Swatch Compromises on Smartwatches

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How The Apple Watch Will Change Office Life.

Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch Group, says near-field communications technology removes some of the perceived limitations of smartwatches, enabling some smart functions to be integrated into its existing lineup of timepieces. (Bloomberg) — Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said the watch industry can make more attractive timepieces than the Apple Watch as the Swiss company adds more intelligent functions that don’t sap battery life.

With the introduction of Apple’s new smartwatch earlier this week, many are speculating if we’ll soon be able to just glance at our wrist rather than keeping our phones on the table during every meeting. Forty-five percent of consumers are expected to strap a smartwatch to their wrists in the near future, digital marketing company Acquity Group reports. Hayek dismissed smartwatches; the son of Swatch’s founder grumbled the screens were too small, batteries too weak and designs inelegant, particularly for customers of conventional brands like Swatch’s Breguet. If we were cyborgs programmed to make the most efficient use of new hardware, working with smartwatches would be like downloading a new piece of software to help make us more efficient. But compared to smartwatches, it’s great.” Swatch is returning to the wearable technology market after being an early innovator with products such as the Paparazzi watch.

When you’re working in your highly focused zone and you glance at your watch as it alerts you to a new email, it might take you as long as 23 minutes to get back on task. “We can all attest to the current-day workplace, where whenever someone picks up their mobile device, it isn’t to check the company stock price,” says Tiffani Murray, HR technology and talent management strategist. “It’s to check texts from family, friends, that guy I went on a date with last Friday, and, let’s face it, to play Words With Friends. The NFC technology will allow the watches, which will range from the company’s eponymous plastic brand to its high-range Omega line, to be used for tasks like cashless payments and hotel-room access. I’d rather have my key in my watch.” The watchmaker, whose brands range from Breguet to Tissot, will introduce timepieces with payment capabilities in coming months, and that could eventually be extended across the entire Swatch range, Hayek said. But will that hyperproductive value outweigh the potential for playing Candy Crush on our new accessories? “When we’re trying to focus on a task, it probably doesn’t help to have our wrists lighting up with new messages and reminders every 15 minutes,” he writes. “There’s a reason some of us stow our phones away when we need to focus for prolonged periods of time.” But don’t curse Tim Cook when you can’t get anything done. The original Pebble was a bit easier on your pocket than its successor, the Pebble Steel, but the Steel looked a bit more like a watch you’d actually wear every day.

The technology consists of a tiny chip and an antenna, so the watches won’t require daily recharging. “We are not a consumer technology company,” Mr. Announced at Mobile World Congress, the Pebble Time has a colour e-paper screen and a built in microphone so you can respond to notifications in apps. Hayek said at the company’s annual media day. “We don’t want to produce a reduced, minimized mobile phone on your wrist.” Swatch, like other Swiss watchmakers, is reappraising the threat smartwatches pose to its business as the most formidable challenger, Apple Inc., prepares to roll out its much-anticipated entry next month. She’s optimistic about this new gadget, but others are less so. “Who’s not getting work done because they aren’t getting notifications in time?” says Ravi Bhatt, CEO of software design company Branchfire. On Monday, Apple hosted a 90 minute event in San Francisco at which it boasted about Apple Watch’s features and introduced models that blur the line between technology and fashion.

The company said it’s also been developing more efficient batteries, and its Belenos Clean Power unit has come up with a material that can deliver 50 percent more energy storage capacity than the best rechargeable lithium batteries on the market. The main advantage of the Pebble is that it’s compatible with both iOS and Android, so you aren’t stuck with one system due to your choice of smartwatch. Task switching kills productivity, and having another device to interrupt you is hardly the answer.” Psychologist and frequent Fast Company contributor Art Markman agrees with Bhatt. Its battery can last 18 hours with typical use, though the company has said that drops to 6 1/2 hours when playing music and to 3 hours when used for phone calls.

Meanwhile, Apple’s high-end models, which sport price tags of more than $10,000, will likely hit midlevel Swiss watches, the core segment of the market. Compatible with Android phones that work with Bluetooth 4.1, Sony’s watch had the distinction of being the first Android Wear device to have GPS built in. Already, Frederique Constant SA and Mondaine Watch Ltd. have unveiled smartwatches to blunt Apple’s advance into fashion, which it has announced with an advertising insert in Vogue. With the high-tech wearable becoming more discreet—instead of, for example, on our faces in the form of glasses—companies that deal with sensitive information will need to establish a few new security policies around it. “These devices, which can be described as life-critical in many situations, will almost certainly contain extremely personal data, including sensitive health information,” says Ryan Faas, mobile strategist for MobileIron. “Clear privacy policies are paramount.” Alongside personal privacy, company data could be at risk when it’s bared for the world on a watch.

Smartwatches could eat as much as 10% of sales of Swatch’s entry-level plastic brand and 5% of its midmarket brands, which include Tissot and Mido, in 2015, according to estimates by Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. Company IT departments and the rest of the workforce will have to start a conversation, Faas says, about how they’ll use features as simple as email notifications up to in-development apps and services, as smartwatches start multiplying across an office.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA’s TAG Heuer is set to unveil a timepiece featuring GPS functions and health monitoring before the end of the year. That’s just a small example of the approach apps are taking toward smart wearables: to make your already daily grabs at your attention as frictionless as possible. To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew Boyle at Thomas Mulier, Robert Valpuesta

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