more secure communications channels now, before the devices become ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, some of the most obvious fixes may come at the cost of user convenience, making them a bitter pill for manufacturers to swallow. The most obvious remedy, for instance, would be to require a password be entered into a smart device before it is paired, something that users almost certainly would resent, given the limited keyboards most devices offer. Another potential remedy would be to rely on NFC to transmit a PIN code to a smartwatch during pairing, but that would likely raise the price and complexity of the devices. A third option is to augment Bluetooth encryption with a second layer of encryption that’s implemented by the app running on the phone and watch. There are almost certainly other potential fixes. Here’s hoping engineers get cracking.

via Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers | Ars Technica.

Call-capable Samsung Gear S Smartwatch Launches Nov 7 in U.S.

The Gear S will land on all four major U.S. wireless carriers

Samsung delivered a bit of bad news this morning with its Q3 2014 earnings report, but the company is at least looking forward to making some waves in the wearables market with the official U.S. launch of its Gear S smartwatch. The Gear S was first announced back in August, and is the first of Samsung’s smartwatches that can make and receive phone calls.

Samsung says that the Gear S will be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless starting November 7. Pricing varies depending on the carrier, but AT&T will allow you to take home the device after paying $199 and agreeing to a two-year contract. Sprint is offering the device at a full, unsubsidized price of $384 or 24 monthly payments of $16.

T-Mobile has the cheapest option if you’re looking to buy the device outright, charging $350 or $14.58/month for 24 months.

As for calling plans, AT&T will allow you to add the Gear S to your existing Mobile Share plan for an additional $10 per month. Sprint is charging an additional $10 per month as well, however, the wireless carrier will waive the fee until December 2015 if the device is added to a Family Share Pack plan of 20GB or higher.

As for T-Mobile, it’s introducing a new “wearable rate plan” that costs just $5 per month. The plan gives users unlimited talk, texting, and data (the first 500MB of data is “high-speed”, with the remaining “unlimited” data being throttled).

Pricing and plans for Verizon Wireless have yet to be announced.

DailyTech - Call-capable Samsung Gear S Smartwatch Launches Nov 7 in U.S.

The Gear S runs Samsung’s Tizen operating system, features a 2” AMOLED (360×480) display, 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, Bluetooth 4.1, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It also incorporates A-GPS support, IP67 water/dust resistance, and can make/receive calls over 2G/3G cellular networks.

Samsung says that the Gear S is good for up to two days of typical use.

via DailyTech – Call-capable Samsung Gear S Smartwatch Launches Nov 7 in U.S..

Interview: Steve Wozniak on new iPhones, smart watches, Google Glass, and more

Ahead of his conversation on stage at Apps World with Wired.co.uk’s editor Nate Lanxon, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke to us about his view on new iPhones, wearable technologies, the future of apps, and Google Glass.

Steve Wozniak

“These young people with new ideas starting out—sometimes for the first time—are my favorite people in the world,” Steve Wozniak tells Wired.co.uk. “It reminds me of when we started Apple.”

Since doing so in the 1970s with Steve Jobs, Wozniak has turned much of his attention, time, and money to education and new businesses. Presently serving as chief scientist at flash storage company Fusion-io, he also readily invests in new technologies and applications. “The best things that capture your imagination are ones you hadn’t thought of before, and that aren’t talked about in the news all the time,” says Wozniak.

High on the list of ideal candidates are apps that take a smarter approach to the use of human speech, ones “where you talk to it like a normal person, the way you would talk to a human being.”

“I want to be able to speak with errors in my wording, errors in my grammar,” he continues. “When you type things into Google search, it corrects your words. With speech, I want it to be general enough, smart enough, to know ‘no, he couldn’t have meant these words that I think he said. He must have really meant something similar.’ That’s going to take a lot of software, a lot of artificial intelligence work over the next five to 10 years.”

Another technology being predicted to develop over that period is the smart watch. One research group has suggested shipments of smart watches in 2014 could hit 8.9 million globally, hitting 214 million units by 2018. But Wozniak has already identified that the current models are too restrictive.

“I want the entire smartphone, the entire Internet, on my wrist,” he says. “I want a larger display than they’re starting with. They’re starting with […] displays that are the size of the iPod nano, which is the size of an ordinary watch of the past. I think we’ve got to get a little beyond this watch of the past.

“I hope [a future smart watch is] independent, works on its own, and is not connected with Bluetooth to the smartphone in your pocket,” he adds. “But that doesn’t mean it would be bad if it were that way.”

Another notable product that will no doubt see considerable development over the next five years is Google Glass, and Wozniak’s view on the system is pretty cut and dry. “I think that has a chance too, and the reason is: I want one. I don’t have one because I haven’t enough time to be an early tester.

“I think that’s where our biggest innovations come from. It’s people looking back at themselves and saying, ‘Here’s something that I really want that doesn’t exist. I’m going to make it, maybe just for myself and my company.'”

With a pair of new iPhones just launched from Apple, it’s difficult not to ask Wozniak his view on the new models. “I haven’t seen [the 5C] too much because it wasn’t very attractive to me,” he explains. “You know what, a lot of Apple products, you’ve got to hold it in your hand and you get a whole different view of it. I’ve only just seen pictures online. So I’m not a good judge, but nothing grabbed my attention like a lot of Apple products.

“I’m usually interested in the more high-end anyway, and I love the looks [of] the iPhone 4 and the 5; I just love the looks and the beauty of the product. So the 5S is more like that. All it means is, ‘Oh gosh, now I’ve got to get three new phones to get the three 5S colors.’

“So I’m not turned on by the 5C, but hey, maybe that’s where a huge market is and I’m just not the person.”

via Interview: Steve Wozniak on new iPhones, smart watches, Google Glass, and more | Ars Technica.

Google rumored to be working on a smartwatch, too

2013 could very well end up being the year of the smartwatch – or at the very least, the year that several big names started developing their wristwatch. Pebble’s smartwatch is already in the wild, Apple’s pending iWatch is one of the worst kept secrets in tech and Samsung recently announced their smartwatch has been in development for some time.

Reports are now circulating that Google is entering the race with a smartwatch of their own. According to a recent report from the Financial Times, Google is indeed working on a second wearable device – the first, of course, being Google Glass. The report says Google’s Android unit, not the experimental arm known as X Labs, is working on the device.

What’s more, the watch will be something completely different than what Samsung is working on. The search giant’s version is said to be an extension of Android onto the wrist – whatever that means. No other details were given so we are left to draw our own conclusions until further rumors surface or Google announces something publically.

With Google I/O just around the corner, we may very well hear something sooner rather than later. Of course, this isn’t the first we have heard on the subject as a patent for a smart watch including a flip up display was granted late last year but as you likely already know, the majority of patents are filed as precautionary measures and never see the light of day.

via Google rumored to be working on a smartwatch, too – TechSpot.