This year has been great for wearable fans as we've been treated to a number of stellar smartwatch releases from Apple, Samsung, Garmin and Huawei, to name a few. Yes, despite a global pandemic, the relentless march for smartwatch perfect carries on.
Whether you're looking for a device to simply count your steps or to keep track of every single health metric imaginable, or control your smart home, there has never been more choice for consumers – our best smartwatch guide is evidence of that.
Now the year is coming to an end, we've been looking at the smartwatch trends that appeared this year and are trying to predict what we can look forward to in 2022. From larger screens to generally being more useful, here are T3's top predictions.
Trend #1: Larger displays, same case size
Perhaps the biggest smartwatch launch in 2021 was the Apple Watch Series 7, complete with a smartphone-like display that stretches right to the edges of the case.
This bezel-less design has been popular on smartphones for a few years now, and it makes a lot of sense when it comes to smartwatches as people don't necessarily want larger smartwatches but they do want the UI to be easier to navigate. It would also make small text easier to read. Expanding the display by a few millimetres could mean a big difference.
This large display allowed Apple to add a few extra features, chief among which is a QWEERTY keyboard.
Of course, now that Apple has pushed its smartwatch screen size to the limit we're expecting to see a few similar designs in 2022 from other companies.
Trend #2: Do more things
As the chips in our smartwatches get more and more powerful they'll start to be able to do more things. This year Apple announced Apple CarKey as part of watchOS and iOS. The system offers support for digital car keys, with the ability to unlock your car using your Apple Watch.
At the moment it's limited to just a few select cars (mainly BMWs) but we expect to see more automotive manufacturers added in the coming years.
We're also going to go out on a limb and say that Google Watch OS users will be getting this feature soon too. Google recently announced that Android Auto is going to be getting a “Digital car key” feature. At the moment it's limited to BMW's (again) and the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 phones, but we'd hope to see this list get some smartwatches added soon – maybe the Google Pixel Watch?
Trend #3: A smartwatch with a camera?
We recently saw that Samsung filed a patent for a smartwatch with a foldable screen and camera, now, I'm not saying that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 will definitely have those features, but I do think that a smaller smartwatch manufacturer might try adding a camera to stand out from the crowd.
It could not only be used for taking a super quick snap, but could also be used for face unlock security.
I know it wouldn't be the first smartwatch that includes a camera, but it could be the first smartwatch where the camera is actually good and useful.
Trend #4: Improved health and fitness tracking
Okay, this is where the true smartwatch development battleground really is. In the past few years we've seen smartwatches gone from tracking basic heart rate to capable of taking taking ECGs, measuring blood pressure, blood oxygen, sleep monitoring, and heart rhythm.
The next big breakthrough for smartwatches will be non-invasive glucose readings. It could be life changing for people with diabetes.
The sensors could also help detect prediabetes in millions more users – a precursor to type 2 diabetes – as well as help provide health information for those looking to make better food choices. Glucose levels often spike (even in non-diabetics) after eating certain foods, which can cause weight gain. These spikes depend in the person, so monitoring them could help a user lose weight, or just stay healthy.
Could we see this holy grail of health tracking achieved in 2022? Time will tell…
Trend #5: More options for Android users
Many Android users have been jealous of the Apple Watch since it was first released, and some argue that Android needs a similar flagship smartwatch.
Well, if recent rumours are to be believed then we could see a Google Pixel Watch released in 2022.
Of course, Google has had its own smartwatch operating system, Wear OS, since 2014, but the hardware group is now working on a physical device. It will serve a similar role to the Pixel phones – acting as an example of what Google’s software is truly capable of when given the right hardware.
Trend #6: Longer battery life
One of the most frequent criticisms of smartwatches is that the battery life doesn't last very long. This complaint has been around since the very first smartwatches were released as smartwatch battery life tends to range between a day and a week.
We have a feeling, based on nothing, that smartwatch battery life will be a focus in 2022. It could be achieved in multiple ways, whether it's through more efficient chips or a larger battery.
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