Samsung Galaxy Gear: Can a new wave of smartwatches succeed this time?

Samsung Galaxy Gear: Can a new wave of smartwatches succeed this time?

Summary: Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch is expected to be unveiled in just a few weeks - but can smartwatches really make an impact this time around?

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We may soon find out if smartwatches will turn into the big money opportunity that many tech companies very much hope they could be, if Samsung unveils its new smartwatch, dubbed the Galaxy Gear, in early September.

The device will be unveiled on 4 September, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

The Android-powered device is reportedly able to make phone calls, surf the web and display email, which would make Samsung the first in a wave of big tech companies releasing such devices. Samsung's competitors Microsoft, Google, LG (and a host of smaller players) have also said they are working on such devices.

Many of these companies, including Samsung, have built smartwatches on-and-off for years (indeed, the first smartwatches appeared more than a decade ago) but with little success. The earlier devices in particular had limited functions, were large, heavy, and featured batteries that drained rapidly.

But now the stakes are higher, as the smartphone market — particularly in the US and Western Europe — becomes saturated and tech companies look at new form factors. The unexpected success of the Kickstarter-financed Pebble smartwatch and the rise of wristwatch-like fitness bands has reignited interest in smartwatches, as have ongoing rumours that Apple is working on a similar device.

Recent smartwatches have tended to function as a second screen for a smartphone — for example, offering a way of reading emails or other updates while the phone stays in the user's pocket. There are already plenty of smartwatches that actually exist — the Pebble being the most celebrated of these (and compatible with both iOS and Android devices) along with Sony's SmartWatch (the second iteration of which goes on sale in September too).

If smartwatches take off there could be implications for industries from healthcare (such devices could be effective at monitoring health) through to banking (mobile payments could be easier with a watch than a phone).

Nobody is entirely convinced that smartwatches will be a huge success (indeed, past history would suggest ongoing disappointment), but nobody wants to risk getting left behind, either. If Samsung's device is well received by consumers, the rest of the tech giants will accelerate their plans.

More smartwatch stories

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Samsung

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11 comments
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  • Not for watch guys

    I think these watches could take off especially if phone/phablet sizes keep growing. Imagine a galaxy 8.0 for example with a cell radio and your watch is the Bluetooth remote. Essentially what google is doing with glass. As for watch enthusiasts, my guess is most of us won’t be very interested.
    2low_tech
  • What makes you think mobile banking would be

    easier with a watch than a smartphone? Especially one that requires you to have a smartphone for connectivity anyway.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Payments not banking

      I think the idea is that someone might be more likely to pay with a swipe of a smartwatch rather than have to dig a phone out of their pocket. There's no certainty that smartwatches will break through, but think if the all the use cases for smartphones that weren't imagined a decade ago...
      Steve Ranger
  • Simplified hotspot

    Smartwatches can be simple smart to perform user friendly tasks as a simple phone, contact UI and Calendar; however be a powered complement for additional mobile devices like tablets as a 4G/WiFi hotsopt, GPS tracker for sports, delivery guys with bluetooth for headsets etc. There are users like me that a phone in a small form factor is important; however having a another device like a tablet or computer with internet service powered by the smartwatch in order to run more complex applications or business oriented tasks is key.
    Service providers need to enable consumers to eat as much data as possible, a smart watch might be an option.
    mhcruz@...
  • It can succeed

    To your question of "Can a new wave of smartwatches succeed this time?" I would say yes, but only if Apple joins in and shows the World how insanely great the smart watches are and how you definitely need one. After that Samsung can copy it :P
    Andis Slaitas
  • Low power consumption is the key

    The offerings I've seen so far offer at best a few days before needing a recharge. Either they need to be designed to consume much lower power I really want 4, but at least 2, weeks battery life. Failing that there may be some possibility of using a well designed simple to use drop-in bedside charging-dock but even then I'd hope for a week on battery.
    RobSheffield
  • That is so funny!

    Samsung took the bait on this one!
    Gr8Music
  • Size will matter on this device.

    Have any of you seen any of the movies with "The Predator" alien in it? Remember the Wrist device which can generate a hologram and alters the Light Frequencies which the aliens helmet uses for viewing?

    Well, I don't propose anything so advanced, but I do see 2 major problems with smart phones which we have the technology to solve TODAY.

    1) The size of the screen.
    2) Extensive, or perhaps more accurately, proactive use of voice recognition.

    With a "Smart Watch" (worn on your right or left arm) the size of, say, a Blackberry Storm, one has a screen large enough to be useful. With more advanced Voice Recogniton, near death experiences from "fingering" a text message to someone while driving is a probem which disappears.

    Also, Clothing will need to be modified for such devices - the main drawback - but the astute phone retailer as well as most other clothing retailers will start designing smart phone friendly clothing.

    Who buys most of the clothing?
    Who buys most of these phones?

    Teenagers and 20 somethings.

    The possibilities are endless.
    john_perez
    • I've been wearing a wrist computer for nearly 3 years.

      And I've been waiting for 10 times that for a device small and powerful enough to be useful.

      I took a Nokia E7 and installed Python on it, rewrote the email, text and media player apps and added a hotsync to my computer over Wifi and my personal phone over Bluetooth so everything I need is accessible with a lazy tap on my wrist almost without looking.

      It supports voice recognition and synthesis and also has a Haptics interface that I modified to send information simply by vibrating in a different manner depending on what it's telling me.

      All it took was a bit of leather, some Velcro, a small piece of aluminium for shielding and strength and some head-scratching to figure out how to pinch the E7 between a pair of stubs that protrude from the top surface, so it can slide out to take photos (camera is on the back, but I'd love one on the end or top edge where I can just point it). It also allows the screen to flip up and reveal the phone's awesome keyboard hidden under it. I tried a bluetooth headset but this kills the battery really quickly, so I re-engineered one of the stubs to provide a charging point and a headphone port with the cable running up my arm under my clothes to the headset. Works really well and doesnt get in the way either.

      The whole device is discrete - so thin it slides neatly under a jumper sleeve or my jacket which keeps it dry and clean too (actually wipes the fingerprints off the touchscreen, something that annoys me with this type of interface) and is simple to uncover quickly. It does also go under a shirt sleeve but is noticeable where a jumper hides it completely, and I have to choose shirts carefully to ensure that it will fit. It's become part of my fashion and usually I wear it uncovered now.

      Oddly enough, despite also having dreadlocks I never get compared to Predator. I've been called Mr Bond a few times, and there have been comments about futurama (future arm-er, yeah, I can live with that.)
      And lately a few comments about Apple's late-to-the-game-as-usual efforts. I'd have stuck an iPod to my wrist if I just wanted to look cool, but I want functionality as well.

      And in case you havent guessed, I'm in my mid 40s and definitely not teenager cool. The responses I've had from the younger generation though are all positive, although they would not want to wear one - they like to wander around looking like Zombies with their blank expressions lit from underneath by the latest flashy-cased device as they facebook each other in little cliques. For them it is another kind of fashion, an accessory unlike functional clothing, and I'm not convinced they'd take to an iWatch either.

      Each to their own, I say, it works for me.
      SiO2
  • Ray Bradbury

    There is a short story about this by Ray Bradbury called "The Murderer". It's a good read.
    wolfpat
  • no longer wearing a watch

    I'm not sure. I havn't worn a watch for years now simply because of the advent of was then electronic filofax and now smartphones. couldn't get used to wearing one again even a smart watch..
    jajabinks-4fb99