Google’s rumored smart watch could be a battery breakthrough

The Galaxy Gear beat Google to market, but hasn't beat battery life issues
The Galaxy Gear beat Google to market, but hasn't beat battery life issues
Image: REUTERS/Kim Hong Ji
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The smart watch has been the “next-big-thing” for just about as long as anything could be without wearing out the welcome of (once) eager consumers. For years, various smart watch designs have been in development by everyone from Sony to Nokia, with varied but universally disappointing results.

But development may be gaining momentum with news that Google is reportedly entering late-stage development of a smart watch offering.

Until now, the problem hasn’t been the idea of a smart watch. It sounds fantastic. Check your phone without taking your phone out of your bag or pocket, voice dial an outgoing call in tandem with a bluetooth earpiece, for a true hands-free experience, or—let’s be honest—pretend we’re Dick Tracy, or our favorite Power Ranger.

The problem is our wrists. Pockets, and our tolerance for devices that ostensibly fit within them, can vary greatly: Contemporary smartphones range from something flirting with the size of a deck of cards to whatever size Samsung Galaxy Notes are supposed to be. A wrist, unlike a pocket, doesn’t really vary much in size. Modern style calls for a compact form factor for our watches. There are sleeves to be considered. Implications of nerdiness and ostentation.

So far, the size limitations fundamental to wristwatch design have butted up against the current state of battery technology. Last month, with much marketing fanfare, Samsung released their Galaxy Gear smart watch, but widespread adoption of the device has been stymied by limited usefulness and battery life. And Samsung didn’t take the project lightly. Both it and Sony have been working on this technology for so long their smart watch designs have gone through three product iterations.

That’s what makes the news from Google so exciting: Everyone suspects the battery life issues must have been put to bed if the dynamic behemoth is taking on a smart watch project of its own. It’s possible they may utilize new zinc based or 3-D printed batteries said to outperform traditional lithium batteries, but at this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

Google won’t have the last word on the subject, however. LG, Motorola, Pebble Technology, Samsung, and Sony have all released smart watches, and won’t relinquish their positions, however tenuous, in this emerging field. Nokia has filed patents for a double-screened watch concept. A much-anticipated “iWatch” project at Apple is presumed to be moving forward, and company chief Tim Cook has has gone so far as saying he expects watches and other wearable computers to be a “key branch” in Apple’s plans for the future.