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Is Facebook's surprise Apple Watch rival dead on arrival?

Apple has dominated the smartwatch market for a while now, but it seems a surprise new contender could be coming for the Apple Watch's crown. According to new leaks, Facebook is working on its own wearable, and it could arrive as soon as next year. But with Facebook's history of privacy-related scandals, could the product be doomed from the off?

With a focus on messaging and fitness, the Android-based device is said to feature its own cellular connection (removing the need for an accompanying smartphone). It will no doubt rely on the company's various social media services, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook itself. (Check out the best Apple Watch deals if you're after the best smartwatch available right now). 

Apple Watch SE

We have a feeling Apple needn't be worried (Image credit: Apple)

According to The Information, an anonymous source "with direct knowledge of the device" (Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps?) says the new product will help inch Facebook towards its goal of "controlling the next computing platforms after smartphones". Although the first iteration of the watch will run on Android, Facebook is also allegedly working on its own operating system for future hardware.

In some ways, it should hardly come as a surprise that the company is considering a foray into wearables – from the Oculus Quest (one of our best VR headsets) to the Portal smart screen, Facebook's hardware ambitions are no secret. A smartwatch might seem like the logical next step.

And yet, we can't help but wonder if wearable tech is indeed a step too far for a company that isn't exactly famous for privacy. The smartwatch is a rather intimate piece of tech, both in terms of the personal and location data the devices tend to aggregate, and the fact that they're designed to be worn pretty much everywhere – not least in bed (how else are you going to get hold of that precious sleep data?).

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The device could join the Oculus Quest in Facebook's hardware line up (Image credit: Facebook)

In the wake of various privacy scandals for the company (most famously 2018's Cambridge Analytica data breach debacle), many users might well hesitate to strap a Facebook-owned device to their person. Persuading people to buy the very concept of a Facebook watch (FaceWatch? WatchFace?) could be an uphill battle in itself – let alone persuading them to actually, you know, buy it.

There's no intel on price yet, but this could be one way for Facebook to make the device stand out – while the Apple Watch line up has diversified in recent years to suit a range of budgets, you'll still have to shell out £199 for the cheapest model, the Apple Watch Series 3. If Facebook can go cheaper, perhaps that'll be one way to entice users to offer up their wrists.

Time will tell whether Facebook's watch will manage to disrupt the smartwatch market, but we have a feeling Apple won't be worried – with such a sales gulf between the market leader and its competition, like most other Android-based watches, Facebook's offering is likely to be battling for second place. If you're looking for Apple's latest and greatest, check out today's best Apple Watch Series 6 deals below. 

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