One of the biggest criticisms leveled at the current generation of smartwatches, be they from Apple or one of the many companies supporting Google’s Android Wear, is that without a connection to a phone, they’re little more than glorified MP3 players that can tell the time. However, that is all about to change.
From now on, with the latest update to the Android Wear operating system, smartwatches will support cellular connection via the LTE/4G network so that many of the apps function as will the ability to send and receive messages and even take or make calls, with or without a smartphone.
As Android Wear’s product manager, Peter Ludwig, explains: “No more worrying about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi -- your watch will automatically switch to a cellular connection when you’re out of range.”
The first device to come with this feature out of the box is the new-generation LG Watch Urbane, announced this week and due to go on sale before the end of November.
Unfortunately this new feature requires new hardware as well as software so LTE connectivity will not be rolling out to existing Android smartwatches, even the new $1,500 TAG Heuer Connected, the world’s first Swiss-made, luxury Android Wear device. Launched officially on Monday, the watch, which is a serious competitor to the Apple Watch in terms of quality and styling, is now already less desirable than the Urbane, a timepiece made by a company better known for TVs and smartphones.
But whether a smartwatch costs $150 or $1,500, it still represents a technological bet -- are we moving towards the age of the wearable or are smartwatches just a flash in the pan?
“The wearable category is still in its infancy and we plan to continue introducing exciting devices that appeal to a diverse audience,” said Juno Cho, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company, about LG’s approach to the segment.
The inbuilt obsolescence of anything that uses silicon was a fundamental issue for TAG Heuer, a brand renowned for products that last a lifetime.
Its solution is to offer owners regular upgrades (for a fee) so that their watches stay up to date as the technology supporting them evolves. Better still, for those who decide a smartwatch isn’t for them, they can trade in the Connected for a mechanical Tag Heuer Carrera instead.