New report says Google is preparing to release its own smartwatch this year

google watch

If you’re still in the camp of folks who believe that there won’t be a market for wearables, you might want to take a look around. Pebble just launched a new smartwatch, Samsung just announced a new Gear watch and Apple reportedly has one in the oven.

Google is also believed to be working on a smartwatch, and according to insiders, it’s almost finished. TechCrunch is reporting this weekend that the search giant is putting the finishing touches on a watch that runs Android and houses a full-color display…

Sarah Perez and Darrell Etherington report:

“The smartwatch prototypes are currently on lockdown in a Google building, under high security, and they’re not able to be taken out for fear that news will leak. (Oops.)

According to people familiar with the matter, an early prototype of the watch had a Pebble Steel-like metal band, square face, and a colorful digital display featuring a gradient background where colors gently fade from one to the next. It also seemed to have a more masculine vibe, also like the Pebble Steel.”

However, the report goes on to say that Google seems to have decided on a plastic watchband—similar to that of the original Pebble watch. Development for the watch is said to be being led by a team inside Google that includes designers from the Android team.

So what kind of features will the watch offer?

The whole idea behind the watch’s concept is that you shouldn’t have to take out your phone for various ambient alerts, like finding out who’s calling you or who just texted, for example.

The watch’s software supports notifications made possible through Bluetooth LE pairing with Android smartphones. It doesn’t sound like it’s yet capable of enabling a range of apps like Pebble’s watch does today. Third-party developers may be able to build for the watch at a later point following future updates.

Interactions with the watch are very gesture-driven. That is, swiping alerts and tapping to select.”

And when can we expect it? Well the report says the watch is “officially” slated to begin shipping in mid-late March, but it also notes that some members of the team believe that date will either be pushed back to June, or the watch will ship with few features.

Apple, for its part, is expected to release its so-called iWatch later in the year—possibly just before the holidays. And from what we’ve heard so far, its plan to differentiate the watch from the competition is to include a host of health and fitness-tracking features.

Marketing research firm Canalys expects ‘smart band’ shipments alone to hit 23 million units by next year.