On the eve of Apple releasing a smartwatch there is much talk of how innovative Apple is but I would venture to say that there were many “trailblazers” before them.
Here are the forerunners of Apple’s big watch and a short history of smartwatches.
2001 – IBM Research and Citizen Watch built a Linux-based watch called WatchPad, which they hoped would illustrate the viability of the then-novel operating system “across all platforms, from large enterprise servers, to medium-sized and small servers, workstations, desktop systems, laptops and the smallest intelligent devices”.
2002 – The Fossil Wrist PDA came in Palm and Pocket PC version and with a 190KB memory that could store 1,100 contacts, 5,000 To Do items, 800 appointments, or 350 memos.
2006 – Microsoft Spot was Microsoft’s early attempt at a smartwatch.
As a Microsoft exec said at the time: “Imagine how handy it would be to have a travel alarm clock that, in addition to telling time very accurately and auto-adjusting to time-zones, could also wake you to your favorite WMA-encoded music, display information about road closures along your expected travel route, and deliver urgent messages.”
Microsoft’s first watches were not a huge success. As well as being bulky and requiring frequent charging, the small screen meant a limited amount of information could be delivered and the ongoing cost of subscribing to services made them a less than appealing prospect.
2007 – Brought us the Sony Ericsson MBW-150. This watch could only be paired with a Sony Ericcson phone via Bluetooth and had a small single line OLED display. When an incoming call was received, the watch would vibrate and show either the name of the caller or their number. The watch could also notify the wearer about new text messages, and came in three models.
2009 – This is one of the slightly more unusual smart devices, and a first of it’s kind. A watch that was also a phone. This Samsung S9110 was at the time touted as the world’s thinnest “watchphone”, sporting a 1.76-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, email support and MP3 playback.
2012 – The Sony Smartwatch, effectively functioned as a second screen for your Android phone, which allowed you to read email, SMS and other notifications such as Twitter.
2012 – The Pebble watch is probably the best known of all current smartwatches and is my favorite. I use one today and do not plan on switching to the Apple watch. It began life as a Kickstarter project aiming to raise $100,000. It raised $10.3m instead.
The watch is compatible with iPhones and Android devices running OS 2.3 and up, but not Blackberry or Windows Phone 7. Alerts include incoming call, SMS, iMessage, calendar,. A new model will be available this sping (2015).
2013 – Martian Watches offer the Passport Watch which features voice controls so that it can function as a speakerphone your smartphone or allow you to access services such as Siri.
2014 – Samsung has been making a major push when it comes to smartwatches, with recent models including the Galaxy Gear, Gear Fit, Gear 2,Gear 2 Neo and the Gear S . The Gear S is notably in that it will allow you to make calls rather than just act as a second screen for a smartphone. However this is rumor that Samsung will be giving up on smartwatches shortly.
2015 – Microsoft’s first entry since 2006’s Microsoft Spot was in the fitness wearable market, the Microsoft Band. This one offers an array of sensors and a platform-agnostic nature along with the typical email, messaging and social media features we have come to expect from a smartwatch.
Now let’s travel back even further in time to 1976.
Back in 1976 my favorite Science Fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke predicted the use of mobile devices, tablets & smartwatches in a very real and very specific way. The moral of this story is that many things we enjoy today were considered and predicted long ago.
Clark predicts and describes, again in great detail the “wristwatch telephone” at the 4:34 mark. However as opposed to skipping ahead I suggest you watch the whole video to see all the amazing predictions he made in this interview.