Samsung and Apple were both rumoured to be releasing smart watches. But Samsung is getting its device on the market first, with a September 25 release date.
The South Korean tech giant announced the arrival of the much-anticipated device at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair.
Samsung has described the new Galaxy Gear as a “fashion icon”.
Unveiling the gizmo, Samsung’s chief executive JK Shin said: “Consumers want their daily lives to be easier and more enjoyable. Samsung Galaxy Gear benefits consumers by integrating smart device technology even deeper into their everyday lives, and bridges the gap between the mobile device and fashion worlds to create truly wearable technology.”
He said it should give consumers “freedom” from constantly checking their smartphones. “It provides what we call ‘smart freedom’,” he explained, “by allowing users to choose how, why, when and where they are connected.”
The wearable Galaxy Gear features a 1.6-inch LED display, a 1.9-megapixel camera, speaker and microphone, along with 4GB of internal storage and a non-removable battery.
As you’d expect from wristwear, the Galaxy Gear tells the time – as well as primarily acting as a notification system. It gives users previews of any text messages or emails they receive as well as providing a way to control music playing on larger devices. With a voice recognition system, the Gear also allows users to dictate emails and messages as well as being able to make phone calls.
It comes already preloaded with 10 different clock options along with around 70 apps which will be available at launch. These include Evernote’s note-taking software along with the auction service eBay, the Path social network and several fitness programs.
The Galaxy watch is set to cost around £192. But while analysts at Gartner have predicted the global wearable computing market could be worth as much as £6.5bn by 2016, it is a market which remains largely untested.
Ben Wood, from CCS insight said: “Samsung has a history of latching onto the latest trends and throwing a product into the market to try and get ahead of potential rivals.
“Galaxy Gear is the first attempt but I expect that there will need to be several more iterations before it is something that will appeal to anyone other than an affluent geek.”
Carolina Milanesi, a tech analyst at Gartner agrees. She pinpointed the design of the watch as being a potential sticking point for buyers, saying: “Once you get a curved display, you’ll see more interesting designs. But, for the moment, you are basically just putting a glass screen on a wrist and I don’t think that will appeal to many.”
She also said the fact users would have to charge the device every night could be off-putting. “It’s like going back to a time you had to wind your watch up every night before going to bed,” she said.
Only time will tell who is right – the analysts who don’t think the product is ready to go mainstream, or Samsung who say the device merges tech with fashion, making everyday life easier for wearers.