Mobile World Congress showcases

 The Samsung Gear smartwatch is presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, where it was up against a slew of new rivals including Creoir's high-end Ibis and Martian Watches' smartwatch with voice control. Picture: Josep Lago/AFP

The launch of “wearable tech” — gadgets worn on the body — caused the biggest stir on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Items ranged from shirts that can measure temperature and pulse rates, which were modelled by a basketball team, to Fujitsu’s smartglove, a wearable device designed for people who use gloves in the workplace so they can receive instructions, for example, wired to them via their gloves.

Out on the floor of the conference’s App Planet, Oral-B showcased its connected toothbrush, which tells users where to brush their teeth, for how long, and when to ease off. Based on testing with over 10,000 users, it found people tend to brush their teeth for twice the length of time than normal because of the feedback.

Martian Watches showcased its smartwatch with voice control. The wristband connects users to their smartphones without having to lift the phone out of a pocket or handbag.

A microphone and speaker on the watch connects to voice commands on a user’s smartphone, and it’s rigged up to send alerts across the face of the watch when an email or text message is received. You just tap the glass to bring back a notification, and a vibration feature can also send alerts about incoming messages, with a different vibrations for email and text messages.

Huawei launched its TalkBand B1, a smartband that provides health and fitness data such as measurements of sleep patterns and statistics on distances walked. It looks like a wristband, and can be used to make phonecalls by using a detachable earpiece. It’s waterproof and dustproof. It has an embedded USB connector, which makes it easy to charge. It is not touch-enabled, however, which means it has to be operated by an app on a smartphone. It comes in six colours and will be released to market this year, priced at €99.

Creoir was pitching at the high end of the smartwatch market. It unveiled its Ibis smartwatch, a particularly elegant piece of design. Unlike most of the “sporty” smartwatches being released by phone companies at the congress, the Ibis smartwatch has an analogue Quartz watch face. It’s made from crystal and stainless steel and has a striking design, inspired by a flying bird whose wings touch so it can carry a smaller bird on its back.

It has several smartphone technology features, including wifi, USB connectivity, an e-compass, pedometer, and remote control.

Email and messaging notifications on the Ibis smartwatch face are less conspicuous than its competitors, which tend to come across the screen in slightly jarring, ticker-tape fashion.

Creoir is a Finnish design studio, as opposed to a smartphone manufacturer. It was only demoing the Ibis smartwatch in Barcelona. No price details or release date was given.

According to Deloitte, 10m units of wearable technology will be sold this year, generating $3bn (€2.2bn) in revenues.

New voice

WhatsApp, the popular messaging service for smartphones that’s being acquired by Facebook, will soon be offering a voice service.

CEO Jan Koum said the voice service will be deployed for Android and iPhones this spring, with Blackberry and Microsoft and Nokia phones coming later.

“We are going to introduce voice in WhatsApp in the second quarter of this year,” Koum said.


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