Reports: Google close to manufacturing a smartwatch

It's said to be in talks with Asian companies over mass production

Google could be a few months away from mass production of a smartwatch, a move that would put it in competition with vendors Pebble Technology, Sony and Samsung Electronics, according to media reports. Apple is widely expected to enter the fray soon as well.

Smartwatches can typically run simple applications by themselves, but are most useful when paired with a smartphone over a low-power Bluetooth link, allowing them to relay information from the phone's applications and Internet connection.

Samsung launched its Galaxy Gear, a companion device for its most recent Galaxy smartphones, last month while the Sony SmartWatch is already on its second version. The Pebble, featuring an e-paper screen, made it to market after its designers raised US$10 million via crowdfunding site Kickstarter in May 2012. Apple, too, is rumored to be working on a smartwatch.

Google has almost completed development of its smartwatch and is negotiating with Asian companies to manufacture it, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The device will run Android, and will connect to Android phones to pull information from Google Now, the search engine's personalized information service.

Existing smartwatches have been criticized for needing frequent charging, and Google has been working to extend the battery life of its smartwatch, the Journal reported.

Samsung's Gear will run for a day or two between charges, reviewers say. Its main competitors fare better, but neither run for more than a week: Sony's SmartWatch 2 lasts three to four days, while the Pebble's manufacturer says it will run for five to seven days.

Google already has some experience with wearable computing devices, as it works with developers and early adopters to find uses for Google Glass. The head-mounted device has a forward-facing camera, a microphone, an earpiece and a tiny heads-up display, all connected to a miniature computer running Android, and needs to be linked to a smartphone via Bluetooth to gather data from the Internet.

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Peter Sayer

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