Alison K. Lanier
Last week saw a small squall of speculative reporting around Samsung’s new smartwatch, the successor to the Gear 2. Samsung responded to the wave of speculative articles from CNET, among others, by announcing the smartwatch—the Gear S—ahead of its expected debut at IFA 2014.
The device features, according to TechCrunch’s press release, a 2-inch Super AMOLED curved, rectangular face with 360 by 480 resolution. The big buzz around the device, though, is that it can function independently of the usual Bluetooth partnership with a smartphone.
The Rumor Mill
The speculation around the device reached the point where a loose sketch of a round-faced design was making appearances on CNET, among other sources. The round-faced design would be a departure from the brand’s recent square-faced smartwatches. Live Gear and Gear 2, Samsung’s current smartwatches, are conveniently shaped, as CNET pointed out, to mimic a familiar smartphone layout. This is why a round-faced watch would require new innovation. A redesigned round face would also require a new layout design.
As Nvate reported previously, Apple’s looming announcement of a wearable smartwatch this fall is putting pressure on the rest of the industry to match wits. Android devices, including LG, Motorola, and Samsung, are anticipating the new, benchmark challenger with a wave of new smartphone designs. With Motorola’s upcoming Sept. 4 product announcement and LG’s circular watch design, Samsung’s secretiveness around its own—supposedly—round design is distinctive.
The thought is that a shift in layout would differentiate the Android devices from their Apple competitor, which is likely to rely on its tried and true rectangular format. The risk may have something to do with the lackluster response from reviewers like those at the Verge. Of the Gear 2, the Verge said that the little gadget is “better, faster, smarter, but not enough.” During what Verge called “the year of the smartwatch,” the Verge awarded the slimmer, sweeter successor to the Galaxy Gear positive monikers like “handsome.”
But the overall takeaway for the Gear 2 was not quite a critical victory. The Gear 2 did not quite accomplish the futuristic wrist-computer promise that it promised. The “unintuitive” design, wrote the Verge, featured grids of icons that apparently failed to simplify or streamline the device’s actual functionality.
Slash Gear wondered additionally if the watch will be an Android device at all. There was a “possibility,” according to Slash Gear’s anticipatory piece, that “Samsung is going to keep this one for Tizen.”
The Real Story
And Slash Gear was entirely correct: the Gear S is a Tizen device, which as Android Community wrote, “is sure to take Samsung’s and Google’s frenemy relationship to a new level.”
But the biggest disparity between the press rumors and the reality of the Gear S is the design. The Gear has retained the rectangular face of the previous models, a curved display rather than the speculated circular one anticipated in such detail.
The smartwatch, though, can stand alone, as opposed to previous models that required a Bluetooth link to a smartphone. This watch, according to Tech Crunch, would therefore require a keyboard and the capacity to make calls. According to Samsung, it also boasts a battery that will last two days under “normal conditions” in Tech Crunch’s words, 4GB of memory and 512MB of RAM. It also comes, wrote Tech Crunch, with a small arsenal of sensors: heart-rate monitor, UV detector, barometer, gyroscope, compass, GPS, and accelerometer.
In previous models, Samsung’s watches had to be paired with a smartphone to carry out processes like calling or text. Samsung has made this link optional, which means that this little gadget will be a fully-functional, wearable device in its own right. However, Samsung is offering a new alternative to partner the watch with, a headset called Gear Circle, also linked with the watch via Bluetooth.
Announced alongside the new watch, the Gear Circle, wrote the Verge, is a pair of wireless earphones which vibrate to announce new notifications. It also features a metal neck band which means the buds can double as a necklace as opposed to being toted around on the user’s head 24/7.
Too Much Too Soon?
The Gear Circle and its partner watch will make an appearance on the market this October. Pricing options have not been announced, but various sources, including Tech Crunch, worry about Samsung’s recent saturation of smartwatches and its toll on consumers, no matter what the pricing turns out to be.
As Tech Crunch put it, this is Samsung’s “billionth” smartwatch announcement of recent times. The Galaxy Gear and Gear 2 are not yet old news. Like the longstanding joke about the newer, better phone coming out the second you carry home the latest and greatest model, Samsung smartwatches just keep coming. The worry is that this device is not quite new enough to shock even loyal Samsung customers into fresh purchases.
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