- Smartwatches, AR/VR and smart glasses were everywhere at MWC.
- An unconventional attempt from Huawei stands out for smartwatch. OEMs seem to have begun to consider a new form factor beyond functionality.
- Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces, XR developer platform will help expand the XR market by enabling more diverse content development.
Wearable devices are evolving and their future market prospects appear to be bright. Innovations in this sphere are getting more intriguing not only for device manufacturers, component suppliers, application developers and platform companies, but also for potential consumers. During MWC Barcelona, 2023, various new products and technologies were showcased that attracted a lot of attention. Here is a summary of some of the key wearable innovations announced during the event:
Smartwatch: Smartwatches have become the new battleground for smartphone OEMs. To differentiate their products amid intensifying competition, OEMs are emphasizing on conventional watch designs or on experimental form factors.
- Xiaomi S1 Pro: During Xiaomi’s Mi 13 series smartphone launch event, the company emphasized on its latest smartwatch the S1 Pro’s traditional design and connectivity with other devices. The long battery life of up to 14 days is one of the device’s key strengths. Through this launch event, Xiaomi attempted to solidify its ecosystem by establishing connectivity between smartphones and wearables, such as their smartwatches and earbuds.
- Huawei Watch Buds and Watch GT Cyber: Huawei presented two experimental smartwatches at MWC 2023. The Watch Buds is a combination of a smartwatch and a set of earbuds. The device is designed to store earphones inside the watch display. Meanwhile, the GT Cyber’s design allows the bezel and strap to be separated. This indicated the possibility of the device evolving into a modular smartwatch like LG’s G smartphone series in the past.
Smart Glasses: Many Chinese consumer IT vendors who were absent during CES participated in MWC 2023, exhibiting their latest smart glasses. As smart glasses equipped with AR functions become mainstream, light and comfortable-to-wear glasses-type smart wearables are emerging as a form factor that can provide optimal user experiences for both consumers and businesses in the future.
- OPPO Air Glass 2: OPPO’s smart glasses, the Air Glass 2, was unveiled at OPPO INNO Day in January 2023. The company focused on the ultra-light design of the glasses, which can be worn for a long time, as it weighs only about 38g. The device is equipped with the world’s first diffractive waveguide lens developed in-house. A voice-to-text conversion function has been added for the hearing impaired, in addition to the basic functions of AR glasses, such as making a phone call, translating and navigating. This is still only a concept product as mass production of the mounted Micro LED display has not yet been achieved. It is highly likely that it will take a long time to commercialize the glasses or for them to be sold only in China on a small scale.
- ZTE Nubia Neovision Glass: ZTE unveiled its first AR smart glasses as the company pursues versatility to meet users’ needs not only in daily life but also in work environments, sports and entertainment. It has a Micro OLED display and will be released in China soon at a price of RMB2,999.
- TCL NXTWEAR S: These smart XR glasses from TCL won the Best Connected Consumer Device Award at GLOMO 2023. The TCL NXTWEAR S is tethered with other devices such as smartphones and PCs. As its marketing concept, TCL emphasizes that the glasses appear like a 130-inch screen in front of the user’s eyes. In addition to the Micro OLED display, the glasses are equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor to focus more on gaming use cases. After TCL’s previous smart glasses, the NXTWEAR AIR, won the Most Innovative Award of The Year at CES 2022, the latest award at MWC proves that TCL has advanced the technology in this field.
- Mymanu Titan: Mymanu, a UK-based audio technology company founded in 2014, showcased the world’s first voice-controlled eSIM-enabled earbuds, called Titan, which allows a standalone connected “phone-free” experience. The earbuds also have built-in live voice translation. The eSIM feature allows Titan to connect to a 4G network with which a user can perform some basic tasks that do not require a smartphone, such as playing music, making calls and sending texts.
- Google finally announced its eSIM plans allowing Android to streamline the eSIM transfer experience while switching phones. Deutsche Telekom will be one of the first to adopt eSIM transfer on Android smartphones.
- Docomo’s Motion Sharing Platform: Human augmentation platforms facilitate remote sharing of feelings and sensations using special wearables. This will be a possible use case when 6G is commercialized. The connected robot moves according to the movements of the user, who is equipped with motion sensors. This is expected to be highly useful in dangerous work environments or in remote medical care and healthcare.
(Demonstration of Docomo’s Motion Sharing platform using 6G at MWC)
- Mudra Air-Touch: Israel-based Wearable Devices exhibited the Mudra Air-Touch feature, a neural input technology, and the Mudra Band for Apple Watch. These are the company’s solutions to integrate its technology into consumer products. The Mudra Air-Touch feature seamlessly switches control from devices such as iPhones, iPads, Mac computers and Apple TV devices, as well as other connected devices, including smart glasses, using subtle finger and wrist movements from hands-free and touchless devices.
- Rollable Display: Lenovo attracted a lot of attention with its concept devices, the rollable Motorola smartphone and the rollable notebook. These devices are equipped with a rollable display developed by BOE. The rollable display was first introduced by LG Display at CES in 2018. Since then, major display panel makers such as Samsung Display, BOE, Visionox and CSOT have disclosed that they have rollable technology. The rollable display technology fits very well with the requirements of wearable devices to be worn on parts of the body. Therefore, this will be an important part of the expansion of the wearable market, but before that, the excessively high price issue needs to be resolved.
- Google Keep for Wear OS: Through Google Keep for Wear OS, Google has added a function that allows smartwatch users to make notes or to-do lists by simply tapping the clock screen. Wear OS 3+ also has a new sound mode, display mode and gray scale to improve the clock’s accessibility.
(Google Keep for Wear OS / Image source: Androidpolice.com)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon Spaces: Qualcomm’s most impressive announcement was its collaboration with seven carriers (Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom, Telefonica, KDDI, DoCoMo, T-Mobile and China Mobile) for the XR expansion ecosystem. Based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces’ XR developer platform, helping these carriers support and commercialize developers in their respective countries will generate more diverse content keys to expand the XR market. It is expected to grow into an XR platform that can compete with Apple’s ARKit.