All posts in “smartwatches”

Apple and Android are destroying the Swiss Watch industry


In Q4 2017 – essentially during the last holiday season – market research firm Canalys found that more people bought Apple watches than Swiss watches. Two million more, to be exact. Brian Heater has more data but this news is quite problematic for the folks eating Coquilles St-Jacques on the slopes of the Jura mountains.

The numbers are estimates based on market data but they still point to a trend. In Q1 2016 Apple shipped 1.5 million watches to Switzerland’s 5.9 million. The intervening quarters were about the same until the launch of the Apple Watch 3 in September 2017, just in time for holiday shopping. The boost of a new phone and a new watch at the same time meant a perfect storm for upgraders, driving the total number of Apple Watches sold past the Swiss watch sales numbers.


This switch does not mean Apple will maintain that lead – they have one product while Switzerland has thousands – but comparing a single company’s output to an entire industry’s in this case is telling.

Wearing watches is, as we all remind each other, is passé.

“I check the time on my phone,” we said for almost a decade as phones became more ubiquitous. Meanwhile watch manufacturers abandoned the low end and began selling to the high end consumer, the connoisseur.

Take a look at this chart:

Sales of low- to mid-tier watches – and a mid-tier watch can range in price between $500 and $3,000 (and I would even lump many $10,000 watches in the mid-tier category) – were stagnant while the true cash cows, the expensive watches for the ultra-rich, fell slowly from a high in 2014. This coincides with falling purchases in China as what amounted to sumptuary laws reduced the number of expensive gifts given to corrupt officials. Sales are up as December 2017 but don’t expect much of a bump past the current slide.

As a lover of all things mechanical – I did ruin a few years of my life writing a book about a watch – I look at these trends with dismay and a bit of Schadenfreude. As I’ve said again and again the Swiss Watch industry brought this on itself. While they claim great numbers and great success year after year the small manufacturers are eating each other up while nearly every major watch brand is snooping around for outside buyers. There is no money in churning out mechanical timepieces to an increasingly disinterested public.

As time ticks ever forward things will change. The once mighty Swiss houses will sink under the weight of their accreted laurel-resting and Apple will move on to embedded brain implants and leave watches behind. The result, after a battle that raged for more than four decades, will be a dead Swiss industry catering to a world that has moved on.

German government tells parents to destroy children’s smartwatches

The German government isn’t just banning some children’s smartwatches — its telling people to “destroy” the gadgets already circulating around the country.

On Friday, Germany’s telecom regulator the Federal Network Agency announced that a number of these devices, designed for ages 5 to 12, can allow someone to remotely tap into the watch’s microphone and clandestinely spy from remote locations (just like a wiretap). The regulator isn’t just concerned about the potential of people spying on children — it’s concerned the devices can be used to spy on anyone.

And in Germany, it’s illegal to record private conversations without permission.

“According to our investigations, parents were using the watches, for example, to listen in on teachers during class,” said Federal Network Agency President Jochen Homann in a statement.

Smartwatches that make phone calls, like the Apple Watch, are legal in Germany. The problem with many of the children’s smartwatches, however, is the devices have a classic snooping function, similar to a baby monitor, which can be easily activated just by using an app.

“Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” said Homann.

The German regulator is so serious about destroying these devices, it’s asking citizens to literally document the watches’ destruction and to file evidence online. Once the watches are destroyed, the regulator will provide a “certificate of destruction,” confirming the deed was done. 

This isn’t the first time the Federal Network Agency told German citizens to destroy a consumer device. In February, the regulator prohibited the doll “My Friend Cayla” and labeled it as an “espionage device.” Apparently, the dolls were fitted with radio transmission technology that could allow children to be spied on.

Beware consumer tech manufacturers: The German government won’t just ban devices that facilitate spying, they’ll demand the devices be smashed with hammer (or whatever means of destruction one prefers) — even if they’re dolls.

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Garmin’s new Vivosport is an ideal lightweight smart activity tracker


If you’re looking to get pretty much all the benefits of a smartwatch without a watch, and to track your activity and sport performance with tools that are more than up to the task, Garmin’s Vivosport is a strong option, with a price tag that comes in well under that of most dedicated smartwatches. It works well with both Android and iOS devices, has a built-in heart rate tracker and GPS, and provides access to all kinds of preset activity types for a range of workout options.

