Facebook is working on a smartwatch for 2022, which will be based on its messaging services and put a focus on health and fitness.
This is all based on anonymous information reported by The Information, from sources allegedly close to the project.
We have a surprising amount of detail about the smartwatch, which would join the company’s Oculus VR program, its Portal smart speaker and forthcoming Facebook smartglasses in a growing hardware division.
First, it’s set to run on an “open-source version of Google’s Android software”, which could mean Wear OS or a fork of a stock Android OS. We’ve seen some new smartwatches, such as the Oppo Watch, take Wear OS and add custom apps and skins – and this could be the path that Facebook chooses.
The Information also reports that Facebook is actually looking to produce its own custom OS, for a follow-up device in 2023.
This could allow it to break free of limitations around battery life – although that does cast a shadow over the appeal of its first iteration.
Focus on fitness and messaging
The report also predicts that the Facebook smartwatch will have a cellular connection, which would make sense with such a focus on messaging.
Facebook has Messenger, but also WhatsApp, and while the latter is universally supported on devices such as the Apple Watch and Wear OS, it doesn’t have dedicated apps on any platform.
“Its messaging capabilities are expected to focus on quick interactions with people that would otherwise be done with a smartphone,” reads the report.
The Information also talks about Facebook’s plans around fitness. It’s rumored that the company wants to leverage its social prowess for health and fitness, creating a platform that can go up against Strava.
This would make the forthcoming smartwatch a key part of its fitness drive – but conceivably it could also make it a platform where users can compete with each other, be it with step challenges or more hardcore fitness ones.
With all the focus on Fitbit, Apple Watch and even Strava, fitness services struggle to bring people together – and Facebook has the biggest of all user bases to draw from.
Why a Facebook smartwatch?
The first question for many will be why? Why is Facebook looking at launching a smartwatch so many years after its competitors?
It’s clear the company wants to draw as many people out of Google and Apple’s ecosystems as possible – and hardware seems to be its strategy.
The company is reported to have courted Fitbit, before the company sold to Google – which means that its route to a ready-made smartwatch platform all but disappeared.
The company has openly stated it’s pursuing wearables, and confirmed it’s working on Project Aria AR glasses in its Facebook Reality Labs, which aren’t expected to land until 2023. However, a pair of smartglasses with RayBan are expected to be launched in 2021.
The company has a lot of potential to create a decent Apple Watch rival. We’ll be watching this one closely.