Tech predictions: New smartwatches for 2015

Smartwatches were the big new thing for 2014; in 2015 the Apple Watch (iWatch) will only increase their popularity. Here's what to expect from new smartwatches in 2015. Also see: Best smartwatches 2014/2015; Best activity trackers 2014/2015 and all wearable tech reviews.

Perhaps one of the biggest things to happen to the smartwatch category in 2015 will be the launch of the Apple Watch in the spring. At this point, all smartwatch makers will need to up their game. While the Apple Watch iOS 8-based platform isn’t any better than is Android Wear, and alone will unlikely be enough to persuade users of either platform to jump ship, it does have a few lessons to teach rival smartwatch makers in 2015.

Previously, most smartwatches worth their salt have been based on the Android Wear operating system and are of little use to the huge number of iPhone owners out there, in the same way that the first Tizen-based Gear smartwatches were unappealing to anyone other than Samsung owners. But with decent smartwatches available for both user bases, the smartwatch category will finally begin to appeal to the masses.

According to Futuresource, which polled 8000 consumers in the USA, UK, France and Germany in May and October 2014, in five months it has seen a 125 percent increase in interest in smartwatches, and 50 percent in fitness trackers. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s largely iPhone users who have brought about this change: whereas 6 percent were interested in smartwatches in May, by October 17 percent had their interest piqued by wearable tech.

In 2015 we expect to see smartwatch improvements on five fronts: design, usability, health- and fitness tracking, battery life and price.

It’s important for manufacturers to remember that a watch is as much a fashion statement as it is a piece of useful technology. Whereas most Android Wear smartwatches can’t be customised beyond selecting a different watch face or strap, the Apple Watch is available in two sizes - for men and women - and three collections: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. We expect to see Android Wear smartwatch makers follow suit with designs that appeal to all types of users.

We’re also starting to see more round-face smartwatches in the style of traditional wristwatches. The Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch R are great examples; expect to see more round, less-techy-looking designs in 2015.

Apple’s Watch has a digital crown, which means the smartwatch isn’t operated entirely via touch - not always practical on a small screen. Some Android Wear smartwatches have similar features. The digital crown might not become the standard, but you can guarantee smartwatch makers will take steps to improve navigation and ease of use in 2015, perhaps with improved gestures.

In terms of the tech itself, health- and fitness will remain key, narrowing the gap between smartwatch and fitness band. With more practical designs, we could eventually see fitness bands replaced altogether. In 2015 we think we’ll see more in the way of always-on health- and fitness tracking - rather than a pedometer or heart-rate sensor that fires up when you activate it, these things will be ticking along quietly in the background, building up a more true-to-life picture of your health and daily activity.

The more you use these devices to work out, the more they need to be able to resist wear and tear. Expect more rugged, water- or at least rain- and sweatproof watches in 2015.

Improvements to battery life will be key, since we simply aren’t accustomed to charging our watches overnight. Nor do we expect their batteries to run down in a matter of days. We want watches that are smart, but also that we can treat just like a traditional watch.

Expect Qi wireless charging support to feature heavily in smartwatches in 2015. It’s bad enough that we have to take off our watch to charge it; worse that we have to tether it to a USB port to do so.

Pricing has previously been off-putting for some wannabee smartwatch owners. The LG G Watch is one of the more affordable examples at £159, but for most smartwatches you’re looking at around £180 to £200 - or significantly more, as we expect will be the case with the Apple Watch. In 2015 we wouldn’t be at all surprised to find budget smartwatches appearing from companies such as Huawei, ZTE and other smartphone makers known for their great-value devices.

At the other end of the scale are people who like to spend a lot of money on their watches. Rumour has it the gold Apple Watch will cost a whopping £3,000.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.