After the failure of the Facebook Phone, get ready for a Facebook Watch

Here is an announcement that ought to fill everybody with optimism: Fb is constructing an Android smartwatch! That is in accordance with a brand new report from The Information, which says the watch ought to hit the market subsequent 12 months.

Sources inform The Info that the watch might be a standalone system, in a position to hook as much as mobile networks with out tethering to a smartphone. The report makes it sound like Fb needs to construct its personal smartwatch ecosystem, saying the system will “let wearers ship messages utilizing Fb’s providers and likewise provide well being and health options.” The Info later added that “Fb hopes to emphasise options that make the most of its social networking prowess, reminiscent of permitting customers to trace their exercises with associates or talk with their coach” and that Fb “plans to permit the system to hook up with the providers or {hardware} of well being and health firms, reminiscent of Peloton Interactive.”

Will the venture achieve success? Let’s simply say that each phrase within the phrase “Fb Android smartwatch” is trigger for concern. Should you exclude the acquired Oculus VR division, Fb’s {hardware} efforts have not panned out effectively. The closest earlier venture to a smartwatch is the Fb Cellphone, aka, the HTC First. Fb and HTC teamed up in 2013 to design a smartphone utilizing HTC’s {hardware} and Fb’s software program. Fb made a customized Android pores and skin with a brand new, Fb-centric house display screen and some different additions. The telephone lasted one month available on the market. Fb’s newer, much less traditionally disastrous {hardware} effort is the Fb Portal line, which is a sequence of video chat units out there in a number of good show type elements and as a set-top field to your TV. These did not sell well within the regular market, however when the pandemic hit, the Portal TV sold out together with each different video chat system.

Counterpoint's H1 2020 Global smartwatch market share.
Enlarge / Counterpoint’s H1 2020 World smartwatch market share.

Counterpoint Analysis

Android doesn’t have a lot of a future in smartwatches. Google’s smartwatch-focused model of Android, WearOS, looks like a lifeless platform, having solely captured 10 percent of the worldwide smartwatch market in H1 2020, in accordance with the latest report from Counterpoint Analysis. There isn’t any developer base for WearOS, as a result of gross sales are so low. All of the gadget producers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, and Motorola have fled the platform, leaving solely the style manufacturers to struggle over the scraps. Google appears to have deserted improvement of the platform, too, with the last major WearOS update releasing in 2018.

It is not clear if Fb will really use WearOS for this smartwatch. The report says that “[t]he watch would run on an open supply model of Google’s Android software program.” WearOS just isn’t open supply, so making a WearOS watch would contain signing a cope with Google and adhering to its necessities. If the report is updated on the esoteric licensing of Android supply code, it seems like Fb will fork Cellphone Android and make its personal model of Android-for-smartwatches, stripping out any pointless options. Fb would then be answerable for operating an app retailer, making developer APIs, and 1,000,000 different issues. The Info additionally drops a enjoyable tidbit that, whereas preliminary variations of the smartwatch will run some spinoff of Android, “Fb can also be working to construct its personal working system for future {hardware}.”

A serious driving drive behind the failure of WearOS, which Fb will even should reckon with, is that Qualcomm has traditionally not been that taken with supporting a smartwatch ecosystem with {hardware}. Qualcomm launched its first smartwatch SoC in 2014 after which went six years earlier than it launched a brand new smartwatch chip that might be thought-about a serious improve. The mid-2020 launch of the Snapdragon Put on 4100 implies that Fb at present has a decent-but-not-great choice for a smartwatch chip, however it’s not clear if Qualcomm intends to rehash that chip for one more six years or if it plans to truly allow year-over-year smartwatch enhancements now. Apple and Samsung each make their very own smartwatch SoCs, which are not on the market to different producers. Should you’re trying to find a smartwatch SoC to purchase, it is Qualcomm or bust.

The smartwatch market is totally dominated by Apple, which in accordance with that very same Counterpoint Analysis report has 51 % of the worldwide smartwatch market. The remainder of the smartwatch market is a bunch of struggling distributors with bespoke working programs, all beneath 10 % every—firms like Samsung, Huawei, and Garmin.

The Info says Fb’s smartwatch push is a component of a bigger plan aimed toward “controlling the following computing platforms after smartphones.” Within the smartphone period, Fb is on the mercy of the 2 massive smartphone working system distributors, Google and Apple, neither of which have a very good relationship with Fb. Google is a rival of Fb in person monitoring, platforms, and advertisements. Apple’s push for privateness (which it sees as a key differentiator between Android and iOS) has led the corporate to directly attack Facebook. If Fb owned the platform, it will have much more freedom to do what it needs—freedom which most likely includes monitoring customers.

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