The Vivosport is the first Garmin wearable I’ve used for any significant length of time, and it proved a capable companion both in a smartwatch capacity, and as an activity tracker. The lightweight band is mostly polymer and silicone, with a specially strengthened glass protecting the transflective touchscreen display. It’s waterproof for wear while swimming, too, and it can last up to a week while operating in smartwatch mode, or eight hours of dedicated GPUS use – figures which were backed up by my tests, and generally resulted in around four or five days of use between charges along with daily run tracking.

Vivosport’s small screen is only 72 x 144 pixels in terms of resolution, but it’s perfectly readable in both bright sunlight and in the dark thanks to backlighting. It’s also touch sensitive, and the UI is designed with maximizing information and readability while minimizing input required in mind. I found it occasionally frustrating to get it to move forward or back, with the input resulting in the wrong action, but mostly interacting with the device on my wrist was easy enough overall.

What I really enjoyed about the Vivosport was that it offered just the right amount of smart features, with a low-profile and comfortable design ideal for all-day use. The Vivosport is the perfect wearable companion for some who isn’t a watch wearer generally, in fact, or for anyone who wants to wear one while also still wearing a traditional wristwatch on their other arm (I fall into this latter category).

The flexible silicone used in the integrated band is also a strength of this device vs. other similar products. It’s stretchy enough that you can get a good, secure fit using the smartly designed clasp (which also has a great catcher for keeping the excess band in control). You can easily find a fit that seems tight enough that you’ll get good readings from the optical heart rate monitor on the Vivosport’s underside, while also not being so tight or inflexible that it feels uncomfortable to wear.

Vivosport also doesn’t really need you to be near your phone to work – it won’t get smart notifications if you aren’t around your device, but it can track runs and other activities independently, and store up to 7 total timed activities or 14 days worth of activity tracking data between syncing. It connects to your device using Bluetooth Smart, and it’s dead simple to set up and activate, too.

Additional features include the ability to provide basic weather info, as well as find my phone features and remote controls for Garmin VIRB action cams just add to the overall value, but you don’t need to really use any of those things to make the most of the Vivosport, which at heart is a great, learning activity monitor that can track sleep, automatically increment your step goal based on your fitness level, and even automatically pause workouts while in progress. I especially enjoyed the Move IQ feature that autodetects activity even if you forget to start one manually, which

In summary, Garmin’s Vivosport is something that offers all the smartwatch features most users need, along with key health and fitness elements that could inspire better habits and improve existing routines for those with active lifestyles. If I could change anything, I’d replace the proprietary charing cable (since it means you’ll have to buy a new one if you lose it), but the Vivosport’s $199.99 asking price is a good bargain for everything you get, from the color touchscreen display to the week-long battery life and connected smartphone features.

LunaR launches solar-powered smartwatch via Kickstarter

Though the smartwatch phenomenon exploded a number of years ago, it seems as if the “new and improved” features have come to a slight halt: we’ve seen alarm clocks, phone notifications, activity tracking, etc., but what come next? 

The answer may very well be solar power. Introducing LunaR, the Kickstarter project that’s looking to create the world’s first solar-powered smartwatch. 

The LunaR boasts a number of cool features that come standard with smartwatches: it can monitor your sleep patterns, set alarms, track your movement activity, and can connect with your messages and social media notifications.  

“Solar powered” may sound like LunaR can only be charged during daylight hours, but the watch has been engineered to charge in artificial, indoor lighting as well as outdoor light, so you’ll never have to worry about a dead watch again.

A normal day, LunaR style:

LunaR already met its goal on Kickstarter, but there’s still time to back it and get those early bird prices. It starts shipping in December, making it the perfect last-minute gift for literally anyone.  Check out LunaR here.

Red Sox may have used a Fitbit, not an Apple Watch, to snag Yankees signs


In a major upset for Apple’s smartwatch brand, it appears that it was a Fitbit, not an Apple Watch, that the Red Sox used as a medium for their sign-stealing in a recent ball game. The news comes from “a major league source” speaking to Boston Globe sports reporter Nick Cafardo. It’s unclear at this time whether the source himself or herself is major league or if they are MLB related.

While this may seem unimportant… well, let’s be honest. It is. But it’s the kind of unimportant that’s still worth noting. This is the kind of petty infamy that will be referenced for years, at least if smartwatches are around for that long.

If it’s good enough for the Red Sox to deploy against their natural enemy, it’s good enough for a lot of fans. It was probably a Blaze. We asked the MLB for details but they declined to comment.

Fitbit shares rose 0.15 percent on the news.