HTC confirms it will release a wearable device later this year


HTC logo

HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang has confirmed to Bloomberg that the company plans to sell its first wearable device by the end of this year.

The firm has apparently been working on wearable form factors for some time now, and it is almost ready to ship the product. Elaborating on the challenges HTC faced, Wang told the publication:

Many years ago we started looking at smartwatches and wearables, but we believe that we really have to solve the battery problems and the LCD light problems.

While the upcoming device is technically a first for HTC, the company did work with Microsoft on a smartwatch years ago.

HTC suffered sagging revenue and earnings performance last year. The company missed Wall Street expectations with its Q4 2013 earnings results. Despite being well-received by critics, HTC’s flagship One smartphone has disappointed on sales.

With its entrance into wearables, HTC is set to enter an increasingly crowded market. In addition to existing players like FitbitJawbone and Pebble, several major consumer electronics makers are betting big on the wearable market later this year.

Sony, for instance, introduced a new wearable platform called SmartBand at CES last month, while Samsung is expected to announce an update to its Galaxy Gear watch at the Mobile World Congress trade show later this month. Qualcomm released a limited-production watch last year showing off various screen and power management technologies that it has developed for wearables.  AppleGoogle and Microsoft have also been rumored to have smartwatches in the works.

Image credit: Mandy Cheng / AFP / Getty Images

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The designer of the Fitbit says wearable devices need to be “nearly sensual”

By Rachel Feltman

Gadi Amit wants to cover you in computers. NewDealDesign

For a wearable device to be successful, it needs to do much more than just work: It also has to look good on you. And not flashy-good—like Google Glass, which marks everyone wearing it as a loud-and-proud early adopter. The design must be able to fully integrate into our day-to-day lives. 

Increasingly, the task of marrying form and function falls to industrial designers like Gadi Amit. As principle designer and founder of the San Francisco-based NewDealDesign, Amit has helped create a number of wearables, including Whistle,InsulineSproutling, and Fitbit

There’s a “fitbit” for everyone these days. Whistle

Amit firmly believes that the design work he does on wearable devices is vital to their success. “These objects are the most personable, nearly sensual or intimate objects,” he told Quartz. “They pose so many complex questions about your personality and fit to your specific human body. It’s a very delicate balance of emotional next to rational thinking.”

He says his company has met the challenge of creating such a balance by shifting from traditional industrial design team to an even split with engineers. Now, instead of tweaking a design to make it ready for large-scale production and distribution, they often present clients with entirely new prototypes, streamlining everything from the aesthetic of the device to its electrical architecture. 

The Fitbit Force replaces a slim clip-on with a sleek wristband, because wearing wearables is finally cool. Fitbit

A challenging question for many of their clients, Amit says, is what can fit on the device itself. “How much user interface you really need on a wearable is a big, big topic,” Amit says. “And the answer is…sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on the functionality, what’s going on between the interface of the device and the app it’s communicating with.” 

But once you want more user interface, there are architectural issues like screen size, and the battery size that comes with that size increase. Any object so small will present such a Catch-22, and Amit says that having a design team work on the device from start to finish can help keep the balance. This was never more true than with Sproutling, which has been called “the Fitbit for babies“ and will track the vital signs of quantified infants around the world sometime this year. 

Baby’s first wearable. Sproutling

Putting a device on your newborn’s wrist is much more intimate than strapping one to your own. “It’s very challenging,” Gadi says, “because the sensors are much more sophisticated and sensitive than a typical pedometer. Fitting those—or anything—into a baby size is very complicated. And then the device must not be too hard or too loose, as babies are always moving and have quite a lot of strength. People undervalue that, but they can very easily damage themselves or the product, and you have to find a balance that prevents both.”

But above all, the device needed to have a look that parents would feel comfortable introducing to their baby’s daily ensemble. “We wanted to project optimism, care, and emotion along with the sophistication of a well-designed product,” he says. “So we used a heart, attached to an ankle strap.” A strap, he says, that can be changed frequently to combat a baby’s frequent messes. 

“Wearables are just at the beginning of their success,” Amit says. And he plans to keep riding the wave.

