It looks like the next major player looking to take the Apple Watch’s crown may have the resources to seriously compete, even if it has other hurdles to overcome. According to a new report in The Information (opens in new tab), Facebook is planning on releasing its first smartwatch, and the company may have something available as early as next year.
The story, corroborated by four anonymous sources at the company, claims that the wearable will have its own cellular connection, ensuring it can work independently of a smartphone, and it’s likely to play heavily to the company’s social appeal with Facebook Messenger baked in.
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Health is reportedly another big area, with Facebook planning connectivity with other companies’ hardware and software, such as Peloton. The wearable will initially run Android, but Facebook is said to be working on its own OS for the longer term, with a second-generation possibly coming as soon as 2023.
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch 7 is expected to deliver a wide range of upgrades. It may feature an advanced microLED display, as well as the ability to monitor your blood pressure and possibly your blood glucose levels.
Will smartwatch shoppers trust Facebook?
That’s quite bold planning, especially when Facebook’s experience with hardware to date could be described as “patchy”. While it’s hard to find where to buy Oculus Quest 2, the same can’t be said for the company’s Portal smart screen. And few will remember ChaCha – the company’s 2011 smartphone collaboration with HTC featuring its own dedicated Facebook button.
If anything, the challenges have increased in the last decade. While Facebook has grown even more dominant, a series of privacy related Facebook scandals have made consumers more skeptical of how the company uses data, and it’s hard to see how that squares with a wearable that’ll be diligently collecting user fitness data and potentially location tracking.
That’s before you even get on to the challenges involved in any company taking on the Apple Watch. In addition to LG and Sony, plenty of classic watchmakers and fashion houses have tried to crack Apple’s wearable dominance with limited success. Only Samsung and Fitbit have proved to be competitive.
No doubt Facebook is aware of the uphill challenge it faces, despite its enormous R&D budget and the ability to advertise to its 2.7 billion-strong membership. Presumably for that reason, The Information report suggests that Facebook plans on selling its wearable at near the cost price.
The question is what that construction cost is: there’s a big gap between a $150 Fitbit Charge 3 and the $399 Apple Watch Series 6, after all. The answer to that question will go some way towards helping us predict whether a Facebook watch has potential, or if it’s likely dead on arrival.