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Android Wear and Tizen smartwatches light up IFA

Sep 4, 2014 — by Eric Brown 2,131 views

Asus, LG, and Sony unveiled Android Wear watches, but the star of the show may be Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear S, which has 3G, WiFi, and a curved screen.

Google’s Android-based Android Wear platform was well represented at this week’s IFA show in Berlin. New entries include LG’s round-faced G Watch R, the stylish, curved Asus ZenWatch, and a Sony SmartWatch 3, notable for running on a quad-core processor. These models join an early wave of Android Wear smartwatches including Samsung’s Gear Live, LG’s original G Watch, and Motorola/Lenovo’s round-faced Moto 360. Alcatel, meanwhile, tipped an unnamed round-faced watch with an unstated OS that is not running Android Wear.

Samsung Gear S

Although it’s too early to tell which of these devices will succeed, the most notable watch that emerged from IFA (actually a few days before) was the Tizen-based Samsung Gear S. The Gear S is the first curved-screen smartwatch we’ve seen, although the Asus ZenWatch has a more modest curve to its display. The Gear S is also the first of Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear watches to offer some autonomous functionality.


Samsung Gear S

After announcing its Tizen-based Gear 2 and Gear Neo wrist computers in February, and then turning around and releasing the Android Wear based Gear Live watch this summer, it was unclear if the Tizen watches were just another experiment that would go the way of the indefinitely postponed, Tizen-based Samsung Z smartphone. But then Samsung made Tizen available for its original, Android-based Galaxy Gear watch, and has now unveiled the innovative Gear S. The Gear S is due to ship in Korea in October at an undisclosed price, followed by a global launch.

Samsung Gear S

The curved screen of the Gear S makes the large, 2-inch Super AMOLED display almost stylish. The 480 x 360-pixel resolution is also higher than the 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 displays on Samsung’s earlier Android and Tizen-based watches, as well as Android Wear watches.

Like the earlier Tizen devices, the Gear S is equipped with a 1GHz, dual-core processor, as well as 512MB RAM and 4GB flash. As before, there’s IP67 water-proofing, fitness sensors, and a 300mAh battery. New features include a 350mAh battery recharger option that snaps onto the back of the watch. The only subtraction from the original Gear 2 and Gear Neo is the missing 2-megapixel camera.

The big change aside from the screen is the addition of 3G or WiFi radios, giving the device more autonomy than most smartwatches. Samsung appears to be playing both sides to see what consumers will jump at. Like other Android Wear watches, its Gear Live watch is a fairly modest affair that essentially requires a Bluetooth-connected Android phone. With Tizen, it can experiment with a more feature-rich, autonomous design.

The Gear S lets you make and receive phone calls, exchange texts, and view notifications without a smartphone in Bluetooth range. The watch has added a GPS/GLONASS transceiver, which along with the supplied HERE navigation app, let’s you listen to turn-by-turn directions without a phone. A tiny onscreen QWERTY keyboard has been added, along with S Voice input. The Gear S can also make use of a connected phone, but it still requires a Samsung phone with Android 4.3 or higher.

Thanks to the release of Samsung’s Tizen SDK for Wearable last March, Samsung says that 1,000 Tizen apps will be available for the Gear S when it ships in October. More information on the Gear S may be found in this Gear S announcement.

Asus ZenWatch

Asus ZenWatch

At IFA, Asus unveiled one of the most stylish Android Wear watches to date with its Asus ZenWatch, which has a slighter “2.5D” curve than the Gear S. The watch will be priced at 199 euros (about $262) when it ships sometime in late Q3 or early Q4.

Like most other Android Wear watches, the ZenWatch runs on a dual-core, 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 system-on-chip with 512MB RAM and 4GB of eMMC flash, and offers a 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 AMOLED touchscreen. The IP55-protected watch weighs 50 g without the strap and 75 g with, and includes a 1.4Wh polymer battery. Other Android Wear typical features include Bluetooth 4.0, a micro-USB port, a microphone, and various sensors, including a bio sensor for fitness apps.

Sony SmartWatch 3

The third generation of the Sony SmartWatch switches from its custom Android build to Android Wear. The signature feature of the SmartWatch 3 is a quad-core, 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 SoC, which is most likely the quad-core Snapdragon 400 big brother to the dual-core versions used in other Android Wear devices.

Sony SmartWatch 3
(click image to enlarge)

The Sony SmartWatch 3 supplies the usual Android Wear memory and screen (512MB RAM and 4GB flash memory, and a 1.6-inch, 320 x 320 transflective touchscreen), and adds NFC and GPS to the usual mix of features. The IP68-rated watch features a 420mAh battery that is said to last up to two days. The watch, which will ship for a steep 230 euros (about $298) sometime this fall, will offer the latest version of Android Wear, enabling semi-autonomous functionality such as listening to music and tracking GPS location when away from one’s phone.

LG G Watch R

The G Watch that shipped this summer endured some rough reviews, but early hands-on reports on the new R model from The Verge and Engadget are somewhat more encouraging. Like the Moto 360, the G Watch R goes round, and as Engadget notes, the display fills the whole screen rather than settling for a black strip on the bottom like the Motorola watch. Engadget also noted, however, that despite the modest 1.3-inch (320 x 320) screen size, the device looks bulkier than it should due to the wide frame, and the unstated price will be more than the original’s $229.

LG G Watch R
(click image to enlarge)

The G Watch R has the usual Android Wear processor, memory, and other features, including a heart-rate monitor. The device can be dunked in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes, and offers two-day battery life, says LG.

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