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Apple smartwatch rivals turn back the fashion clock

Apple smartwatch rivals turn back the fashion clockApple’s rivals in the smartwatch market have hit on a new idea to win over consumers: make devices that look like traditional timepieces.

From analogue clocks with health-tracking and wireless payment capabilities to smartwatches with round faces instead of square, Samsung, Sony, LG and Motorola are showcasing a wide range of responses to the Apple Watch at a Berlin technology conference this week.

Samsung hopes that timeless accoutrements such as leather straps will help it reverse an estimated drop of 25 per cent in sales of wearables in the second quarter of the year. Its 600,000 units shipped trailed behind Apple’s 3.6m Watch sales during the quarter, according to IDC.

Others too are hoping that a fashion forward — or backward — approach will fuel sales of wearables as smartphones lose momentum. CCS Insight consultancy reckons that the wearables market will be worth $25bn by 2019, with smartwatches alone generating $9bn of sales this year.

Analysts at IHS have predicted that smartwatch shipments will leap tenfold to 36m this year and to that end manufacturers are putting style on display at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, Europe’s largest consumer electronics show.

Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the Gear S2, is its first with a round face. Where Apple Watch’s Digital Crown has a traditional watch’s winding mechanism to navigate software, the Gear S2’s rotating bezel is used to scroll through apps and menus.

Motorola’s Moto 360 was the first smartwatch to boast a circular screen and the Lenovo-owned company now offers customisation in its second version with new bezels, colours and wristbands.

As it unveiled the new device on Wednesday, Motorola said that it was taking “further inspiration from the traditional watch world” by creating distinct styles for men and women, while also touting new tech features including two-day battery life.

Meanwhile, Sony is taking retro inspiration even further with Wena Wrist, which looks like a traditional analogue watch from the front but conceals NFC wireless payments and vibrating notifications in its strap. It will go on sale early next year.

While none of Apple’s competitors have yet matched the $17,000 price tag of its gold Watch Edition, LG is targeting wealthier shoppers with a limited-edition, 23-karat Urbane Luxe smartwatch, which will cost around $1,200 when it goes on sale next month.

The regular LG Watch Urbane, which costs $350, is also among the first smartwatches running Android Wear that will work with an iPhone, after Google released an iOS app for its operating system this week. Google’s cross-platform approach contrasts with Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone to function, and many of Samsung’s Gear devices, which run its own Tizen software and must be paired with the Korean company’s own smartphones.

“Apple’s smartwatch competitors will benefit as Apple educates consumers on smartwatch benefits, meaning competitors need the Apple Watch to succeed,” IHS wrote in a recent research note.

Tim Bradshaw, International Business Times
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