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CES 2014 Proves That Wearables Are Still A Work In Progress

by  (@drizzled)

CES 2014 Proves That Wearables Are Still A Work In Progress

Before this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I issued a challenge: I wanted makers of wearable tech to prove to me that the time had come for this category of gadgets. What I was seeking was irrefutable proof there was wearable technology out there demonstrating enough clear and immediate benefit that consumers would flock to it in droves.

That’s not what I found.

Which is to say that nothing I found at CES offered up the kind of ‘love at first sight’ that I had with my first iPhone (an iPhone 3G), my first smartphone of any kind. The smartphone needed no additional argument beyond itself to prove its worth: no discourse on market trends, no explanation of how it will appeal to specific niches, no apologies about its current limitations. Of course smartphones had their doubters, as will any new tech, but simply using a good one was enough to convince most of their worth.

Not so with wearables. CES 2014 was a veritable explosion of wearable tech, with major companies including LG (the Life Band Touch) and Sony (the Core) both debuting activity trackers at the show. Many others also added their respective hats to the ring, including JayBird (the Reign), Garmin (Vivoki and Vivofit) and GlassUp (plus a slew of other Glass-type eyewear). At best, however, each of these devices only edged forward the potential of the wearable space; at worst, they represent a descent into a major growing area of concern with the category.

The new Sony and LG devices serve as the best examples to articulate the inherent problem in wearable tech. The category isn’t popular with OEMs simply because it looks to be a new area where people are willing to spend money – it also represents a tremendous opportunity to continue the kind of consumer behavior tracking and analysis begun with smartphones.

Smartphones have proven a veritable treasure trove of data about the people who use them, and that data is immensely useful in developing a product pipeline, and in attracting content and marketing partners. Sony’s Core is designed not just to track fitness, but to provide a log of essentially every connected AND real-world activity a person undertakes throughout the day. In the right (wrong?) hands, it could provide a near-perfect profile of the average day of actual consumers, which is the kind of data portrait that makes marketers weak at the knees.

That’s why Google created Glass, in case anyone was wondering. The search giant’s first and still most influential success was targeting ads at users based on expressed intent (search ads). Arguably, everything it’s done since then has been designed in some way to gather more info on its users for a more complete picture of what they’re looking for (Android, Google+ are just a few high-profile examples). Wearables is simply the next evolution, and that’s why we’re seeing everyone chase that carrot, rather than any especially huge market opportunity in terms of consumer appetite.


It’s telling that the most impressive wearable at CES for me was a mostly aesthetic iteration of an existing product. The Pebble Steel is the Pebble I always wanted to begin with, though the underlying software and feature set remains mostly unchanged. In fact, my existing Kickstarter edition Pebble never left my wrist during the show, providing a tether to our coverage team which proved superior to any system we used previously. I think it’s telling that Pebble has never positioned itself as a monitoring or logging device, in the context of the argument above, and that may have a lot to do with its continued success.

I still think there’s a lot of potential in the wearables market, but to explore that potential fully, device manufacturers need to at least couch their salivation over the data vein they have to power to break right open in a very convincing veil of consumer concern. Especially now that the Snowden whistleblowing has shed additional light on the value of our privacy, wearables need to concentrate on showing consumers what they offer, rather than just providing a list of what data they keep track of.

Top image courtesy Richard Stevens 3 of Diesel Sweeties. For the full comic, check out his Medium blog here.

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Everything You Need To Know About Samsung’s Galaxy S5


samsung galaxy s4 settings

Steve Kovach/Business Insider

It may be a few months away, but Samsung has already started teasing its upcoming flagship phone, the Galaxy S5.

In addition to the hints Samsung’s executive vice president Lee Young Hee gave to Bloomberg in an interview, there are a handful of other rumors and bits of informed speculation about what the phone will be able to do.

Here’s what we know so far.

It will be called the Galaxy S5.

Or, at least, that’s what Hee called the device in his interview with Bloomberg.

It will launch by April of this year.

Hee said the phone will launch before April of this year. It’s likely Samsung will wait until after the Mobile World Congress event in late February to make the announcement. If we had to guess, the announcement will come in early to mid-March.

There could be an eye scanner.

Hee said Samsung is experimenting with an iris scanner and could decide to use it in the Galaxy S5. The sensor would be able to scan your eye and unlock your phone without a passcode.

It might come with two body styles: one plastic and one metal.

