Today, at the IFA Trade Show in Berlin, Samsung unveiled its much-anticipated Galaxy Gear smartwatch, an Android-powered device aimed at working as an extension to your mobile phone and is priced at $299.
Unfortunately though, as of this writing, the Galaxy Gear could only work, via a Bluetooth wireless connection, with two of Samsung’s Android offerings, the Galaxy Note 3 phablet and the Galaxy tab 10.1. The Galaxy Gear is capable of showing incoming calls and messages on its 1.63” screen, alongside its voice control, basic camera, Twitter and 70 other compatible apps. It is slated to ship worldwide this coming September 25 and is said to need charging once a day when used moderately.
The introduction of the Galaxy Gear comes after a slew of smartwatch releases by the other technology bigwigs in the industry the past few months. If you might recall, Sony also showed off its latest variant of its very own SmartWatch, pegged at $235 and is marketed as a secondary screen for your smartphone. Similar to the Gear, it can also run a number of compatible Android apps alongside its capability to control your smartphone’s camera, accept or reject calls, and run presentations.
Also coming to the party is Qualcomm as it introduced the Toq smartwatch today. Scheduled for worldwide shipping this October, it has a touch-enabled color screen that is sunlight-readable, ability to play music, handle phone calls and run apps. Not to be forgotten, of course, is Pebble, the smartwatch industry stronghold that has sold more than 85,000 smartwatches since its well-publicized $10.2M Kickstarter beginnings in 2012.
Of course, all these developments boil down to the ever-mounting rumors and expectations that Apple will soon introduce its very own smartwatch in the coming months. Although Apple has not issued any direct statements regarding the matter, tech companies such as Samsung and Sony are obviously not willing to be left behind should the Cupertino-based firm decide to enter the wearable tech industry. Quite notably, Tim Cook’s “the wrist is interesting” comment earlier this year as well as Apple’s trademark application on “iWatch” in Japan does not help at all.
Samsung, however, has even bigger problems to figure out aside from Apple. According to Carolina Milanesi, Gartner smartphone analyst, “finding the right price for smartwatches will be hard. The sweet spot will be similar to designer watches versus Rolex or Swatch.” Indeed, if Samsung intends to dominate the smartwatch industry, the company needs to successfully balance the Galaxy Gear’s price as well as its functionalities.
From the looks of it though, the latter is also not working in favor of Sammy. Despite Samsung CEO JK Shin’s optimism about the Gear, early testers of the device show a bit of disappointment and worry. According to Youkyung Lee of AP, “The 1.9 megapixel camera is of poorer quality than a typical smartphone camera. In addition, moderate use of the device will require a daily battery top-up with yet another charger to keep track of. After my brief hands-on experience, I decided the first generation of the Gear was cool but not compelling enough to convince me to ditch my iPhone.”
Whether or not the Samsung Galaxy Gear eventually takes off, we will surely know once it comes to the market this September 25.