With IFA (Europe’s version of CES) in full swing this week, there have been a slew of smartwatch announcements. We have known most of these were on the radar but in most cases pricing and availability have only now been made public. The 4 big announcements thus far relate to the Asus Zen Watch 2, the Huawei Watch, the Samsung Gear S2, and the Moto 360 2.
The Asus Zen Watch 2 is definitely the bargain of the bunch, with a price starting at $170 (oddly the larger model is the cheapest). This is a price drop from the original which is probably a good thing because we are not nearly as enamored with the successor’s design. When it launched, the Zen Watch was one of the best performing and looking Android Wear devices available. Asus has made minor tweaks to the aesthetics for this year, but they all seem to be for the worse. It almost feels like Asus got lazy. Functionality wise,
there is an improved OLED screen, upgraded processor, new magnetic charger, and an Apple-like “Digital Crown.” Actually the crown isn’t the only thing that Asus decided to knock off, the product video is nearly identical to the Apple Watch reveal video. The Zen Watch 2 will launch globally in October.
One of the more highly anticipated upcoming Android Wear smartwatches is the Huawei Watch. Huawei is not a recognizable brand inside the US yet, but the company is huge in China and has its sights set on America (in fact, they just stole Apple’s thunder by announcing a smartphone with Force Touch capabilities, a week before Apple). If you don’t know Huawei now, you probably will by the end of 2016. Like the Apple Watch, the Huawei Watch is offered across a large price range with the only difference being the finishings. The lowest end model costs $350 while the rose gold plated version sells for $800. All models feature a 1.4 inch fully circular AMOLED display, stainless steel construction, and a sapphire screen. The Hauwei Watch ships with a variety of custom watch faces and has “easily swappable” bands. It will be available in retail September 17th but can be preordered through the company’s website. The device is also one of the first Android Wear devices officially supported by Google on iOS.
A few weeks ago we got a peek at Samsung’s new Tizen powered Gear S2. The company has now officially announced the smartwatch; it will be available in 3 flavors: standard, Classic, and 3G. As with all of Samsung’s Tizen devices, it will only be compatible with select Samsung phones. All three models include the standard array of smartwatch sensors and communication methods, a 1.2 inch circular AMOLED display, 4GB of onboard storage, and a rotating bezel that behaves like Apple’s Digital Crown. Given how svelte the S2 is compared to the original Gear S, we figured Samsung jettisoned the original model’s signature feature: cellular connectivity. Turns out there will be a separate 3G version with a larger battery (which we are guessing means a thicker watch) and a voice compatible e-SIM, a first-of-its-kind. While Samsung is still mum on release dates and pricing, it does look like Samsung’s best wearable effort to date and we will be curious to see what Galaxy users think of it.
Probably the most anticipated wearable of the year after the Apple Watch is Motorola’s Moto 360 2. After a plethora of leaks, Motorola went public with the new device today, which is now officially called the 2015 Moto 360. The watch is visually the same, maintaining its love-it-or-hate-it flat tire display, with the only obviously change being the crown button moving to the 2 o’clock position. The internals have been updated through, offering improved speeds and storage. There are also new custom watch faces that allow for Apple Watch-like complications. The new device is being released as a complete collection, with different sizes (42mm and 46mm), finishes, bezels, and straps being offered. Depending on which size watch you choose, the screen size is either 1.37 inches or 1.56 inches. If you were expecting the 2015 model to be sold at the same price point the 360 currently retails for, prepare to be disappointed; the new model actually retails for more than the original launched at, selling for between $300 and $430. I think a lot of people were expecting larger upgrades from Motorola this year and will not be impressed with the pricing. It will be interesting to see how it fares in the market (Motorola’s website seems to be crushed by traffic right now). The device can be preordered starting today and will launch in a few weeks. Later this year, Motorola will also launch the Moto 360 Sports, which will add GPS and an outdoor-readable display.
One thing is clear, with few exceptions smartwatches are not getting cheaper. When Apple announced the pricing of their Watch last year, people were stunned at how expensive they were. After the relative success of Apple’s wearable versus the competition, other companies must feel that Apple has demonstrated there is an audience for more expensive devices. As those companies release new models, they are taking the opportunity to climb into Apple’s price territory. It is an interesting strategy.