Facebook is taking a new approach to its first smartwatch, which the company has not publicly confirmed, but is currently planning to debut next summer. The device has a screen with two cameras that can be detached from the wrist to take photos and videos that can be shared over Facebook’s package of apps, including Instagram, The Edge have learned.
A camera on the front of the watch screen exists primarily for video calls, while a 1080p, autofocus camera on the back can be used to capture footage when detached from the stainless steel frame on the wrist. Facebook is tapping other companies to make accessories to attach the camera hub to things like backpacks, according to two people familiar with the project, who both asked for anonymity to talk without Facebook̵
The idea is to encourage owners of the watch to use it in the ways smartphones are used now. It’s part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to build more consumer devices that bypass Apple and Google, the two dominant creators of mobile phone platforms that largely control Facebook’s ability to reach people.
The planned device is Facebook’s first step towards releasing hardware specifically for the wrist, which opens up another area of competition with Apple at a time when the two technical giants are already at odds with other fronts. Apple has aggressively positioned itself as a privacy protector by restricting the types of data apps that Facebook can collect, while Facebook has for years been besieged by scandals regarding the handling of user data. This dynamic could create an uphill battle for Facebook to convince people to buy its upcoming Apple Watch competitor, especially since it plans to also position the watch as a fitness device with a heart rate monitor.
Facebook is working with the best wireless operators in the United States to support LTE connectivity in the watch, which means it does not have to be paired with a phone to work and sell it in its stores, said those familiar with the matter. The watch comes in white, black and gold, and Facebook hopes to initially sell volume in the low six figures. That’s a small part of the overall smartwatch market – Apple sold 34 million watches last year for comparison, according to Counterpoint Research.
In future versions of the watch, Facebook plans to serve as an important entry point for its planned augmented reality glasses, which Zuckerberg believes will one day be as ubiquitous as mobile phones. The company plans to use technology it acquired from CTRL-labs, a startup that has shown wristbands that are capable of controlling a computer through wrist movements.
Facebook aims to release the first version of the watch in the summer of 2022 and is already working with the second and third generation for subsequent years. Employees have recently discussed pricing the device at around $ 400, but the price point is subject to change. Although unlikely, Facebook may also scrap the clock completely, as the device has not yet gone into mass production or even been given an official name.
Facebook’s track record for making hardware is stained. Its 2013 phone with HTC was a spectacular flop, and it has yet to reveal sales for Oculus VR headphones or the Portal home video chat device. In recent interviews, executives have said that sales of the Oculus Quest 2 headset have surpassed all previous Oculus headsets combined.
Facebook’s interest in building a smartwatch dates back at least a few years. It looked at acquiring Fitbit in 2019 before Google bought the portable training manufacturer. Since then, the social network has spent about $ 1 billion developing the first version of the watch, and has hundreds of people working on the effort, according to one of the people with knowledge of the case.
A Facebook spokesman declined to comment for comment. The information previously reported that Facebook built a smartwatch with health and messaging features, but details about the cameras and other details in this story are new.
Using a customized version of Google’s Android operating system, Facebook plans to lean on its suite of apps and remote partnerships to create compelling experiences for the watch, which includes a companion phone app. Still, Facebook’s portable wrist resonance with humans is far from guaranteed. Smartwatches with cameras on have so far failed to capture, and Apple has already cornered the high end of the market.