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.