Is a Google Smartwatch Imminent?

In the frenzy of speculation leading up to Apple's iPhone announcement last month, there was lots of discussion of smartwatches. Apple supposedly was developing an "iWatch" and would be announcing it along with the new handsets. Samsung, wanting to beat Apple to market, rushed out its Galaxy Gear watch, which has met with scathing reviews as an "unfinished product." 

Google was also rumored to be working on a smartwatch. The 9to5 Google site has some additional information on the potential release of a Google smartwatch at the end of this month: "Details are slim but the person seemed to think that Google Now functionality would be at the center of the product."

The idea is that Google would take its technology and learning (thus far) from Google Glass and put that in a watch. The emphasis on Google Now is interesting and appropriate -- the watch as a kind of notifications center. Samsung tried to cram too much half-baked functionality into Galaxy Gear.

There's considerable consumer interest in smartwatches (much more than Google Glass). Just over 40% of survey respondents in a recent survey we conducted (n=1,024 US smartphone owners) said they were interested in a smartwatch. Not surprisingly respondents were most interested in smartwatches that were made by the same maker as their current smartphones.

The right mix of features and pricing are key here. Undoubtedly Apple will develop an "iWatch." And Google, as the rumor suggests, will probably roll out a watch itself, given its new commitment to "wearables." But these initial products may not get the mix right: simplicity, aesthetics, functionality and cost.  

The optimal price is probably $99 to $199. But $299 would be OK if the watch were a great product. At $299 and above, the Galaxy Gear is simply to flawed and too expensive for what it delivers. Now we'll see what Google can come up with.