This hasn’t been a great year for wearables. In particular, for smartwatches, which still haven’t found a compelling reason to dislodge the piece of jewellery currently strapped around many wrists — yes, that good-looking and expensive old-school watch. OnePlus has iced its smartwatch dreams, while the HTC version is still nowhere in sight. And according to an IDC report from July, the global smartwatch market experienced its first decline, with shipments falling a massive 32 per cent in the second quarter. But it was not all doom and gloom. While the market leader, Apple, took a big hit, Samsung actually managed to more than double its share, with the Gear S2 leading the charge.
So it will be particularly interesting to see what the big names in wearables pull out at IFA 2016. While Apple won’t be around — rumours indicate the Apple Watch 2 will be launched along with the iPhone 7 on September 7 — there will be enough smartwatches and fitness trackers to write a tome about.
If the teaser press invite is anything to go by, we will see not one, but three different versions of the Gear S3 smartwatch — called Classic, Frontier and Explorer. No word yet on what the differences are, but most likely they will only be cosmetic and cater to different consumer tastes. At IFA 2016, you will also get to play with the recently launched Gear Fit 2 fitness tracker, which is being marketed as a GPS sports band. Yes, this version comes with GPS for standalone tracking, along with a heart rate monitor. Samsung has already released its version of truly wireless earphones — the Gear IconX. Apart from doubling up as a music player with 4GB of on-board storage, the earbuds come with a heart rate monitor — ideal for use as a fitness tracker while at the gym.
The Taiwanese company is having a bit of a Zen moment with an entire line-up of Zen-branded products. Unfortunately for Asus, its upcoming ZenWatch 3 has leaked ahead of its IFA launch. If the details are accurate, this time around Asus has made its watch round. It also sports three physical buttons on one side, which is an intriguing break from Android smartwatches, which usually have just one button. The watch is likely to have Wi-Fi baked in, along with Bluetooth. Tech site Wareable.com does not expect any other trackers in the device. However, we might get to see a mobile VR headset that supports Google’s Daydream project. An AR headset might also make an appearance.
Until about three years back, Fitbit had the activity tracking market all to itself — it was considered too niche by the biggies. But at CES 2015, wearables were all over the place, from companies better known for their printers, to those in the navigation business. Indeed, it was touted as the Year of the Wearables. This meant Fitbit had to try extra hard to stay ahead of the game. It did that with three new products last year — the Charge, Charge HR and Surge. And at IFA 2016, Fitbit will launch the Flex 2 and Charge 2 models — the company confirmed this during its earnings call earlier this month. And going by the leaks, the Charge 2 will have a larger display and Fitbit’s new PurePulse heart rate tracking tech.
In Lenovo’s fold now, Motorola has expanded its offerings with the VerveLife lifestyle products. Currently, that includes a pair of smart wireless earbuds called VerveOnes+ — which recently got a scathing review for connectivity issues — and a smart wireless cam. At IFA, we expect Motorola to have these on display, hooked up to its freshly launched Moto G and Moto Z phones. The latter is particularly interesting, since it offers function expandability through magnetic add-on modules — Lenovo calls them Moto Mods — that currently include a JBL speaker, external battery pack and a pico-projector. Expect Lenovo to launch a few more mods at IFA 2016, challenging LG’s Friends. And what about the Moto 360, which made round smartwatches a thing? Well, the buzz is that Motorola just might launch the third iteration at IFA 2016. Hopefully, it will finally get rid of that infamous flat tyre — the dark strip at the bottom — and deliver a truly round watch face?