You can remove at least one product off the rumored list of gadgets and devices that Samsung is expected to unveil Monday at Mobile World Congress.
That’s because the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch is now firmly in the “yep, we’re doing that” column. Samsung announced the new watch Saturday night, along with a second new version called the Gear 2 Neo. The news comes ahead of other product announcements expected from the Korean tech giant on Monday, including the likely unveiling of the Galaxy S5 smartphone.
Like the first Gear watch, the new wrist computer serves as a companion device to Samsung Galaxy branded smartphones, but not other Android devices.
This latest model, due out globally starting in April with no pricing details yet, will include a camera on the main body. The first Galaxy Gear as it was called, embedded a camera in the watchstrap. Gear 2 has a 2-megapixel autofocus camera. Of course, it remains to be seen if taking pictures with Gear 2 will be any less awkward than on the first model. The Neo model does not have a camera.
Gear 2 has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display (resolution 320 x 320) and a 1GHZ Dual Core processor. It has 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory, and it runs off a Linux-based Tizen wearable platform. The inclusion of Tizen means Samsung ditched Google’s Android operating system on the new watch, a significant development that bears watching.
Fitness-oriented features include a heart rate monitor, pedometer, and a downloadable sleep/stress app. And Samsung listed a bunch of other apps it says will work on Gear 2, from Banjo, BMW, CNN, Conde Nast, Expedia, eBay, Evernote, Feedly, Garmin, Glympse, GM (OnStar), iControl, Line, Path, PayPal, RUNTASTIC, Volkswagen, Weather Channel and Under Armour. On Sunday, iHeart Radio announced that it would be the first digital featured digital radio service on the watch.
The watch has an IrLED sensor that lets it function as a remote control. It also works with Bluetooth (version 4.0 Low Energy) to control music piped out of Bluetooth speakers or a headset. As with its predecessor, you can make or receive calls from your wrist, using a compatible Samsung phone.
I haven’t seen the watch in person yet so I’ll have to reserve judgment from a fashion standpoint, the importance of which cannot be underestimated if such a watch is ever going to go beyond niche status. You’ll have various watchstrap color options, Samsung says. On the Gear 2, bands will be available in Charcoal Black, Gold Brown and Wild Orange for Gear 2. Gear 2 Neo choices are Charcoal Black, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo have slightly different dimensions.
One thing that’s evident is that the smartwatch category, and for that matter the whole wearable computing space, continues to explode, but this is still very ripe territory. The watches I’ve seen or tried remain anything but must-buys at this relatively nascent state in their development. That said, I am seeing progress both in terms of functionality and the way these things look. So I’m eager to see up close (read on my own wrist) the strides that Samsung has presumably made on both fronts.
Either way, the competition is fierce and likely to get even more so, with Samsung facing a slew of rivals that include Sony, Pebble (which recently unveiled a better looking version of its own watch called Pebble Steel), and numerous other companies small and ginormous. Speaking of which, most people who watch such watches have long expected Apple to plunge in as well.