Samsung unveiled today its first major entry in the wearable computers space with the Galaxy Gear, a wristwatch that extends the capabilities of a Galaxy smartphone to your wrist while leaving the phone in your pocket.
At the IFA Berlin 2013 conference – the European equivalent of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – Samsung debuted the Galaxy Gear along with a new-generation Galaxy Note 3 mini-tablet/smartphone and the Galaxy 10.1 2014 full-fledged tablet computer.
Samsung did not reveal pricing for the Gear, which is set to go on sale along with the Galaxy Note 3 September 25, but Bloomberg News reports a list price for Gear of $299.
With the Galaxy Gear, the Korean electronics company introduced the first wearable computer from a major player in consumer electronics – Apple, Sony and Microsoft are rumored to have similar products in the works. Apple may reveal its smart watch at an event for select media Sept. 10 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
At an event streamed live from Berlin, synchronized with a second live event from Times Square in New York City, Samsung executives explained that Gear is designed to access the most frequently used features of your smartphone – taking and receiving calls, viewing e-mails and other messages, taking photos – without you having to grab your phone. The watch can be operated with swipes and taps like other smartphones, or by voice commands.
“Altogether, Galaxy Gear brings you smart freedom and is a perfect companion to the Galaxy Note 3,” said JK Shin, president and CEO of the IT and Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics.
While Gear is instantly compatible with Galaxy Note 3 out of the box, it is also backwards compatible with some previous Galaxy Note and Galaxy S models with a software upgrade, said Pranau Mistry, head of the Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America.
“Welcome to the future,” Mistry declared at the start of his presentation. “The goal was to make Gear wearable, comfortable and yes, something out of sci-fi.”
Samsung based the Gear on the wristwatch, which has been around for more than 100 years, because they share the design principles of “simplicity, craftsmanship and glanceability,” he said.
The Gear has a lot of cool features but here are five that I found the most compelling:
- Six vibrant colors for the strap that holds the stainless steel case to the arm, underscoring that, as with traditional wristwatches, the Gear is a fashion accessory.
- A gentle swipe on the 1.63-inch AMOLED screen helps a user to navigate from one feature to the next -- such as messages, calendar, contacts and the like -- and then tap on the screen to go a level deeper into each feature.
- Smart Relay sends news updates or e-mail notifications to Gear. Take the phone out of your pocket, turn it on and it automatically displays that e-mail or news item for easier reading.
- You can not only receive call alerts but answer your phone on Gear. When a call comes in, Mistry demonstrated, the user lifts the arm on which they're wearing Gear and cups the hand to their ear, just as if they were pantomiming taking a call. “We have uniquely positioned the speakers and microphones so that you can talk as you would talk on a regular phone,” he said.
- Memographer. The Gear camera lens is on the outside-facing side of the wristband. If you wear the Gear on your left wrist, the lens would be on the left side. One swipe down on the screen and the 1.9-megapixel auto-focus camera takes the photo. You can then instantly share the photo like you can on a smartphone today.
Mistry said there will be a plethora of applications, similar to those on Samsung smartphones and tablets, but optimized for use on Gear.
Other specs of Gear include 800 Mhz, single-core CPU, 4 Gigabytes of internal memory and 512 Megabytes of RAM, and claimed 25-hour plus battery life.
Also unveiled in Berlin was the Galaxy Note 3, the next iteration of Samsung’s combination smartphone and tablet, which another Examiner covered, and the Galaxy Note 10.1, a tablet-only device, with details from Samsung that you can see here.
Samsung is the global leader in both smartphone and tablet sales. Will it continue that with smart watches? Not if Apple, Sony or Microsoft have anything to say about it.