[Updated Mar 3] — Samsung unveiled Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit smartwatches, which except for the Gear Fit, run on Tizen, while Google is rumored to be readying an LG-made Nexus smartwatch.
USA Today got it right last week when it claimed that Samsung was prepping a Tizen-based smartwatch successor to the Android-based Galaxy Gear. Well, they got it almost right — Samsung unveiled two Tizen smartwatches. Samsung did not, however, unveil a Tizen smartphone, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung execs could not even definitively promise a Tizen phone in 2014.
Set to ship in April, with pricing unknown, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will ship with 100 Tizen apps. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are physically quite similar to the Galaxy Gear, and to each other, but are lighter and arguably more attractive. Samsung originally hinted that the Gear Fit runs Tizen as well, but has now confirmed it runs an unspecified real-time operating system (RTOS). The Gear Fit offers a subset of its siblings’ features, but also sports a bendable screen and a lightweight, stylish look.
Left to right: Gear 2; Gear 2 Neo; Gear 2 Neo back
(click images to enlarge)
At 68 grams, the Gear 2 is just over 5 grams lighter than the Galaxy Gear, while the Gear 2 Neo drops down to 55 grams. It does so by trading in the Gear 2’s metal enclosure and removable leather strap for a plastic design.
Both devices offer the same 1.63-inch, 320 x 320-pixel Super AMOLED screen found on the Galaxy Gear, but they advance to a faster 1GHz, dual-core processor. Memory stays put at 512MB RAM and 4GB flash. There’s Bluetooth 4.0 with headset and speaker support, enabling use as a standalone music player, as well as a 2-megapixel, 720p camera.
Major new features include a longer-lasting 300mAh battery and IP67 resistance to water and dust. An IR port can be tapped by Samsung’s WatchOn app to control a TV.
Fitness and health are what’s driving the still fledgling smartwatch market, and Samsung has paid heed by loading up with a heart rate sensor, pedometer, accelerometer, gyroscope. Apps are available for monitoring running, walking, cycling, hiking, sleep, and stress.
Gear Fit, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
The model that seemed to attract the most praise at MWC was the lower-end, RTOS-based Gear Fit. This 27-gram watch offers only a fitness-focused subset of the apps, and it lacks a camera or standalone music player support. However, with its bendable, 1.84-inch Super AMOLED screen, narrowly configured at 432 x 128 pixels, it’s definitely got the cool factor working for it. The 27-gram Gear Fit provides IP67 protection, and 3-5 day battery life. Bluetooth and a heart monitor are also provided.
While Samsung is spinning Tizen for smartwatches, cameras (shown at right), and a refrigerator computer, the Tizen phone remains elusive. A limited number of apps, and the retreat of NTT DoCoMo and Sprint from the project are likely contributing factors to the delays.
Samsung’s recent patent deal with Google, and Google’s subsequent sale of Motorola to Lenovo, may have something to do with it. Samsung would clearly prefer to have its own Tizen platform rather than depending on Google apps and leadership. Yet Tizen has also been a hedge against an Android power grab by Google that appears less likely with the Motorola divestiture. A side deal calling for Samsung to bring its TouchWiz UI more in line with stock Android would not likely affect Tizen, but Samsung has other good reasons to keep Google more friend than enemy.
Google Nexus watch coming soon?
Google’s smartwatch has been expected since it acquired smartwatch maker Wimm Labs in 2012, and they were firmed up considerably in October, when a Nexus-branded Gem phone was rumored. This week both the Wall Street Journal and CNET claimed Google will launch an LG-built Nexus smartwatch. An undisclosed source told the WSJ the watch is “likely to be unveiled at a Google developer event in June with its operating system disclosed by Google in March.”
According to CNET, the Google watch will indeed be briefly announced in a March blog post, but won’t be fully revealed until Google I/O in June. The device will also be Nexus branded, says CNET, although it’s unclear whether the earlier rumored “Gem” name will be used. Both stories also noted the watch will run Google Now.
The mention of an OS disclosure is somewhat surprising. One would expect that like most smartwatches that do offer a recognizable OS, the Google watch would run a version of Android. Conceivably, however, it could go with another Linux derivative, or go the lightweight, no-OS route used by the Pebble smartwatch, or the Huawei Talkband B1 announced this week at MWC.
Google’s Motorola subsidiary will likely be packed off to Lenovo by the time Google’s watch appears. Around the same time, according to Engadget Motorola will introduce its own heir to its Android-based MotoActv. No other details were forthcoming
Meanwhile, there are many other smartwatch contenders out there, including the full-featured, Android-based Neptune Pine and Ormate TrueSmart, both announced at CES. Of course, the one everyone is anticipating is an expected iWatch model from Apple.
The Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit will ship in April, with pricing undisclosed. More information on the devices may be found at Samsung Mobile Press page.