A Samsung executive confirmed to The Korea Times that it will unveil its Galaxy Gear smartwatch on Sept. 4, along with the Galaxy Note 3 phablet, but quashed rumors of a flexible display. The Android-powered smartwatch, rumored to include a dual-core processor and a camera, will be the first of many Samsung and Apple smartwatches that will lead a surging 36 million unit a year market by 2018, predicts Juniper Research.
Earlier this year, Samsung said it was working on a smartwatch, but offered no details. Now, after several weeks of rumors and leaks, the company has confirmed the Galaxy Gear name, as well as its expected unveiling on Sept. 4. In an interview with The Korea Times, Monday, Lee Young-hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, said that while the Galaxy Gear won’t have a rumored flexible display, the watch computer “will enhance and enrich the current smart mobile experience in many ways.” Young-hee hinted that a flexible-display model is in the works, however. “We have intellectual properties for patents related to the next wearable devices,” she told the publication.
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch concept drawings
(click images to enlarge; color rendering via VoucherCodesPro)
A variety of leaked specs on the Galaxy Gear have emerged in recent weeks. On Aug. 3 SamMobile published a diagram from a Samsung patent filing for an SM-V700 watch that appears to show a micro-USB port, and potentially a microphone and speaker. On Aug, 16, SamMobile reported a tip that the watch would be equipped with Samsung’s dual core 1.5GHz Exynos 4212 system-on-chip with an ARM Mali-400 MP4 GPU. The report said the 320 x 320-pixel AMOLED screen would measure 3 x 3cm. The anonymous source also claimed there was 1GB of RAM, a 2-megapixel camera, plus Bluetooth and NFC.
On Aug. 19, GigaOM’s sources confirmed that the watch runs on a dual-core processor, and offers a camera, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. The story said developer versions were based on Android 4.1 or 4.2. GigaOM also reported the rather unwelcome news that the watch will only run apps available from the Samsung App store, and that it will essentially require that the device is paired with a Samsung smartphone or tablet.
In a more recent report, SamMobile reported that the Galaxy Gear smartwatch would be available in white, orange, gray, and black. Various renders have popped up that purport to show the watch or what somebody imagines the watch to look like. These include an image from an Independent.ie report that confirmed the Sept. 4 announcement and Galaxy Gear name.
In The Korea Times interview, Samsung EVP Young-hee said that the Galaxy Note 3 would also be shown at the same event where it will demonstrate the Galaxy Gear. The heir to the best-selling Galaxy Note 2 Android phablet is expected to offer a 5.7-inch HD display, an Exynos 5 Octa SoC, and a 13-megapixel camera. In response to various questions, Young-hee said Samsung had no plans to buy BlackBerry, and that it will shift to focus more on tablets now that its smartphone business has reached a ” ‘proper level’ that can be managed in terms of size and revenue,” according to the report. No questions were asked about its Tizen smartphone, which some have speculated could be unveiled at the IFC show.
Beating the iWatch to market
It appears that the Galaxy Gear will beat Apple’s iWatch to market. According to some reports, the iWatch may bump to 2014. Other high-profile smartwatches have been rumored to be in the works at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
So far, the most prominent smartwatch release of the year has been Sony’s higher-resolution, water resistant SmartWatch 2 model featuring a 1.6-inch screen, NFC sync, and a longer-lasting battery (pictured at right; click to enlarge). Meanwhile, startups continue to test the waters with a variety of Android- and Linux-powered watches, as well as popular, albeit “dumber,” smartwatches such as the Pebble and MetaWatch. These lack a formal OS, have little in the way of autonomous functionality, and depend largely on a paired smartphone. One of the biggest questions is which approach will prove more popular: more autonomous designs like the Motorola MotoActv that can also do Bluetooth pairing and notifications, or more stripped down Bluetooth accessory models like the Pebble.
One of the latest smartwatches to follow the path of the Pebble is the Kreyos. After exceeding its $100,000 Indiegogo goal by a factor of 15 on Aug. 12, the 1.26-inch, 168 x 144 smartwatch is now available for general pre-sale for $149, with deliveries due in January.
Juniper: 36 million smartwatches by 2018
This week, Juniper Research released a smartwatch report projecting that app-enabled smartwatch shipments will reach 36 million per year by 2018, compared to just over 1 million this year. Leading the way will be “multi-function” watches capable of features such as tracking fitness and sports performance, as well as enabling payments or ticketing. This segment, which will overshadow “the more limited Dashboard/Console segment,” will be led by Apple and Samsung, says the report. This is said to be due in part to the companies’ trademarks and patents, as well as their mobile device clout.
Juniper makes clear that while $36 million is a huge jump from $1 million, it still represents a niche market compared to smartphones and tablets. The research firm also projects that app-enabled mobile wireless accessory shipments will approach 170 million by 2018.