The arm race begins with Samsung’s latest smartwatch

  • Samsung
  • Friday, 06 Sep 2013

Even if consumers remain unconvinced, the number of third-party apps already available for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear proves that the tech industry believes it’s time for smartwatches — so expect a host of companies to be competing for your wrist over the next 12 months. 

It was the big reveal that the world’s tech journalists had all been waiting for, and in terms of Samsung hyperbole it didn’t disappoint.  

Pranav Mistry, head of Samsung Research, America said that the Galaxy Gear was the reinvention of a centuries old object (i.e., the watch) and that it would “redefine tomorrow.” J.K. Shin, head of the company’s mobile division, claimed the Galaxy Gear was set to become a global fashion icon. 

While there will no doubt be admirers, the truth is that in terms of functionality and features, Samsung’s latest offering is little more than an accessory — in the same sense that it’s the tablet, not its optional wireless keyboard, that consumers get excited about. 

The device features six interchangeable coloured straps (including orange and yellow) to coordinate with the wearer’s wardrobe and has a comparatively svelte stainless steel rimmed 1.63in touchscreen so it won’t feel like strapping a phone to your arm every time you put it on.  

In terms of performance, it can make and receive calls and responds to voice commands for dictating messages. However, it is not a replacement for a smartphone, simply an extension to it and must be connected via Bluetooth to a handset in order to function. 

Other features include a built-in pedometer app, basic camera and the ability to display notifications — whether e-mail or text messages or tweets — and can also mirror a smartphone or tablet’s screen. 

Most impressively for a device in an unproven product category, it already has 70 third-party apps optimised for it. These include Evernote, eBay, Glympse, TripIt, Pocket, Banjo, Path and RunKeeper — the Runkeeper app can also use information gathered from the device’s pedometer and other sensors. 

However, there are serious limitations. Like the majority of smartphones, this smartwatch will need to be charged every day, so there’s yet another cable to keep track of.  

And, because it runs Android 4.3, it is currently only compatible with two Samsung devices — the Galaxy Note III phablet and the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition tablet, both of which were launched alongside the watch.  

Other handsets in the Galaxy range will become compatible in the future as they receive the Android 4.3 update (most notably the Galaxy S4) so, for now at least, it is a device aimed at a very, very small minority of consumers. 

Still, it is telling that the watch was revealed alongside a tablet and a phablet because in doing so, Samsung demonstrated the device’s clearest use case. Unlike a phone, a phablet or a tablet are not easy to carry in a pocket and whip out every time there’s an alert, call or notification.  

Even browsing a music library or tracklist can be difficult if both hands aren’t free — think travelling on the metro system during rush hour. In those situations, being able to glance at or touch a wrist would be very useful. 

The Samsung Galaxy Gear will go on sale on Sept 25 in 140 countries and by October will be available globally. It is expected to cost US$299 (RM993.13).  

For now Samsung has the market pretty much all to itself, but in the coming months, wrist-worn devices are expected from Intel, Acer, LG and, of course Apple, then things will really start to get interesting.  

But, until then, Samsung is winning the arm race. — ©AFP/Relaxnews 2013 

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Samsung , Galaxy Gear , smartwatch , IFA , Berlin , 2013


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