Ever wondered what is so smart about a smartwatch?

Fossil seems to have figured that out.

The world’s 4th biggest watch manufacturer, responsible for nearly 5% of global timepiece sales, has launched a series of traditional analog watches equipped with an activity tracker, automatic time setting, and vibration notification, ahead of the holiday sales season.

In an era of smartwatches, when a company launches analog timepieces clearly the company has a strategy in mind that is not so obvious. It appears that Fossil has figured out it does not want you to bury your geeky head into just a pretty case.

After all, features are what gives a watch its smart tag.

In fact, way back in March, Fossil had pledged that it would sell more than 100 different types of smartwatches for the 2016 holidays and it has just delivered on its promise.

The majority of its offerings, including the Skagen Hagen Connected and the Misfit Phase have analog dials, but they can connect to your smartphone and provide activity tracking and other notifications.

In Skagen’s case, the watch can also be used as a physical button to control functions on your phone and even trigger your smartphone’s camera or play back music.

Fossil’s latest offerings subscribe to a branch of design that has been popularized by Withings, which has produced hybrid-analog watches since 2014.

If you are wondering why then Withings’ Steel isn’t called termed as a smartwatch, well, it turns out that the line between a watch and a smartwatch is pretty blurry and is getting progressively blurrier every day.

While conventional wisdom will dictate that watches such as Moto 360, Apple Watch or those in Samsung’s Gear range be termed as smartwatches, while the rest aren’t; unfortunately, things are not so black and white.

This narrow definition excludes devices that lack a high-res display but otherwise do a similar job, such as Garmin’s Fenix and the Pebble. But what could act as a dividing line could be those that provide fitness tracking.

Turns out consumers aren’t too enamoured with the idea of smartwatches which offer a wide variety of functions simply because they essentially act as a companion to our smartphone.

Again, this is not entirely true. According to IDC, 2.7 million smartwatches have shipped in the most recent quarter, of which Apple Watch took the lion’s share. IDC believes that 41.8 million “regular” watches have been sold in 2016.

It is in this grey zone, between regular and smartwatches that companies such as Fossil and Withings hope to make a killing.

These companies can not only provide most of the functionalities of the smartwatches without making it took too geeky. Even Apple had to concede that fitness trackers are the main driving force behind the sale of its Apple Watch. Ever noticed how the marketing of the Apple Watch 2 emphasized on helping people get fitter, healthier and more active?

This is true for Android Wear too: while first generation devices were predominantly more futuristic in their design, contemporary ones are almost indistinguishable from traditional timepieces.

What is really weird is that it would appear if a watch brand wants to go the smart way, it’ll have to hide its technical smartness from the consumer.


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