It is February – the month of GSMA Mobile World Congress which is undoubtedly, one of the largest exhibitions for the mobile industry. With much speculations that wearable tech will dominate this year’s event in Barcelona, we have already been presented with exciting stuff from Samsung.
Toady, Samsung has officially announced the next generation of their smart watch lineup with Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch was launched less than 6 months ago, along with Galaxy Note 3. If you were in the loop, you would probably know that the Galaxy Gear was more of a miss than a hit, in terms of how it was received by the industry. From day one, it had mixed reviews. Some did not like the design. But more than that, it had very limited compatibility with devices. It also came with “Samsung Apps” that lacked polishing, resulting in criticism from both consumers and experts. Hence you may understand why they had to rush to unveil the 2nd Generation so fast.
What Has Changed?
The biggest change from the 1st Generation Galaxy Gear is that the new Gear lineup comes with Tizen OS (Samsung calls it as Tizen based wearable platform). Samsung is a heavy investor in the Linux based Tizen platform. Samsung has also opted out the “Galaxy” part in the naming of the new Gear devices. They have not given a direct reason for going with Tizen. But one has to understand that the smart watch and related ecosystems are still in infant stage and even Android has very limited apps for this form factor. So, investing on Tizen (in which they have greater control, compared to Android) is a smart decision by Samsung to add more apps and grow the platform in a way to suit their own products. Remember how everyone hated the S-Voice app on the Galaxy Gear and asked for Google Now integration since the device were running Android? Well, now you have your answer. A big NO.
It is also worth mentioning that Samsung recently came to an agreement with Google that they will limit stop copying core android apps in their Galaxy devices (E.g ChatOn, S-Voice etc). Hence Tizen gives more freedom for Samsung, than Android.
Something tells me that Samsung is yet to figure out a perfect mantra for their wearable product, for they have come up with not one but two new Gear 2 Smart Watches that look almost identical. Overall they have maintained the same design as their predecessor. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo sport a 1.63” Super AMOLED (320 x 320) display, 1 GHz dual core processor (Galaxy Gear had an 800 MHz processor), 512 MB of RAM along with 4 GB of internal memory. Both smart watches are IP67 certified which means they are Dust and Water resistant. Both smart watches come with a 300 mAh battery (Galaxy Gear had a slightly larger 315 mAh battery). Samsung guarantees a 2-3 days of typical usage with a single charge, which is a good improvement. Samsung has also included IrLED Sensor (and WatchON remote app) for the devices enabling consumers to control household devices. A stand alone music player has also been included in the new generation of smart watches, which will allow users to directly output music to their headphones via Bluetooth 4.0 connection (without having to pair it with their phone.)
Samsung Focuses on Fitness
Samsung has given more importance to their S-Health app with the new smart watches. The devices come with heart rate monitor and pedometer. They can also monitor your exercise program and sleep cycle and offer real time personal fitness coaching. With an emerging trend of fitness centered wearable tech (including the rumored device from Apple), it’s not a surprise that Samsung has tried to integrate these options to the Gear line.
As of now you may have realized that both Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are identical. Well they are, except for the camera, which seems to be the most prominent difference. The Gear 2 comes with a 2 MP camera, which the Grear 2 Neo does not have. The camera is capable of recording HD (720p) videos. Also Samsung has moved the camera to the main body of the watch alongside the IR sensor, unlike the Galaxy Gear which had the camera on the strap. Both smart watches can perform all other regular tasks. The Gear pairs with Samsung Galaxy phones via Bluetooth using the Galaxy Gear app. Users can check incoming texts, calls, emails, tweets, etc. without having to take the phone out. Users can also make calls from the watch using a built-in speaker and microphone. The Gear line will also have an app store with number of apps. Samsung says initial lineup will include apps from the likes of CNN, Feedly, Evernote, eBay, GM, Path, PayPal, Runtastic, Weather Channel etc.
Gear 2 weighs 68 grams while Gear 2 Neo weighs 55 grams, meaning both are lighter than the original Galaxy Gear (73.8 grams). The Gear 2 will be available in Charcoal Black, Gold Brown and Wild Orange colours whereas the Gear 2 will be available in Charcoal Black, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange colours. Samsung is yet to reveal the prices of the devices. The new Gear smart watches are expected to be available for purchase by April.
Hit or Miss?
If you remember right the original Galaxy Gear supported only a handful of devices at the time of launch. Samsung says the new lineup will support “more than dozens of Samsung Galaxy smartphones at the time of launch”. Compared to so many other smart watches out there that support almost all latest devices, this is once again, a bit underwhelming. But Samsung seems to be focused adding value to their own Galaxy lineup of devices. They have faced huge competitions from the likes of Pebble which has probably the best smart watch on earth, which is both beautiful and functional. So if your Galaxy device happens to support the new Gear smart watches you may consider getting it, for it will be a cool companion. Else it will be another expensive music player strapped to your wrist…