Early rumors suggest that Samsung will have two versions of the Galaxy S5. There will be a cheaper model made with a plastic body and a more expensive one with a metal body. Many pundits have criticized Samsung for making phones out of plastic while its rivals HTC and Apple make their flagship phones out of metal.

It will likely have a zippy 64-bit processor, just like the iPhone 5S.

Shortly after Apple announced its iPhone 5S with a 64-bit processor, Samsung announced that its next generation of smartphones would also have a super-fast chip. Expect the Galaxy S5 to be the first Samsung phone with a 64-bit processor.

There will likely be a memory chip with 4 GB of RAM.

Samsung announced the new chip a few weeks ago. It’ll likely debut in the Galaxy S5.

Samsung will launch a new Galaxy Gear smart watch along with the Galaxy S5.

Hee said the new Galaxy Gear will be slimmer than the first generation. While Samsung’s first Galaxy Gear has only been out for a few months, it could use a refresh. Reviews of the device were pretty bad because it has poor battery life and limited functionality.

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JayBird Bets On Intelligent Tracking For The Reign, Its First Foray Into Quantified Fitness

by  (@drizzled)

Bluetooth and sport headset company JayBird is venturing a little outside of its comfort zone with the new JayBird Reign fitness tracking wristband, a device unveiled earlier this week at CES 2014. The JayBird Reign goes beyond most existing devices like those from Fitbit, Withings, and Jawbone, tracking different types of fitness differently instead of just lumping them all in together.

There’s also a little bit of intuitive prognostication built into the Reign; JayBird says that it can actually recognize when your body is ready to get active, even if you can’t. It can then prompt you to get up and get moving even when you might not feel like it, to help you make the most of those times your body is ready to go for the most possible return on your workout investment.

Conversely, it also tells you when you need more rest thanks to built-in sleep tracking. The sleep tracking not only tells you when you’re sleeping heavily and when you’re sleeping light, like many other trackers, but also provides advice about how much sleep you should get the next night in order to feel as rested as is possible.

reign-jaybirdThe Reign uses Bluetooth to communicate data with a companion app for iOS and Android, and should be available sometime this spring for $199. That’s pricier than many entry-level fitness trackers on the market, but Jaybird is hoping people are willing to pay more for a device that automatically recognizes what kind of sport or activity you’re doing and switches its tracking rhythm accordingly. It’s also light and comfortable with a highly flexible band, an a simple LED notification light for communicating basic info.

Few device categories are growing faster than the health and fitness tracking gizmo market, and an increasingly crowded space means more companies competing for the same pool of potential buyers. At least JayBird hasn’t just thrown its brand on something that simply matches what’s already out there, but we’ll still have to wait and see what kind of tolerance consumer demand has for a growing number of suppliers.

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Wearable tech is coming, but it might not suit you

by Yannick LeJacq, NBC News

Clockwise from top left: Google Glass, Sony Head Mounted Display, various fitness trackers, Zepp sensor, Sony Smartband and Core and Samsung Galaxy Ge...

Clockwise from top left: Google Glass, Sony Head Mounted Display, various fitness trackers, Zepp sensor, Sony Smartband and Core and Samsung Galaxy Gear

The next generation of personal tech won’t fit in a pocket, enthusiasts say. It may eliminate pockets entirely.

The rapidly growing field of wearable tech encompasses everything from smartphone-connected, vibrating underwear to futuristic headgear with built-in cameras and floating micro displays. And while it may sound outlandish now, so did the iPhone, once upon a time.

“For most of my career, computing has been something you hold in your hand, maybe have in your pocket or that sits on your desk,” said Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, the world’s biggest computer chip maker. “That idea is about to be transformed.”

There are “smart socks” that promise to help step up the running game of health-aware tech aficionados. Shirts, wrist-bands and waist-braces monitor the wearer’s physical activity or sitting posture to guide him or her toward healthier behavior. Glasses-like headsets and smartwatches boast many of the same features as smartphones. And as if that’s not enough, there are wearable behavior trackers for toddlers and the family’s pet dog alike.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Krzanich delivered the opening keynote this week, the inescapable buzz from tech companies, investors, and the most eager of early adopters was that gadgets people mix in with their everyday wardrobe are sure to be the next big thing.

