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Summary:

MetaWatch announced two key improvements for its smartwatch development platform in an effort to better compete with up-and-comer products. The MetaWatch now has support to get wireless data from iOS devices and also aims for better battery life with the addition of a Bluetooth 4.0 radio.

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MetaWatch announced two key improvements for its smartwatch development platform on Tuesday, in an effort to better compete with new competitors. The MetaWatch team has added support to wirelessly get data from iOS devices and also aims for better battery life with the addition of a Bluetooth 4.0 radio. The new model, aimed at developers who can build apps for the wearable display, is now available for $199 directly from Texas Instruments, whose chip powers the smartwatch.

I last looked at the MetaWatch nearly a year ago and found it to be an excellent partner for an Android smartphone. The reflective display paired with a highly capable Bluetooth radio allowed me to get notifications for email, text messages, phone calls and more from my Android device; even as far as 80 feet before losing the connection. I found that triaging email on your wrist is a huge time saver.  But as the Pebble e-paper watch has recently shown: Android support alone isn’t enough for mass market success in the smartwatch market, although Motorola’s MotoActv shows much promise — I wear one all day, every day.

Pebble was the first such watch to include support for Apple’s iOS devices, and the project blew through all funding records on Kickstarter, eventually finding nearly 69,000 backers with a cumulative funding total that topped $10 million. The Pebble device also supports Android phones, but I suspect much of the project’s success was due to iOS support via Apple’s Made for iPhone program. Ironically, as MetaWatch has added the same iOS support, Pebble has opted to go with Bluetooth 4.0. That makes sense as the new Bluetooth Smart standard uses far less power for wireless connections; a key aspect for a watch if you don’t want to charge it for a week or more.

  1. I wish they included NFC for easy pairing. I wonder how much that would add to the cost of the watch?

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    1. Not a bad idea, but you only pair it one time, so I’m not sure that justifies the cost of the extra technical complexity / radio / etc…

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      1. Jonathan Cohen Tuesday, May 22, 2012

        Yes, but imagine being able to check in somewhere by waving your watch hand in front of an NFC chip, and not having to take your phone out of your pocket.

        By the way – do any Android phones support Bluetooth 4.0 yet?

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        1. That use case makes much more sense to me, Jonathan. Yup, the Droid Razr and Razr MAXX support Bluetooth 4.0 as does my Motorola MotoActv sports watch. So too will the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S III.

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  2. Kevin, what is the cost to become a Made For iPhone developer? I’m wondering if it would be practical for a 3rd party to figure out optimum pairing for an iPhone and Motoactv. Thanks for keeping up on the smart watch scene!

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    1. That I don’t know Richard. I don’t believe Apple publicly shares that with the general population, but here’s where to start the process: https://developer.apple.com/programs/mfi/

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  3. Jeff Martens Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    MetaWatch says their watch is a development platform. Do I need to develop my own stuff if I were to buy one, or can I just pair it and use it out of the box?

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    1. You can use it right out of the box if my review unit is any indication. The company will sell the watch to anyone, but they’re targeting developers to create apps for the MetaWatch platform. Even without those, however, the basic functions of notifications, weather and time are all there.

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