As Apple and Google develop anti-tracking features to protect customer privacy, Facebook is searching for a new way to keep tabs on its users. Custom hardware like Portal and Oculus may be the solution, as they allow Facebook to collect data without the help of smartphone brands. But Facebook’s hardware strategy could take an odd turn next summer when the company is rumored to launch a smartwatch.
Facebook’s history with hardware is rocky at best. Most of the company’s consumer hardware experiments never left Building 8, the famed (and now dead) projects laboratory that spent an unfathomable amount of money playing with AR gadgets and wall-to-ceiling video chat tools. And while Oculus and Portal are both fairly successful, Facebook is still reeling from its failures in the hardware world, like the HTC First smartphone that went from $99 to $0.99 after a month on the market.
Yet Facebook is still trying its darndest with hardware. First reported by The Verge, Facebook is currently working on a smartwatch with a planned release in summer 2022. This smartwatch has all the usual features, including a heart rate monitor and messaging tool, but also features an oddity—two cameras.
A lens on the Facebook watch’s display enables video chat Dick Tracey-style, without the need to take out your phone. And when you want to capture HD video, you can remove the watch from its stainless steel chassis (leaving the watchband on your wrist) to utilize a camera on its underside. Yes, we’re talking about a watch with a bottom-mounted camera.
Unsurprisingly, videos shot on the Facebook watch can be uploaded directly to Facebook or Instagram. The Facebook watch will support LTE connectivity to make this process as painless as possible—and to circumvent your smartphone’s privacy features. Funny enough, Facebook hopes to make its watch a smartphone replacement, not a smartphone companion. (Zuckerberg is obsessed with smartphone replacements and often talks about how AR glasses will make phones obsolete.)
Facebook has reportedly spent over a billion dollars developing this smartwatch, which runs on a custom version of Android. If the company doesn’t abandon the hardware, then it should launch in the summer of 2022. Internally, Facebook is discussing a $400 price tag and is already working on second and third generations of the hardware.