Intel-designed wearable gadgets launched at CES include fitness-tracking earbuds and an always-on headset-slash-personal assistant that shares the name of Iron Man’s fictional Artificial Intelligence helper, “Jarvis.” Krzanich also announced Intel’s “Make It Wearable” challenge, a year-long global competition with $1.3 million in prizes.

With the sheer amount of wired gear offered by both major companies such as Samsung and LG as well as independent startups, the enthusiasm for a Jetsons future can be contagious. The question now is whether that will translate from Silicon Valley to people who don’t want to spill coffee on their biometric pants.

Wearable tech could be a multi-billion dollar market

That’s not to say that the market for wearable technology isn’t expanding. While the product that has received the most chatter, Google Glass, still isn’t widely available after being revealed in April 2012, consumer trackers are weighing in with bullish predictions. Credit Suisse valued the wearable tech market at around $3 to $5 billion in May, predicting that number could grow to somewhere between $30 and $50 billion in the next three to five years. IHS Electronics and Media valued the current market at $10 billion in September, meanwhile.

But Shane Walker, an analyst at IHS, emphasized that these numbers only really mean something depending on where you look.

“You can develop a kind of skewed perspective if you get lost in the world of analysts, entrepreneurs, and early adopters,” Walker told NBC News.

That hasn’t stopped tech companies of all shapes and sizes from flocking to this year’s convention with a plethora of wearable gadgets, however. Major tech companies like Intel, Qualcomm, Sony, and Samsung all brought smartwatches to the show. As and for personal fitness-focused wristbands, they’ve been so popular at this year’s convention that even Razer — a company best known for making high-end PC gaming equipment — brought one to show off.

“Folks spend around $1 trillion a year globally on consumer electronics,” Walker said. “When you take a fraction of that compared to a trillion, we’re still just scratching the surface of that market. But people have to become more accustomed to it, there has to be a lot more value built into a device before they decide to buy it.”

The boss is calling from his eyeglass cam

Bill Bartow, vice president of global product management at the workforce management software company Kronos, agrees with Walker that the short-term applications of wearable technology won’t see their biggest hits in the consumer space. Instead, they’ll catch on at work.

“There’s a really big opportunity for wearables to have a faster adoption in the workplace than in the consumer world,” Bartow told NBC News. There already are wearable tech applications for many jobs, he said, and it’s easier to get people to start wearing something when you pay them to and can demonstrate a clear return on investment for making employees do so.

Don Norman, co-founder of the Norman-Nielsen Group and author of the legendary book “The Design of Everyday Things,” told NBC News that modern day tech developers are therefore facing the same challenge that watch and glasses-makers have wrestled with for centuries: making devices that are not only useful and functional, but attractive enough that you’re comfortable wearing it both intimately and in public. And while there are certain gadgets like Pebble’s new sleek metal smartwatch or Google’s near-future headset that are attractive in their own right, this is really just the beginning of a transition from design to fashion.

“This is just one of a stage in the evolution of products,” Norman said. “It really has to be well accepted enough, reliable enough, that eventually it becomes a symbol of who you are!”

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Pebble vs. Google Glass: Why The New May Triumph Over The Radical

Smartwatches could win out over augmented reality gadgets simply because they don’t make us nervous.


Technology develops in fits and starts. It’s the reason we tech types make the manic pilgrimage to a convention center in Las Vegas every year to check in on it. It’s why software updates pop up on our phones every few months in increments. Outside of science fiction, quantum leaps aren’t supposed to happen.

With few places left to install computer systems, technology we can wear is the de facto hot new thing. Mobile engagement is through the roof, so we might as well see that trend to its logical conclusion and wear the damned things around. In the last year alone, fitness trackers have exploded onto shelves and iterated quickly. The “smartwatch” is suddenly a product category that we take seriously. And the imagination of the public remains captivated by Google’s moonshot wearable, Google Glass. But imaginations and pocketbooks don’t always see eye to eye.

With no direct competitors to speak of, Glass, still in its early developer days, looks to be in a league of its own. But viable, smart wearables just picking up some mainstream traction could actually prove the biggest threat of all. Among them, the Pebble smartwatch—a hardware whim Kickstarted into being—is in exactly the right place at the right time, pun retroactively intended. (Sure, Pebble isn’t the only smartwatch out there, but until the advent of the iWatch, it will likely remain the best.)

