Wearables that work without a phone? AT&T exec sees them arriving this year

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Smartwatches need more than style to get ahead

As one AT&T exec tells it, the one thing holding wearables back is the lack of a cellular connection for direct internet access.

It's no surprise one of the biggest US telecommunications companies wants customers to add more service lines. However, AT&T's Glenn Lurie argued wearable devices need to become simpler before they're adopted by the masses.

At the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco this week, the head of emerging devices posited we could see standalone wearable devices this year. Instead of wearables that suckle on a handset's Bluetooth connection, Lurie said smartwatches and fitness bands must become more self-sufficient.

"Somebody show me a device today that is simple to use," he said. "The reason we haven't seen millions or hundreds of millions sold is we haven't gotten there. Just like tablets, it is going to all of a sudden explode."

While Lurie foresees the potential of cellular-equipped wearables, he declined to say which companies are developing them.

Laying the ground work

Even with an extremely young market of smartwatches, we're already seeing some devices with built-in wireless service.

Neptune released its Pine Smartwatch, a large and somewhat bulky wrist-worn 2.4-inch Android Phone equipped with a 3G antenna, late last year.

LG announced today that its always-connected KizOn wearable - designed to help parents track their kids - will arrive stateside in the coming months.

Way forward

Besides imagining a world of Dick Tracy-inspired smartwatches, Lurie also explained that AT&T is working on a way for users to easily transfer their incoming calls from a handset to a smartwatch.

The AT&T exec also suggested wearable devices will become more useful in the car as the company continues to increase the number of cars with wireless service baked in.

Lurie shared he believes wearables will find room to expand in the fitness space for athletes looking to post their workouts and who want a light, easy way to carry their tunes. The medical field is another space where AT&T imagines wearables, particularly those with health sensors, hitting big.

Via Recode

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.