Described as “something out of sci-fi”, Galaxy Gear was unveiled at a Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin.
It features speakers and microphones, meaning users speak into and hear from the watch instead of a handset.
Pranav Mistry, head of Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America, demonstrated the device during a presentation at the Berlin IFA .
Pranav Mistry presents the new device
“This is an exciting time for all of us at Samsung,” he said.
“We have created something incredible. You don’t need to get your phone out anymore.
“Gear takes the entirety of your digital world and places it right where you can see.”
Mr Mistry said Samsung was inspired by a traditional wristwatch with a simple face.
“It is stainless steel but light in weight,” he said.
“The strap is packed with technology of the next decade.”
He said the watch, which comes in six colours, is comfortable enough to be worn all day.
It is switched on with a swipe, which unlocks features including apps, contacts, a camera and email.
Incoming messages – such as calls, alerts and emails – show up on the smartwatch and can be accessed on the wrist.
“You don’t need to talk to the air like a bluetooth handset or get your phone out of your pocket,” Mr Mistry said.
The watch is switched on with a swipe
The smartwatch will be available in more than 140 countries with the Galaxy Note 3 from September 25.
It will be competing with Sony’s SmartWatch 2, which was announced in June.
Analysis Samsung is not a great innovator, yet it’s certainly one of the world’s greatest imitators.
Although it follows other companies into booming markets with me-too products, it remembers to add a little more sparkle to its offerings so that it not merely to catches up with its rivals, it eventually pushes past them.
That’s what the South Korean goliath did in the TV business, initially aping the Japanese consumer electronics giants and then wresting dominance of the market away from them. It tried it with so-called ultra-mobile PCs in the late 2000s and might have succeeded had world+dog actually wanted the machines.
More recently it has applied the same tactic very effectively to netbook and, later, notebook computers, and now it’s successfully doing so in the smartphone and tablet arenas.
It’s all in the wrist
Samsung’s Galaxy Gear – a stupid name – is entirely derivative. It has the colour display of a Sony Smartwatch or an I’m Watch, the voice control of the Martian platform, the on-screen information zones of Metawatch, and the close links to established smartphone apps and routed phone notifications that are Pebble’s forté.
Though few smartwatches feature a camera, even the Gear’s integrated 1.9MP component isn’t original: Omate is promising to build a 5MP camera into its TrueSmart watch, and has been seeking funding from the Kickstarter crowd, for some time.
What Samsung does have that all of these others but Sony don’t have is the budget for a glitzy product launch at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin this week – and the ear of the world’s non-technical media. Samsung is a high profile brand, and lots of punters own one or more of its products. Judging by the excitement on BBC TV News, Samsung is now the creator of the smartwatch tech category.
It isn’t, but Samsung’s entry into the wrist-computer arena can’t but help grow the market and bring it to the attention of many more potential customers that no end of Kickstarter campaigns can. That’s good news for Samsung’s startup rivals too because it will draw in people who will decide that the Galaxy Gear is not for them – most likely because of its price – and opt for one of the alternatives.
Samsung’s Galaxy Gear … until the iWatch arrives, the mainstream smartwatch option
Apple fans who’ve decided they can’t wait for the much-rumoured iWatch any longer will need to look to one of Samsung’s rivals even if they don’t care about Apple’s legal fights with the South Korean giant. There’s no sign yet that the Galaxy Gear will play well with fanbois’ iDevices.
Indeed, even Samsung appears to be, for now, pitching the Gear solely as an adjunct to a single device, its upcoming Android-based Galaxy Note 3 VLP™ (that’s a Very Large Phone). It’s not yet pitching it as an accessory for its other more pocket-sized smartphones.
Smartmobes are incorporating larger and larger displays with each passing generation, becoming more like tablets in both form-factor and the way they’re used. Their owners are going to want a small second screen to quickly glance at if they need some simple useful info. They’re not going to be so keen to whip out or carry around in their hand a six-inch device as they would a four- or five-inch phone. The smartwatch provides that second screen.
And the Gear does have a good screen. Its 320 x 320 colour OLED panel will appeal more than the E Ink or monochrome LCD panels found on the likes of the Hot Watch and the Pebble. It has a higher resolution than most other smartwatch screens – Sony’s upcoming Smartwatch 2’s LCD panel is 220 x 176, Pebble’s is 144 x 168 – and it’s also bigger than most.
The camera – which is built into the strap not the watch, so don’t expect to be easily able to put the Gear on a new band – is something of a because-we-can gimmick or a vague attempt to deliver the same kind of functionality as Google’s Glass. I can’t see too many folk taking pictures with it. Neither, presumably, can Samsung, which is why it talked about such odd uses as “video memos” at the Gear’s launch.
Naturally, that will depend on the apps, and the Korean company promised that there will be more than 70 available for it.
We’ve yet to see the full scope of those apps, but at least 12 are known, and they alone provide a fairly wide range of functionality.
Together, these 12 apps seem to do a good job of showing what the Galaxy Gear smartwatch will be capable of. However, will these and others be enough to convince Android users that they need a watch in addition to a phone?
Convenience vs. function
Major social networks like Twitter and Facebook have yet to pledge support for the Galaxy Gear, but the “private messaging and sharing” social network app Path will be available on the smartwatch at launch.
Other social apps confirmed for the Gear are the messaging service, Line; Banjo, a social discovery app; and the location sharing app Glimpse.
As TechRadar noted in our hands-on Galaxy Gear review, eBay is also on board with a partially functional app that lets you see notifications and place bids but not search for items or read their descriptions.
The fitness apps RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal will both be available on Galaxy Gear, along with Evernote and the “DVR for the web” app Pocket.
Finally, there’s task creation app Atooma, which claims to “automate your Android”; Vivino Wine Scanner for the winos out there; the travel app Tripit. Snapchat is rumored but unconfirmed, as well.
Some of these apps, like Pocket and eBay, provide just a portion of the functionality that their smartphone counterparts do, but the idea is that it’s sometimes easier to hold up your wrist than pull out your phone.
But is it really such a massive inconvenience to simply pull your smartphone out of your pocket like you’ve been doing for years? Does that make a £299/$299 (around AUS$325) smartwatch worth the price? We’ll find out in October when the Galaxy Gear launches
Sources: SkyNews, The Register and techradar