Report: Zuckerberg And Sheryl Sandberg Are Coming For The Data And Tracking On Your Wrist, Will Sell Facebook Watch

Report: Zuckerberg And Sheryl Sandberg Are Coming For The Data And Tracking On Your Wrist, Will Sell Facebook Watch

Facebook wrist
Smartwatch screen mockup digital device, Vu Hoang / Flickr / CC

Facebook may be on a mission to control the next computing platforms after smartphones, and it’s banking on wearable technology to help get it there.

An Android smartwatch by Facebook is expected to hit the market in 2022 that will let wearers send messages using Facebook’s services and also offer health and fitness features, according to The Information.

“Facebook hopes to emphasize features that utilize its social networking prowess, such as allowing users to track their workouts with friends or communicate with their trainer,” The Information reported, and it “plans to allow the device to connect to the services or hardware of health and fitness companies, such as Peloton Interactive.”

In recent years, Facebook has expanded into selling consumer hardware, introducing Oculus virtual reality headsets and its Portal lineup of video-calling devices for the home.

It will be competing with a smartwatch market already dominated by Apple, Huawei and Fitbit. Facebook tried to buy Fitbit in 2019 but Google won and now owns it.

Will Facebook be successful with its hardware on your wrist?

“Let’s just say that every word in the phrase ‘Facebook Android smartwatch’ is cause for concern,” Ron Amadeo wrote for Arstechnica. “If you exclude the acquired Oculus VR division, Facebook’s hardware efforts haven’t panned out well.”

Facebook’s closest previous project to a smartwatch was the Facebook Phone, aka, the HTC First, which lasted one month on the market. Its Facebook Portal line video chat devices, available as a set-top box for TVs, were a less disastrous hardware effort but did not sell well in the normal market, although they sold out when the pandemic hit, along with every other video chat device, Amadeo wrote.

The Facebook wrist device is expected to work via a cellular connection, without the need for a smartphone, according to The Information. Facebook also plans to allow the device to connect to hardware of health and fitness companies such as Peloton.

“Given its spotty track record with user privacy, Facebook could face blowback from consumers with its wrist wearable, especially related to health aspects of the device,” Alex Heath and Wayne Ma wrote for The Information.

Facebook has sunk billions of dollars into developing consumer hardware that can give consumers direct access to its apps and reduce its dependence on Apple and Google, which power most software on mobile phones. But Facebook could still decide to delay the smartwatch release or cancel it.

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However, there are signs that Facebook’s efforts in hardware are starting to pay off. Its non-advertising revenue, which includes consumer hardware sales, is growing. Non-ad revenue rose by 72 percent to $1.8 billion in 2020 versus a 21-percent increase to $84 billion in ad revenue, The Information reported. Facebook is the No. one player for headsets, with sales of the Oculus VR headset exceeding 1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with 125,000 units sold by Playstation, which is No. two, according to industry research firm SuperData.

Facebook bought the virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014 and paid $1 billion in 2019 to acquire CTRL-labs, a startup that was building an armband capable of interpreting human brain signals. Facebook hopes to add the technology to future versions of the smartwatch to work in tandem with its future glasses, according to people familiar with its plans.

That’s a lot of data to track. If Facebook owns the platform, it will have a lot more freedom to do what it wants — “freedom which probably involves tracking users,” Arstechnica reported.