Speaking at the Code Mobile conference held in the city of Half Moon Bay in California, Glenn Lurie, chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility, predicted that wearable devices, most especially smartwatches, will have their own cellular connections soon. Most smartwatches existing today rely on smartphones in order to connect to a cellular network, but according to Lurie, they will soon be able to operate on their own.
The concept of smartwatches having a cellular connection of their own is nothing new, but for various reasons, the idea has never really taken off yet. Samsung unveiled its Gear S smartwatch in 2014, and the wearable device comes with a 3G connection, but unfortunately, it did not sell well. As for the Apple Watch, perhaps the most widely known smartwatch today, Apple first released it without the ability to run third party mobile apps, relying instead on the iPhone for connectivity and other functionalities.
But unbeknownst to many, especially casual mobile users, there are many challenges to having smartwatches get their own cellular connections. First of all, the batteries of smartwatches are mostly not powerful enough to facilitate long, consistent cellular connection. Even today’s smartphones need to be recharged often when continuously on a 3G or a 4G connection.
According to Lurie, however, these challenges are not insurmountable. And besides, we are now entering into an era where more and more devices other than mobile devices (including wearables) and computers are becoming connected. We now have connected automobiles, home appliances, and even garbage cans. It does help that the smartphone market is starting to mature, which means that consumers and device makers are now looking at other ways in which to get connected.
As for AT&T, the second biggest wireless carrier in the United States can certainly benefit from more devices getting connected. Under the leadership of Lurie (who took over AT&T Mobility in August of last year), the company has been becoming more open to the Internet of Things, or the idea that any object can be connected to each other and to a network.
Also, even though AT&T sits behind leader Verizon Wireless, other wireless carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint are eager to usurp AT&T’s place. The last few months have seen T-Mobile and Sprint introduce lots of new offers and attractive deals, which may have contributed to AT&T having some struggle in adding new subscribers over the last several quarters. Exploring the Internet of Things could be AT&T’s key to retaining its number 2 lead over the other major wireless carriers. And together with its existing mobile services and video (the wireless carrier acquired satellite TV provider DirecTV in July earlier this year), AT&T should remain competitive for the years to come.
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