Anyone who has been near a television on the last several months is likely familiar with Samsung's tagline for its Galaxy line of devices: "The next big thing is already here." In the last few days, rumors of a new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iDevice in a wristwatch form factor have been sweeping the Internet; when coupled with a link being made between an iWatch and the new ultra-thin, flexible Willow Glass from Corning (NYSE:GLW), the potential is interesting. While this is very exciting news, to be sure, especially considering Apple's need to amaze the market with a new advanced product, Apple is not alone in this quest... or even really first.
Samsung recently unveiled its version of the bendable screen. Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which has been neck-and-neck with Apple in many respects for some time, already has a version of the smart watch, although everyone seems to be only vaguely aware of its existence. As much of the tech world begins a discussion of wearable computers, Google should be at the center of the conversation.
Coolest phone in the Galaxy
Samsung dazzled onlookers at this year's CES when it demonstrated its bendable OLED technology. The company presented prototypes of curved screens, flexible handheld devices, and demonstrated a unique design advantage of the Youm technology. One possibility for devices that utilize this technology is that they can incorporate displays that wrap around the edge of the devices they protect. In the exhibition by Samsung, the company rep demonstrated how even with the device's cover closed, a text message could be displayed on the side of the device. By this estimation, it appears that Samsung is well ahead of anyone in bringing such a device to market; that is good news for Google, since the leading Galaxy devices operate on the Android OS.
Another area in which Google is already arguably ahead of the pack is with the release of a smart watch. The company's Motorola division already sells the Motoactv sports watch. Not only does this device combine a GPS tracker, smart MP3 player, and heart rate monitor into a single device, it is capable of communicating with a linked smartphone running the Motoactv Android app. You can receive texts, calls, tweets and other posts right on your watch. The phone also features Corning Gorilla Glass, the precursor to Willow Glass.
While the Motoactv is not the full-feature smart watch that the Apple folks may be working on, this is an integrated product that is already on the market. To be fair, you cannot browse the web on the tiny screen, but now that the device exists, upgrades are always an option. Given the fact that the device already utilizes Corning technology, the ultimate inclusion of Willow Glass does not seem unreasonable.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, FitBit co-founder Eric Friedman discussed some of the applications of wearable technology. In you are unfamiliar with FitBit, it is a small, wearable device that you attach to your clothes and wear throughout the course of the day. The device collects data that can then be downloaded to your smartphone or computer and analyzed. The FitBit collects what Friedman refers to as "wellness" data, covering information like calories burned, steps taken, and sleep patterns.
While Friedman agrees that the watch is an interesting form factor, for his company, the objective is to make wearable technology more fully integrated with what the user is trying to accomplish. To this end, the Motoactv has a clear lead on the competition. For example, the device learns which songs in your playlist tend to motivate you based on biometric data, and then plays those songs when you seem to be struggling. The device has not been hyped, but it is unquestionably the first wave in full integration between wearable technology and your smartphone.
The next big thing?
Given the constant state of flux of the technology market, it is a challenge to determine what the next big thing will actually be, but there seem to be several options on the horizon. Whether Samsung's Youm technology makes it into the new Galaxy S IV and changes the way smartphones are perceived, or Google's Motoactv becomes the precursor for an entire new wave of smart products, it seems apparent that Google is directly in the middle of the mix. As such, given this positioning as well as many other positives, Google absolutely belongs in your technology portfolio.