Facebook is no stranger to hardware devices, from its failed HTC First a.k.a The Facebook Phone to its VR foray with Oculus which it acquired back in 2014. It has now been reported that the social media behemoth is looking to expand its hardware portfolio by working on its first smartwatch. While there has been no official confirmation, but the grapevine has it that it might debut next summer. It is said that the company has spent roughly $1 billion to develop the first version of its watch and has hundreds of people working on it.
The device has been described to have a stainless steel frame and feature a unique design that has a display with two cameras, which can be detached from the wrist for taking pictures and videos that can be shared across apps like Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp. It is believed to be running a heavily modified version of Android.
Its front camera is said to be optimized for video calling and the rear one for capturing footage when detached from the frame. Specification of the front camera is not available right now but the rear camera is said to be 1080p with auto-focus. Other health-related features such as a heart rate monitor are also said to be included. Facebook has reportedly approached third-party accessory makers to create add-ons for attaching the device to things like backpacks and arms.
There are also plans to use the technology Facebook acquired from CTRL-labs for the smartwatch to serve as a key input device for its planned augmented reality glasses. CTRL-labs is a startup that has demonstrated that wristbands are capable of controlling a computer through wrist movements. The price is speculated at $400 for the first version that could launch sometime in 2022. Facebook is also said to be working on future iteration simultaneously with the second and third generations being prototyped as well.
The device is part of the larger objective to bypass Apple and Google, which control the two dominant mobile operating systems, leaving Facebook at their mercy to collect data. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants users to use the device in place of their smartphones so that all interactions happen directly between users and Facebook. The device is said to support LTE connectivity so that it does not need to be paired with a phone to work. Facebook and Apple have had a troubled past, with the latter having aggressively pushed privacy features in iOS by limiting the kinds of data that apps like Facebook can collect.
In a market dominated by Apple with around 34 million units sold last year, Facebook hopes to initially sell the smartwatch in low six figures. Given Facebook's track record with user's privacy, even that figure might be hard to achieve. Also, as the device has yet to enter mass production, there are chances the project might be scrapped altogether.