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Smart watch invasion: 2013 could be the year wearable timepieces take off

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Pebble smart watch (AP Canada)

Samsung’s executive vice president has revealed that the smartphone giant is working on a smart watch, which may be steep competition for Apple’s anticipated device and the Pebble, already on the market.

In an interview with Bloomberg, EVP of Samsung’s mobile business Lee Young Hee confirmed that they will be creating a watch that has many of the functions of a smartphone, although he wouldn’t confirm exactly what they would be.

“We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” Hee said in an interview with Bloomberg in Seoul. “We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future and the watch is definitely one of them.”

The confirmation comes after a source told Reuters earlier today that a smart watch was in the works. No further details were given by either source, including no timeline for the release of the watch, but chances are it will be unveiled this year or shortly thereafter, as Samsung rival Apple announced last month that they, too, are creating a smart watch.

[ Related: Apple’s iWatch still a rumour, but designers try their hand at bringing it to life ]

According to a story from The Verge, the ‘iWatch’ team (rumoured to be comprised of 100 people led by Apple design chief Jony Ive) is aiming to run the full iOS experience on the device, instead of using the iPod Nano’s operating system and interface. Sources are saying that the use of iOS is causing some issues with battery life; instead of lasting for 4-5 days as the team wants, the watch is currently operating only a couple of days at the most on a single charge.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg reports that Apple wants to release the iWatch as soon as this year.

But there’s a third competitor in the smart watch arena, and it could get a jump on the competition by already being available to consumers, and from its grassroots origins. The Pebble smart watch, which started as a crowdsource funding campaign, operates through a series of downloadable apps and has an e-paper screen. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones (an unlikely feature of the Samsung or Apple devices), has a battery life of over 7 days, and is waterproof. While not operating a full smartphone-like OS, the apps available on the Pebble make it suitable for tracking distances when cycling or running, controlling music, reading text messages and receiving calendar and weather alerts.

And while it isn’t a watch, there’s one other threat in the wearable technology market that’s looming over the competition: Project Glass. Google’s glasses with a heads up display, camera and online connectivity are set to revolutionize the wearable technology industry – for those who can afford it. Google has said that the glasses, which are currently only available to a select few, will cost “under $1500” when they eventually go on sale. Costing significantly more than the average wristwatch and very likely more than the Samsung or Apple watches will, it likely will never be as commonplace as a watch – smart or otherwise.

[ More Right Click: Google Glass banned at Seattle bar, with violent repercussions for violators ]

It’s still early in 2013, but with all these big names now publicly putting their time and money behind wearable technology, there’s a good chance we won’t be checking the clocks on our smartphones by this time next year.

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