Facebook escalates the Big Tech wars with proposed heart rate-tracking smartwatch

Because racking up nearly 3.5 billion active users across its social networking platforms each month simply isn’t enough, Facebook is on a mission to further boost its standing in the tech world. The next step in that mission? Building a wearable device to compete with Apple and Google.

Though Facebook has yet to officially announce the launch of such a device, several reports have emerged about the proposed smartwatch, and Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook Reality Labs, seemingly shared a photo of a prototype wearable in March.

The most recent of these reports, from The Verge, suggests the smartwatch will largely serve as a smartphone substitute so Facebook can reach its users directly, without being hosted on a competitor’s device.

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To that end, the watch will reportedly be equipped with wireless LTE connectivity and two cameras: one on the front for video calls and one for uploading photos to Facebook and Instagram that will be located on the rear of the device, accessed by detaching it from its stainless steel frame.

Of course, to keep up with its competitors in the space, Facebook’s wrist-worn offering will also work as a health tracker. In addition to standard fitness tracking, the smartwatch will reportedly be equipped with a heart rate monitor.

According to people familiar with the project, Facebook’s wearable is scheduled for release in summer 2022 and will likely be priced around $400—equal to the base price of the latest Apple Watch model.

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It’s facing some stiff competition: Apple, for one, has spent the better part of the last decade carving out a niche in the consumer wearables space. Not only does its smartwatch integrate directly with its iOS smartphone and computer operating system, it has also received FDA clearance for its electrocardiogram and sleep tracking capabilities.

The Apple Watch is also rumored to soon be able to measure a wearer’s glucose levels, blood pressure, hydration and more, thanks to Apple’s recently expanded collaboration with sensor maker Rockley Photonics.

Meanwhile, Google is another old pro at wearable tech. In addition to its Wear OS technology integrated into third-party smartwatches, Google recently finalized its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, while its life science-focused sister company has introduced the Verily Study Watch for use in clinical trials, with its own FDA clearance for irregular pulse detection.

Amazon, too, has ventured into consumer health. Last August, the retail giant unveiled its own wellness-focused smartwatch, dubbed Halo, which tracks not only physical fitness but also emotional well-being and stress levels with the help of two microphones and a machine learning algorithm trained to analyze the tone and curtness of a wearer’s voice. Whether that device will end up prescribing retail therapy as a cure for a bad day remains to be seen.