Facebook to launch its first smartwatch next summer

The device will be equiped with detachable display with two cameras, heart rate monitor

Facebook is preparing to finally launch its first smartwatch - news that the company hasn’t confirmed publicly. The Verge, however, has learned that the device is set to make its debut next summer, featuring a display with two cameras that can be detached from the wrist for taking pictures and videos. The materials can then be shared directly across Facebook’s suite of apps, including Instagram.

According to sources, familiar with the matter, the camera on the front of the watch display will exist primarily for video calling, while a 1080p, auto-focus camera on the back will be used for capturing footage when detached from the stainless steel frame on the wrist. Reportedly, Facebook is also tapping other companies to create accessories for attaching the camera hub to things like backpacks, according to two people familiar with the project, both of whom requested anonymity to speak without Facebook’s permission. The watch is also known to come in white, black, and gold.

In future versions of the watch, the company is planning for it to serve as a key input device for its planned augmented reality glasses, which Zuckerberg thinks will one day be as ubiquitous as mobile phones. The company also contemplates on using technology it acquired from CTRL-labs, a startup that has demonstrated armbands capable of controlling a computer through wrist movements.

Overall, the idea is to encourage owners of the watch to use it in ways that smartphones are used now. It’s part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to build more consumer devices that circumvent Apple and Google, the two dominant mobile phone platform creators that largely control Facebook’s ability to reach people.

Speaking of rivalry, the planned device is Facebook’s first stab at releasing hardware specifically for the wrist, opening up another area of competition with Apple at a time when the two tech giants are already at odds on other fronts. Apple has aggressively positioned itself as a protector of privacy by limiting the kinds of data that apps like Facebook can collect, while Facebook has for years been besieged by scandals regarding its handling of user data. That dynamic could create an uphill battle for Facebook to convince people to buy its forthcoming Apple Watch competitor, especially since it plans to also position the watch as a fitness device with a heart rate monitor.

Still, there is a lot of time before Facebook releases of the first version of its watch in the summer of 2022 and it is also not determined to go fast and furious with it. The company hopes to initially sell volume in the low six figures. That’s a tiny sliver of the overall smartwatch market, considering the fact that Apple sold 34 million watches last year by comparison, according to Counterpoint Research. 

Employees have recently discussed pricing the device at roughly $400, but the price point could change. While it’s unlikely, Facebook could also scrap the watch altogether, as the device has yet to enter mass production or even be given an official name.

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 fitness wearable maker. Since then, the social network has spent roughly $1bn to develop the first version of its watch and has hundreds of people working on the effort, according to one of the people with knowledge of the matter.

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