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Google enters ‘saturated’ smartwatch market

Google faces stiff competition in the smartwatch market, but its offering doesn't raise the stakes.

Google faces stiff competition in the smartwatch market, but its offering doesn't raise the stakes. Photo: Google/Apple/Samsing/TND

Google has finally launched its own smartwatch, but it is entering a wearable tech market where shoppers are already inundated with options.

Just as in the mobile market, the company faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung for its inaugural smartwatch offering, the Pixel Watch.

Garmin and Fitbit are also well-established players in the smartwatch game, although many of the latter’s features have been incorporated into Pixel Watch, thanks to Fitbit’s multibillion-dollar acquisition by Google in 2019.

Finder shopping expert Chris Jager said the smartwatch market was “surprisingly varied”, ranging from models geared towards fitness with inbuilt heart rate monitors and in-depth health metrics, to luxury watches with basic smartphone functionality.

He said the best-selling smartwatch 2021 was the Apple Watch Series 7, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Apple and Samsung dominate the smartwatch space, with a market share of close to 50 per cent.

Regardless of the type of smartwatch a buyer wanted, Mr Jager said there were some features that should be on the must-have list.

This includes strong battery life (at least 12-18 hours), water resistance and comfort.

“You should also consider the operating system it uses. If you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch is a good bet, whereas Android users will be better served by a brand like Samsung or Garmin,” he said.

“With that said, most smartwatches are compatible with both phone types.”

Read on to find out more about the smartwatches from the biggest brands.

Pixel Watch

Price: from $549

From first impressions, Google’s inaugural watch comes with all the bells and whistles smartwatch fans are accustomed to.

The Android-compatible watch comes with Google features such as Google Assistant Wallet, Gmail, along with 40 Fitbit exercise modes and 32GB of storage.

But Ritesh Chugh, a Central Queensland University associate professor specialising in technology, said Pixel Watch did not offer anything to make it stand out from the crowd.

“If Google really wanted to tap into the smartwatch market, they should have come up with something new and unique,” he said.

He said health and fitness applications were among the most popular smartwatch features among consumers.

Although Google has ticked this box with its integrated Fitbit technology, it’s also releasing its watch with a built-in blood oxygen sensor that is not yet functional – something Dr Chugh said would have been worth further delay to get up and running before launch.

The market-average price point of the Google Pixel Watch, which starts at $549 for the Wi-Fi model and reaches $649 for the 4G LTE version, was also an issue for an unremarkable product.

“There is no price difference when you compare it to the other watches,” Dr Chugh said.

“The good way of trying to tap into an already established market is to lower prices, which Google hasn’t done, and they’re not offering anything that’s unique.

“Trying to enter a saturated market can be problematic.”

Apple Watch

Price: from $399

Apple recently released its Series 8 model, with updates including a 36-hour battery life, and potentially life-saving car crash detection, which will automatically call emergency services if the wearer does not respond within 20 seconds – although that too can have inherent flaws.

With 32 gigabytes of storage, 50 metres of water resistance, and a working blood oxygen sensor, the Series 8 keeps Apple holding its place at the top of the smartwatch market.

However, the latest model comes in rather pricier than some of the brand’s lower-cost options, starting at $629.

Galaxy Watch

Price: from $399

The Samsung-Apple battle of tech giants has leaked over into the smartwatch market, where Samsung continues to hold its own with its Galaxy Watch.

The Pro model from the latest Galaxy Watch 5 series has only 16GB of storage, but has a battery life up to 48 hours, a digital bezel showing sensor details between the display and the watch’s edge, and a host of health-monitoring features.

Garmin

smartwatch

Garmin has possibly one of the largest ranges of smartwatches to choose from. Photo: Getty

Price: from $129

Garmin has a range of wearable tech options, starting at $129 and going all the way up to $3250.

With no strong affiliation with a mobile manufacturer, Garmin devices are more heavily focused on health, fitness and GPS capabilities.

The mid-range Venu 2 series starts at $399, and features up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 26 hours in GPS mode.

Along with standard fitness and health features, the Venu 2 series also tracks stress and hydration, has a range of preloaded workouts, and is compatible with select apps from the Connect IQ Store.

Fitbit

Price: from $94

Smartwatch

Fitbit has a royal fan in the Queen Consort. Photo: Getty

It remains to be seen whether Google’s Pixel Watch will cannibalise the Fitbit empire, but the latter does have a strong customer base.

The children’s range starts at $94, and the adult range starts about $145, depending on the retailer.

Fitbit’s focus on health and fitness is on display on its mid-range model, Versa 4, which has more than 40 exercise modes, a built-in GPS, 50-metre water resistance, and personalised reminders.

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