Computerized wristwatches that display message alerts and weather updates are abound this holiday season: Consumer electronics companies are trying to persuade to add these smartwatches to your shopping lists.
Samsung and Sony have devices out, and Qualcomm has one coming before the holidays. Apple is believed to be making one, and a new report says Google is developing one, too.
Why the big push for smartwatches? It's not coming from consumers, says Jonathan Gaw, a research manager at IDC. Rather, it's a product in search of a market - and an expensive one at that.
"We've had smartwatches for a while, and while the capabilities and technology have gotten better, this is still not something that people are clamoring for," Gaw says. "The idea that it would ramp up for the holidays was always kind of a stretch."
That hasn't stopped gadget makers from trying. Companies are under pressure to create a new source of buzz now that consumers are no longer wowed by the latest smartphones and tablet computers. Many people already have those devices, and the new ones out this year are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Gaw says many gadget makers see an opportunity to jump in with a smartwatch, before a behemoth like Apple is able get its rumored iWatch ready.
Last month, Samsung Electronics Co. started selling the $300 Galaxy Gear in the U.S. It works with selected Samsung smartphones to display email and text alerts. There's a camera on the strap for low-resolution photos and a speakerphone on the watch to make calls while leaving your phone in the pocket. You can install apps for additional functionality, such as tracking fitness activities and playing games, though there are only a handful of apps available for now.
Sony Corp.'s SmartWatch 2 is cheaper, at $200. Unlike the Gear, it works with a variety of Android phones, not just Sony's. But it doesn't let you make phone calls directly through the wristwatch. You can answer calls using the watch, but you need a Bluetooth wireless headset linked to the phone if you don't want to hold it to your ear.
Qualcomm Inc., meanwhile, plans to start selling Toq before the holidays. It, too, will work with several Android devices.
Another smartwatch getting attention is the Pebble, which comes from a startup that raised more than $10 million through the fundraising site Kickstarter. It notifies you of incoming calls, texts and emails.
Apple isn't likely to release its