The rumored wearable, which the company would look to release in 2022, was first reported by The Information (note: this is paywalled), citing “people with direct knowledge of the device.” In addition to health and fitness features, the smartwatch would of course give users wrist-mounted access to Facebook services, such as Messenger.
The rumored device, powered by an open source version of Android, would support cellular connections, meaning users wouldn’t be required to pair it with a smartphone. It would also be able to connect directly with other health and fitness-focused products, such as Peloton Interactive.
The big draw for a Facebook smartwatch, as the company sees it, is giving users the ability to directly link their fitness activities with one of the prevalent online social spaces in their lives. Being able to track and compare workouts with friends or speak with trainers directly is a lot more exciting when it plugs directly into your existing social profile.
The tradeoff, of course, is all of this filtering through Facebook, which provides the company with a new vector for collecting data on its users. Such links haven’t historically been popular with users, given the history of improper data collection. We saw this play out recently in the backlash that ensued after the announcement that, by 2023, Oculus VR users would have to use a Facebook account.
Fitness services like Supernatural have proven that there’s a segment of the regularly exercising public that likes to have, and is even motivated by, social connections in their fitness regimen. But is that enough of a draw to overcome the misgivings held by many when it comes to forking over more personal information to Facebook?
It remains to be seen. The smartwatch effort is described in The Information’s report as being “far along,” but not so close to release that plans can’t change. Facebook could still scuttle the whole effort. Though as the same report notes, citing a comment from CTO Mike Schroepfer during a December all hands meeting, the company sees a bright future for itself in wearables.