If only you were with us
We see a lot of wearable devices around these parts, and sometimes it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to make and release a product. There are a number of factors to overcome before putting something out into the wild, and every once in a while it just doesn’t work out.
Sometimes companies just miss the market opportunity, or they get bought, or maybe realize that what they have just isn’t good enough to invest in production.
These are the wearables that never were. They’re lost to time and left to live on in our imaginations, never to answer the question of what might have been.
As you can tell, Microsoft has been dabbling – and frankly failing – in the smartwatch game for quite a while. The latest revelation is this Xbox-branded smartwatch, which may have its origins as far back as before 2013.
We don’t know much about it other than it included a heart rate sensor, a square display and Xbox branding. It’s hard to tell how it might have worked with gaming, but we can speculate from the fact that members of the Kinect team worked on the device.
Perhaps the Xbox smartwatch would be a good complementary device to measure fitness during Kinect games and apps. It’s tough to remember now, but back in 2012 Microsoft was talking about Xbox as a multi-platform experience that pushed beyond games. This might have been a remnant of that now-abandoned strategy.
Pebble Time 2
Back when Fitbit acquired Pebble at the end of 2016, Pebble fans were rightly concerned about the future of Pebble products. Pebble had announced a slew of new devices that summer and only the Pebble 2 had begun shipping. Their fears were warranted as Pebble confirmed it was cancelling the Time 2 and refunding backers.
In our short time with the Time 2, we were pleasantly surprised by its high-quality materials and hefty field. Plus, its narrowed bezels gave you 50% more viewing area to see the new high-resolution display. It’s a shame it was never to be, even though part of its DNA lives on in the Fitbit Ionic.
As Apple was working on the Watch, Nokia figured it had some ideas about smartwatches it could put to use. So it set out to build its own in around 2013 and 2014, which it referred to as Moonraker. It even went as far as showing it off at CES and developed marketing materials.
The smartwatch would include a lot of the features you expect from a smartwatch nowadays, but the two key things would be colorful design and gestures. Like other smartwatches, it would light up the display as you moved your hand up. These ideas feel dated now, but not back in about 2013 when it was being developed.
Ironically, Microsoft killed this design-focused watch for the Microsoft Band, which lacked design but excelled in healthcare features. If only it had found a way to combine both of them.
OnePlus’ fitness tracker
Startup Android smartphone maker OnePlus made a splash by offering high quality phones at affordable prices. It turns out it wanted to do something similar in the fitness tracker world.
Co-founder Carl Pei told TechRadar the company was planning on launching a fitness tracker and Bluetooth speaker, but decided to cancel both a month before launch. Pei also showed off some early sketches of the device, which had a circular face that you could pop off to switch bands. We don’t know for sure what software it would run or what features it would have, but it’s safe to say it would probably be Android Wear, given OnePlus’ penchant for Google’s smartphone OS.
So why did OnePlus cancel the device a month out? It came down to focus. Pei said the company realized it needed to focus on smartphones rather than jump into a new category where it might not be equipped to compete.
Microsoft Band 3
This one hurts. Microsoft’s first two fitness trackers were filled with great ideas, but both of them were let down by bad design and mediocre battery life. Third time could have been the charm though, especially since the feature set was about to get robust.
The Band 3 was reportedly set to feature blood pressure tracking and a built-in EKG alongside waterproofing. There also would have been RFID support. Microsoft was ambitious with the Band, packing on innovative ideas but not focusing on comfort and wearability. Shame.
HTC and Under Armour’s smartwatch
For a long while, HTC and Under Armour were collaborating on a fitness-focused smartwatch. We don’t know much about the watch, other than it had a heart rate sensor, the co-branding, and that a lot of images had leaked out over the past couple years. Oh, and that it was called the Halfbreak.
Eventually, HTC decided to can the watch. Chialin Chang, HTC’s president of smartphones and connected devices, said the company had not yet nailed the smartwatch experience and that there was too much uncertainty in the wearable market.