Midday Report: Tech Companies Exploring Wearable Devices


Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

What's the next big thing? A number of companies are placing bets on wearable technology.

Many tech players, big and small, are trying to get out in front of this and make it into a trend. Reports today say Samsung is developing a wearable, digital smartwatch.

It raises images of comic book heroes like Dick Tracy, or the possibility that we'll all look like Secret Service agents – talking to our wrists while trying to look normal.

at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. The 2012 CES trade show features 2,700 global technology companies presenting consumer tech products and is expected to draw over 140,000 attendees. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Daniel Acker, Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sources say the Samsung device will perform many of the tasks of a smartphone. And it wouldn't be Samsung's first attempt in this area. Four years ago it launched a touch-screen watchphone in Europe, but it didn't attract many buyers. Microsoft (MSFT) also tested one a decade ago, without much success.

Still, this could represent the next big battleground between Samsung and Apple (AAPL). The two companies have been battling for supremecy in the smartphone market.

But there are lots of questions about a watchphone. Will the technology be good enough to make people want yet another device? Will the battery last long enough so that users don't get too frustrated? And, will younger people, who have for the most part not been watch wearers, take to the concept? Basically, will a smartwatch have the 'cool' factor needed to make it the next big thing?

Analysts say the upcoming wristphones won't replace your smartphone. Rather, they are likely to connect to it through a Bluetooth-like device, so that you can more easily keep track of email, text messages and phone calls.

There are several wearable devices already on the market. Sony (SNE) has a Smartwatch that works with Android-based phones. You can see who's calling without reaching for the phone itself, and get social media updates. It costs $130 dollars.

And there's a start-up company, Pebble, that offers a wristwatch that wirelessly syncs with either an Android or an iPhone.

There are also several wearable devices that can track blood sugar and other medical problems.