Earlier this year, the company formerly known as Facebook was rumored to be working on a camera smartwatch with a slated release for 2022. Now, a leaked render gives us a first glimpse of what this inevitable nightmare watch might look like.
The render comes courtesy of Bloomberg, which in turn received it from developer Steve Moser. Moser purportedly found the image “casually” left in the code of the Facebook View app. The View app is the companion app for the Ray-Ban Stories smart sunglasses that Facebook, I mean Meta, launched last month. Moser tweeted that the smartwatch is codenamed “Milan” and as you can see from the image... it’s got a lil punch-hole notch for a front-facing camera.
The watch itself is reminiscent of Fitbit’s Sense and Versa smartwatches, with a “squircle” display. (Which also looks a lot like the Apple Watch. Then again, a crapton of smartwatches look like that.) It also appears to be made of stainless steel and features a large button at the top of the case and on the right side. But aside from the camera, it’s hard to say what’ll be unique about the Facebook—dammit Meta—smartwatch. Since we can’t see the back, it’s hard to see what sort of sensors the watch is sporting. The Verge initially reported that the smartwatch would have a 1080p auto-focus camera on the back, a front-facing one for video calls, and a heart rate sensor.
The fact that the image was found in the Facebook View app hints the watch might also focus on capturing short video clips that can then be uploaded onto social media. Based on the rambling dissertation that Facebook CEO (Is it Meta CEO now? I hate all of this.) Mark Zuckerberg gave about the metaverse, it’s also possible this smartwatch is an attempt at “taking the metaverse on the go.” That said, health features also can’t be ruled out as Zuckerberg took time to highlight VR fitness as well. For instance, the popular Oculus fitness game Supernatural supports linking the Apple Watch to a Quest headset so you can see your heart rate during the workout. It’s not a huge stretch to think that Facebook—Meta, sigh, whatever—would want its own hardware to also be compatible in that way.
Bloomberg cites anonymous sources as saying that while the watch was initially slated for 2022, it’s possible it could debut later. However, it appears that the company is serious about its new wearables initiative. Bloomberg and the Verge have both reported that the company is already working on a second and third generation of the smartwatch before the first has even launched.
Whether this smartwatch succeeds will depend on a lot of things. Not only is it incredibly late to the game, but camera smartwatches have also historically bombed. Samsung first offered cameras on its Galaxy Gear smartwatches ages ago—and there’s a reason there they’re not included on its current smartwatches. That said, chipmaker Qualcomm has been recently rumored to be working on a new Snapdragon Wear chipset that will support not one, but two cameras. Hmm. In any case, it’ll be a tough sell given Facebook’s reputation for privacy and a name change isn’t going to erase that overnight. And even if it weren’t an issue, it’d have to solve the battery problem. Most flagship smartwatches struggle to last more than 48 hours—and it’s hard to imagine how long a camera wristable would last.
It’s also possible that whatever smartwatch launches, it won’t look a damn thing like this render. As Zuckerberg said during yesterday’s keynote, it might take decades for the metaverse to fully actualize. Like the Ray-Ban Stories, whatever this first smartwatch ends up being might be more of an attempt to get the public to be OK with the idea of carrying around portable, discreet cameras.