An unknown company plans to change smartwatches forever

Diesel On Fadelite X Mad Dog Jones smartwatch Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

“If you don’t currently use a smartwatch, especially as a traditional watch manufacturer, then we are your way of getting the right product for your customers.”

This is how Steve Prokup, one of the founders Mijo Connect, describes the company’s business, and it makes me very interested and excited about the future of smartwatches. I spoke with Prokup via video call during CES 2024, and while you’ve probably never heard of Mijo Connected, and it’s also likely not the name on an actual product you’ll buy in the future, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Here’s why.

Continuing where Fossil left off

Fossil Skagen Falster Gen 6 on the wrist.
Fossils / Fossils

Prokup has a wealth of experience in the wearables world, having worked as head of hardware at Pebble before moving to Fossil, where he served as vice president of engineering and senior vice president of connected devices. Another co-founder of Mijo Connected is Hai Nguyen, who also worked at Fossil on product management and research and development projects. It’s perhaps not surprising that the company maintains a relationship with Fossil, as Prokup told me.

“We are not part of Fossil. But we went down the same path and had access to some Fossil technology,” he said before adding that he couldn’t explain further what the technology actually meant. However, this is a strong sign of how serious Mijo Connected is about smartwatches, as it makes perfect sense to continue to leverage the long-standing experience of watchmakers and smartwatches.

So, what is Mijo Connected, and why should you care? They plan to build a wearable device platform that will eventually be used by several well-known fashion brands and luxury brands, allowing them to deliver desirable, unique and fashionable smartwatches that also have the right technology and software to support their displays.

If this sounds like a familiar strategy, it’s similar to how Fossil launched smartwatches with partner brands like Diesel, Kate Spade, and Skagen. However, the company recently stepped back from that venture, and Mijo Connected is ready to fill that space.

Smart watches for fashion and luxury brands

1858 clock face on Montblanc Summit 3.
Montblanc Summit3 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

“Our platform allows our customers to quickly launch truly differentiated products. For example, a brand wants to launch a smartwatch. They don’t want a generic app — it should be their name. It should have their branding, their style. Same thing for the watch, right? It should look like a watch from that company. That’s what our platform does.” explained Prokup.

“The underlying platform has a completely unique ID, so the watch face, the watch case, the strap, everything is designed completely by (the brand) because they usually have a very good design team that knows how to implement their brand style. The same thing happens with applications and even data in the cloud.” he continued.

Mijo Connected will bring its industry expertise to brands that want to launch smartwatches (and, in the future, other connected mobile devices like wireless earbuds and smart speakers), but don’t want to invest in building partnerships with software companies, manufacturers and then study hard how to make products that represent that brand. Mijo Connected will do all this instead and will bring a huge amount of customization as well, according to Prokup:

“We have a very similar approach to the way traditional watches are made, where the movement is encased in a different design and watch case. We can use premium titanium cases, we can put pavé (a reference to jewelry set into a bezel or case) on them, or we can go with stainless steel and other alloys, or onto plastic. “If anyone wants a cheaper plastic case with a silicone strap, that is also available on our platform,” he explained.

The amount of customization and individualization it provides means Mijo Connected is in discussions with fashion brands and luxury brands to work together, including several luxury brands that have released smartwatches in the past. But what about the software that will run on these new smartwatches?

What about the software?

Someone is wearing a Google Pixel Watch 2 with a yellow/green cloth strap.
Google Pixel Watch 2 Joe Maring / Digital Trends

At CES, Mijo Connected launched its smartwatch platform with the software company MikroEJ (which is pronounced Micro Edge) and revealed that it will use MicroEJ’s Vee Wear operating system in the future. While you may not immediately recognize the name, you’ve probably already used the MicroEJ platform on wearable devices, as it has powered smartwatches made by Polar for the past few years.

I also spoke with Semir Haddad, head of product and strategy at MicroEJ, during CES 2024. He talked about the importance of thorough customization on the software side, so brands can build their own devices. He also revealed that one of the company’s strengths is how its technology makes it easy to adapt Wear OS apps to run on non-Wear OS smartwatches. It’s been working under a variety of different names, plus it’s partnered with the Facer app to provide different watch faces.

Vee Wear has low power requirements, but this does not affect performance. Both of these are long-standing problems with low-cost smartwatches that may have set some fashion brands back in the past. Vee Wear smartwatches will also work with Android and iOS phones, providing more flexibility. Does this mean Mijo Connected doesn’t provide an option for Wear OS smartwatches and only works with MicroEJ?

“MicroEJ is a great partner,” Prokup said, “but we have a platform available for RTOS watches, as well as a platform we’re working on for Wear OS.” The choice of software options shows how the device covers all the customization requirements of a smartwatch beyond the physical design.

When will the watch come?

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Series 8 feature screens.
Apple Watch Series 9 (above) and Apple Watch Series 8 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Smartwatches today are dominated by three main models – the Apple Watch Series 9, Google Pixel Watch 2, and Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 – all of which are excellent, but not necessarily to the liking of someone who likes traditional watches or fashion watches. . Mijo Connected is interesting because it seeks to fill a market gap left open by Fossil, allowing brands that want to make smartwatches to not have to do everything and become a technology company.

The company may be new, but it has a lot of experience – and likely already has a good idea of ​​what works and what doesn’t when making branded smartwatches. This should provide confidence to companies that may have avoided connected products in the past.

So, when does Prokup expect the first models to arrive?

“We don’t have a firm launch date, but as you know, in this period, (the fourth quarter) is a big moment for everyone,” Prokup hinted before adding: “We are working on a big launch with a brand. ”

An Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch 5, and Garmin Forerunner 265 lie on a table next to each other.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Mijo Connected will largely be the company behind smartwatch and probably not a name you would hear unless you “know” it. But Prokup also mentioned that they might launch their own small product, although not under the name Mijo Connected, someday.

This will give us a good idea of ​​what to expect from smartwatches in the future and how transformative they will be. This would also be the case in an industry currently controlled by a handful of tech brands that have historically underserved the fashion and watchmaking markets. If everything goes as Mijo Connected hopes, it could change the smartwatch market forever.

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