As expected, Samsung has announced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the IFA conference in Berlin. Danny Sullivan live-blogged the event, which also saw a number of other announcements, including the Galaxy Note 3 and a new 10-inch Galaxy tablet.
Earlier today Sony introduced its new and improved smartwatch at IFA.
The new Samsung smartwatch comes with a camera (+ video) and a speaker. The camera is 1.9 megapixels. I’m sure the quality will improve over time.
Gear can be used as a phone, but it’s not a phone. It relies on a bluetooth connection to a Samsung smartphone:
The built-in speaker allows users to conduct hands-free calls directly from the Gear, maintaining connections to their mobile communications without disrupting their daily routines. For example, a user leaving the grocery store, whose hands are full with shopping bags, could still make a call by speaking into the GALAXY Gear without touching the screen. Users can also draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather on the GALAXY Gear with S Voice.
There are a variety of apps that come with the device, and Samsung promises more. It also comes in a range of colors. Below are the specs:
Samsung described Gear as a “design statement” and an “engineering marvel.” It also integrates with the newly announced Galaxy Note 3 “phablet.” Without having had a chance to handle or fondle the Gear watch, my first impressions are based on the livestream and third-party reviews (e.g., The Verge).
It’s more complete and technically advanced than other smartwatches currently available, but there’s also something clunky and unsophisticated about the design and UI. Gear will also cost $299, which may be expensive for many people.
Apple is also expected to announce an “iWatch” next week at its September 10 event that will use apps and probably sync with the iPhone. And Google is reportedly developing its own Android-based smartwatch, according to the revelation that the company had recently acquired WIMM labs, builder of smartwatches.
Is there public demand for smartwatches? Yes, there appears to be meaningful demand, especially among people under 50, according to a poll I conducted, the results of which are not yet public. Demand for Google Glass is narrower and concentrated among those under 40 (mostly under 30).
There’s also a strong indication that people would buy smartwatches tied to their current brand of mobile phone, which means that Apple and Samsung stand to benefit most. Google could also develop a competitive position in the market.
Mobile polling app Polar found that people are more interested in smartwatches being tied into fitness than they are interested in a camera on the device. In addition they would also like the phone itself to be WiFi equipped vs. having to rely upon a mobile-phone connection.
Regardless, with health-monitoring wristbands, Google Glass, a soon-to-be-competitive smartwatch market and potentially other devices on the way, we’re clearly entering an era of “wearables.”
(Image credit: Samsung/Wall Street Journal)