Competitors In A Strange New Ring

I own both Google Glass and a Pebble. Wearing both at once feels surprisingly redundant, and given my Pebble’s lower profile, it makes wearing Glass feel stupid. Which is a funny thing considering just what a wonder device Glass really is. Considering its sensors and processing power, Glass is leagues smarter than my smartwatch.

Yet my Pebble “does the trick” quite nicely, while Glass feels like cartoonish overkill—Wile E. Coyote taking TNT to our modern technological malaise.

What is that malaise exactly? According to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, smartphones are socially isolating, and that’s a big problem. In Brin’s early vision of our near future, with Glass, we could live in our experience rather than around it (you know, tweeting, Googling things, refreshing Facebook).

Put another way, for the first time since the smartphone shackled our collective gaze to confines of so many small LCDs, we could do both—we could have our lives and live them too. Pebble was conceived with a similar, simple goal: “get notified without checking out.” Technology, both devices posit, should get the hell out of the way. 

As dissimilar as they seem, both Pebble and Glass are working toward the same end. Both devices revolve around the idea of providing a non disruptive flow of notification data, a sort of wearable ticker on the side of reality that we can glance at and quickly away from. Worn together, without configuring them individually, Glass and Pebble deliver redundant information: duplicate texts, two of every email. Essentially, when combining a wrist-worn wearable with a head-up display like Glass, both devices backfire, demanding more of us and not less. Two might be a crowd.


Is It Too Soon For Glass?

Glass and Pebble, both hardware marvels in their respective weight classes, embody very different means to a shared end. Glass is a grandiose reimagining of the way we live, work and play, a prescription (pun not intended this time) to wholly cure us of technological angst. Glass explodes the claustrophobic parameters of our smartphone’s micro-world, superimposing that data onto reality itself in a way that still looks and feels like Star Trek.

It’s no surprise that, after a few solid months of wonder, now cynicism prevails in conversations around Glass: it’s cool to hate Glass because it’s just too out there—now take this thing off my face, I look like an asshole. (This is technology! Where’s your sense of imagination?) When it goes on sale later this year, Google Glass may very well be met with a collective shrug from the mainstream, signaling that society just isn’t ready for it. Google, happy to see its moonshot come to life, may or may not even care.

In the booming field of wearable technology, the face is controversial terrain. Steve Mann, arguable father of wearable computing, has been wearing a less elegant, ever-evolving version of Google Glass for more than three decades—but that didn’t stop him from getting roughed up at a McDonald’s for looking weird.

Other facial augmented and virtual reality experiments like the Oculus Rift seem to inspire fear and fascination in equal parts. What society is ready for, though, is a stepping stone toward Google’s futuristic visor, one that shows the way to the other thing, the one that’s too “out there” even if it’s here right now.

Wristwatches have been in vogue for a century and in development for centuries before that, though they’ve never delivered much but the time. When it comes to wearables, the power of the familiar form factor—one nowhere near the fragile social plane just before our eyes—can’t be underestimated.

When I wear Glass in public, it literally stops traffic. People do double takes at stop lights, slapstick comedy style. I leave my house with the knowledge that complete strangers will fling themselves toward the thing on my face with a mixture of fascination and incredulity. Even for a person who likes weird, it still feels weird.

Google Glass: Less scary than video games.

Google Glass: Less scary than video games.

When I wear my Pebble, which people notice and recognize more often than I’d expected, people ask how I like it. They don’t want to try it on or see it in action, because they can imagine it themselves. It’s like a tiny smartphone for your wrist, sort of. But a smartphone draped over your field of vision like a HUD in Mass Effect? It makes people squirmy. If the future is now, there are a lot of unsavory ethical and social implications to start thinking about—and hey, don’t planets blow up in most sci-fi?

The Right Place At The Right Time

If Glass is the precocious kid in school that asks too many questions and makes everyone uncomfortable—should he like, even be here?—Pebble is a straight A student. The latter performs well above average and plays by the rules. The precocious kid is less predictable. Sometimes he blows everyone out of the water, sometimes he fails out because no one else really “got it.” (Of course, sometimes he bubbles back to the surface in five years with a crazy-successful startup.)

Which fate will befall Glass? We’ll know soon enough. But hey, at least we know what to expect from the other kid. The one that doesn’t make us nervous.