Apple, Google and Samsung may have big Smartwatch plans for 2022

We are looking for new watches from Apple, Google, Fitbit and Samsung throughout 2022.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

It’s going to be a big year for smartwatches. While we expect to see typical updates like the next generation Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, 2022 may also mark some notable milestones. Google, for example, is rumored to launch its first Pixel Watch in the spring or fall. Fitbit, owned by Googlecould also release its first watch running on Wear OS.

A 2020 Pew Research report says 1 in 5 Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker, while Counterpoint Research data says the smartwatch industry grew by 24% year-over-year in 2021. With that in mind, It should not be surprising to see companies like Apple, Google, Samsung and others promote their wearable tech ambitions this year.

Here’s a look at the most interesting rumored smartwatches we hope to see this year.

An Apple Watch inside the Element Special Ops watchband.

Earlier iterations of the Apple Watch got a special version.

David Carnoy / CNET

Apple Watch Explorer Edition

Apple may add a new rugged to its smartwatch application this year known as the Explorer Edition, according to Bloomberg. This would be a more robust version of the Apple Watch aimed at those engaged in outdoor activities and extreme sports, the report says. It is expected to have the same functionality as Apple’s regular smartwatches, but with more impact protection similar to Casio’s G-Shock watches.

The watch is sometimes referred to as the “Explorer Edition” inside Apple, according to the report, but it is unclear if the product would go by that name. Bloomberg has previously said that the new rugged Apple Watch could arrive in 2022, so there’s a chance we may see it during Apple’s annual fall product event. Apple was already starting to take a step in this direction by making Apple Watch Series 7 front crystal more durable.

I’m not the target audience for a watch like this, but I’m still excited to see what Apple’s position on the rugged smartwatch might look like. There is an opportunity for Apple to reach out to more than just extreme athletes with a more durable smartwatch. A rugged Apple Watch could also be ideal for those with physically demanding occupations, such as construction workers, masons, landscape gardeners and mechanics.

Apple Watch Series 7 on a textured background

The Apple Watch Series 7 debuted with a slightly larger Apple Watch screen compared to previous years.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

Apple Watch Series 8

There is also Apple Watch Series 8, which is expected to debut this fall in typical Apple fashion. The biggest upgrade is likely to be the addition of a body temperature sensor, according to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The thermometer can be designed to help carriers with fertility planning, says the Journal’s report. Adding the ability to measure temperature will also help Apple catch up with other wellness trackers from Oura and Fitbit in this regard.

But Apple’s more significant health tracking updates – such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring – are still expected to be years away, according to reports. It makes me believe that the Series 8 could be another step-by-step upgrade with treatment and design improvements.

Still, I look forward to learning how Apple would incorporate temperature sensing into the Apple Watch’s suite of health features, if at all. Otherwise, I hope to see longer battery life, more detailed sleep tracking and measurements that focus on recovering from exercise in the next Apple Watch.

Apple Watch SE with AirPods Pro

Apple Watch SE debuted in 2020 and could get an update in 2022.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

Apple Watch SE 2

While the rumored Apple Watch Series 8 is likely to demand a lot of attention this fall, I’m personally more excited about a next generation Apple Watch SE. The main differences between Apple’s flagship watches and SEs usually involve sophisticated health tracking features – such as blood oxygen saturation and the ability to take an ECG. But the Apple Watch SE still has most of the Apple Watch’s main features for $ 120 less than the Series 7, making it feel like the right model for most. Such features include activity tracking, fall detection, irregular heartbeat notifications, Apple Pay support, and iPhone notifications.

Apple has not released a new Apple Watch SE since 2020, so I hope to see an update this year. We do not know much about what to expect from the next Apple Watch SE, but a Bloomberg report from June 2021 said a new version may come later this year. Based on Apple’s previous releases, a newer processor, some design adjustments and new color options seem like plausible additions. But this is only speculation based on Apple’s previous launches.

SE’s lower price means its functionality will be more limited than Apple’s next flagship watch. Apart from the absence of these health features mentioned above, the current SE also has a smaller screen than Series 7, lacks an always on screen and does not charge as fast.

