When you step back and look at 2018 as a whole, it was actually a pretty big year for smartwatches. Google's Wear OS saw a huge software overhaul, Qualcomm launched its first new wearable-focused processor in over two years, and Fitbit released its best smartwatch yet with the Versa while continuing to polish and refine its FitbitOS platform (not to mention the incredible Series 4 Apple Watch).
Smartwatches had a pretty good life for the past 365 days, and as we head into the new year, there are a few things we can look forward to that'll see them mature and advance even more.
Join me as we go through my top smartwatch predictions for 2019!
We'll see the full potential of Qualcomm's Wear 3100 chip
Like I said above, 2018 was the year that we finally got Qualcomm's long-awaited Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor for smartwatches. So far, however, it's been less than impressive.
Only two Wear OS watches with the new chip have been released, those being the Montblanc Summit 2 and Fossil Sport. While we've yet to review them here on AC, our friend Mr. Mobile and other various outlets have cited battery performance that doesn't live up to the big claims Qualcomm made for the new chip.
The general consensus right now seems to be that the Summit 2 and Fossil Sport aren't fully optimized for the 3100 and that future software updates should improve battery life as time goes on. Seeing as how legendary battery was supposed to be the 3100's big claim to fame, one can only hope that turns out to be true.
As we go into 2019, I think this will be the year that we see the true potential of Qualcomm's new chip. Software updates will be issued, OEMs will spend more time working with the chip so that it performs as good as can be, and I think that'll result in better end-user experiences as new smartwatches are released.
The end of 2018 was an awkward time for Wear OS between watches shipping with the outdated 2100 processor and the two 3100 models not living up to expectations, but those growing pains should (hopefully) be gone in the near future.
What's next for Fitbit
While Wear OS was trying to figure out what to do with its new processor, Fitbit managed to have a pretty great 2018. It followed up on its Ionic smartwatch with the Fitbit Versa and delivered a truly great smartwatch that was accessible for more wrists, easier on the wallet, and further refined the FitbitOS software experience.
Fitbit's smartwatches have already come a long way in a pretty short timeframe.
I'm not entirely sure what we'll see from Fitbit in 2019, but one thing I do believe we'll get is a successor to the Ionic. The Ionic is well over a year old having first come out in October 2017, so this year would be a great one to refresh it with a sleeker body, new health features to better compete with the Apple Watch, and a more competitive price.
The Ionic is Fitbit's flagship watch, and while the Versa still serves as a great option for people that want a Fitbit smartwatch experience while staying on a budget, it's time for Fitbit to take what it's learned from the Ionic and Versa to create one kickass Ionic 2.
Lastly, we'll continue to see FitbitOS change and evolve as Fitbit figures out what direction it wants to take it. The 2.0 and 3.0 updates focused on adding new health features while further refining the user experience, and I think those trends will continue throughout 2019.
Maybe Google will release the long-awaited Pixel Watch?
Ever since the first Pixel phone was released in 2016, we've been waiting patiently for a Wear OS-powered Pixel Watch. It sure was looking like 2018 would be the year that finally happened, but Google shot that rumor down in late August by saying it was focused on helping third-party brands with their own smartwatch efforts.
At that time, Google said:
To think of a one-size-fits-all watch, I don't think we're there yet. Our focus is on our partners for now. Our Google Pixel line of phones is the best experience and Google's take on it, so I imagine we would focus heavily on the Google Assistant to integrate AI and machine learning into the device, which is Google's forte.
Does that mean 2019 is the year we finally see a Pixel Watch? Perhaps. We saw plenty of rumors and reports last year that Google was working on a Pixel Watch, with reliable leaker Evan Blass even seeming surprised that it wasn't announced alongside the Pixel 3.
There's no way of saying for sure, but if Google wants to be serious about pushing Wear OS, 2019 seems like the year it needs to get a Pixel Watch out on the market and on people's wrists.
What do you think we'll see?
Now that I've rambled on, what do you think we'll see from smartwatches in 2019? Will we finally get a Pixel Watch? Is Fitbit going to dominate the smartwatch market with new hardware?
Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below, and here's to an excellent new year!
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