Swatch changes tune, takes on Apple Watch with own smartwatch featuring mobile payments

Swatch (image 001)

Now that Apple CEO Tim Cook has at last confirmed that the Apple Watch goes on sale in April, traditional watch makers and companies like Pebble are starting to show their cards.

Pebble, for instance, recently confirmed plans for new wearable products in 2015. So did Tag Heuer, having confirmed building a smartwatch of its own.

And now Bloomberg is reporting that Swatch will start selling a smartwatch within two to three months. It’ll integrate with Windows and Android, but not with iOS, support mobile payments and communicate via the Internet “without having to be charged.”

Not much is known about the device’s support for mobile payments other than that Switzerland’s two largest retailers, Migros and Coop, will support the service at launch. Swatch is in talks with more retailers on its payment system.

“Swatch has decades of experience developing technology that might go into a smartwatch, such as long-lasting batteries so thin they’re bendable,” notes the article. “The company’s Tissot brand has made watches with touch-screens since 1999 that now offer an altimeter, a compass, and sensors to record a diver’s descent.”

Indeed, over the decades Swatch has amassed enough experience, patents and technologies like sensors, displays and batteries to pose a credible threat to anyone in the smartwatch space. They also have a highly recognizable brand in the watch market.

The company previously promised to update its Swatch Touch line with new features designed for athletes, seen below. “We will integrate fitness features in the Swatch Touch by 2015. The device will remain a watch, but it will include commonly used fitness features to monitor your body,” the company said in July of 2014.

Swatch Touch

But the Swiss maker of colorful plastic timepieces like the ones pictured top of post wasn’t too optimistic about smartwatches, or at least wanted to leave that impression, when the Apple Watch got announced.

Back then, Swatch CEO Nick Hayek told Bloomberg that he personally didn’t believe replacing an iPhone with an interactive terminal on your wrist would be the next revolution.

“A smartwatch needs software and this software must constantly be updated. Every year, you’re forced to buy a new smartphone because the new software requires new hardware. It will be the same problem with smartwatches,” he said in May 2014. “Besides, consumers don’t want to charge their watches, and no charging cable will be available for a while.”

apple watch home screen

Hayek revealed that Swatch has had contact with Apple over many years about materials for products and so-called energy harvesting technology that would generate power from physical movement, but denied collaborating with the Cupertino firm on the Apple Watch.

Apple’s wrist-worn gizmo starts shipping some time in April.

Starting at $349, it will require the free iOS 8.2 firmware update which supports the device through the WatchKit platform and bundle a Watch companion app for installing apps onto the Watch and managing various device settings via an iPhone.

Apple is allegedly planning a dedicated Watch event ahead of the launch to share more information about the device, including the full lineup and prices, pre-ordering schedule and other features that were not fully detailed at last September’s official unveiling.

Citigroup Inc. analysts forecast last year that the market for smart timepieces will reach about $10 billion in 2018.

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Source: Bloomberg