If Apple brings any of these features to the next generation SE, I hope it’s the always-on-screen. Having a screen that can stay on even when the watch is idle makes the Apple Watch much more useful as a watch. It’s one of the few features I’m missing in everyday life when switching between Apple’s Advanced Watch and SE. Apple could still distinguish the Series 8 from the SE with its wider range of health features and larger screen. Since Apple may soon stop using the Apple Watch Series 3 for $ 199a new SE would round out Apple’s lineup with a new budget-friendly option.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 shows the user's body fat percentage (36.9%) and skeletal muscle (79.9%) from yesterday

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Scott Stein / CNET

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is one of the best smartwatches available for Android device owners, and rumors suggest a new Galaxy Watch 5 could come this year. It will probably have a round screen and Google’s Wear OS software as well Galaxy Watch 4, but with a larger battery and a temperature sensor. This is according to rumors from the blog SamMobile, which claims to have found the device’s battery in a statutory application, and the Korean business ETNews.

These rumored upgrades suggest that the Galaxy Watch 5 may be a refinement of the Watch 4 rather than a dramatic upgrade. But considering that the Galaxy Watch 4 is already doing many things right, from its sleek performance and vibrant screen to its wide range of health features, I’m fine with that.

One of CNET’s biggest criticisms was the watch’s battery life, and it sounds like the Galaxy Watch 5 might fix this shortcoming. However, the bigger update we hope to see is closer integration with Google’s apps and services. Such a change could give the Galaxy Watch 5 a more seamless Android experience, rather than feeling split between Google and Samsung’s ecosystems.

Reported rendering of the possible Google Pixel Watch

A rendering that supposedly shows what Google Pixel Watch might look like based on leaks obtained by Jon Prosser. The picture is in Prossers video about Pixel Watch on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech.

Jon Prosser / Home Tech

Google Pixel Watch

Google owns Fitbit and makes software for Android-friendly smartwatches, but it does not have its own smartwatch. That may all change this year, as Google is expected to do releases its first consumer smartwatchaccording to insider and YouTuber Jon Prosser reports.

Details about the watch are scarce, but Prosser reportedly shared leaked marketing material indicating it could have a round design. Considering that other Wear OS watches are round as well, this is not much of a surprise. An old report from the German blog WinFuture also suggests that the Pixel Watch could come in three different versions. Insider says we can also expect heart rate monitoring and basic health tracking features.

On a higher level, I’m hoping for Google’s smartwatch takes a page from its Pixel phones. Google has made its mobile devices stand out by providing them with smart software features that are either exclusive to Pixel phones or come on Pixel devices before dropping down to other Android devices. Google has an option to do the same for smartwatches, potentially creating a plan for how the Android smartwatch experience should be.

Fitbit Sense at 11:28 p.m.

Fitbit Sense.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

Fitbits Wear OS Watch

Fitbit is working on a new premium smartwatch powered by Google and Samsung’s new Wear OS software, CNET’s Scott Stein reported last year. It’s likely to have advanced features that might even be an upgrade from Fitbit Sense, the company’s most expensive watch, along with mobile connectivity and Google’s apps.

That would be a big step forward for Fitbit, which currently sells smartwatches running its own Fitbit OS software. While I’ve always appreciated Fitbit’s wide range of health features, detailed sleep tracking and long battery life, I’ve always felt that its software could use some work. The experience does not feel as polished as the software on watches from Apple and Samsung, and there are not as many apps. But that can all change with Wear OS.

Still, Fitbit may not completely abandon its Fitbit OS either. A next-generation version of the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Sense watch is possibly on the way, according to 9to5Google, which would not run on Wear OS.

Of course, only Apple, Samsung and Fitbit know which products are in their respective pipelines. But whatever their plans may be, health surveillance is likely to remain a major focus for the smartwatch industry as a whole. Current smartwatches can already track a range of data points about our bodies, from how much time we spent sleeping to our resting heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. Experts believe that it is a big part of making better sense about such data where portable devices are heading.

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