Galaxy Gear – essential technology or expensive accessory?
After much speculation about wearable technology, Samsung have unveiled a smart watch that can be used for voice calls, run apps and show alerts. The Galaxy Gear is due to be released later this month, into a market that already has already seen the Sony SmartWatch, the Pebble and the Qualcomm Toq.
The Gear includes a 1.63inch touchscreen display and a camera built into the wrist strap. 70 apps are already available, including eBay and Evernote, with more set to hit the Google Play store.
However, as with the other smart watches, the watch has to be paired with another device – in this case the Samsung Note 3. Sony has at least increased their potential target market by allowing the Smartwatch 2, to be paired with any device running Android 4.0 or higher.
American wireless telecoms company Qualcomm has also joined the race, with the Toq, another Android compatible device. Although the company insists it is not trying to become a large scale consumer electronics manufacturer, but is using the watch as a way to showcase their technology, as a sales pitch to the big manufacturers.
The watches use Bluetooth or near field communications to be able to make calls or use the devices connectivity.
The only device which is able to work as a standalone phone, is the TrueSmart, made by tech start-up Omate. The company has raised over $500,000 through crowd-funding website Kickstarter and aims to release the watch in October this year. The TrueSmart is fully waterproof, with Sapphire scratch-proof glass and most importantly includes 2G/3G connectivity, allowing the watch to make calls, send messages and use apps without an accompanying phone.
With voice and motion control also included, it certainly promises to be the best value, at around £200, but is a big investment in a new company with little experience in a highly fragmented and competitive market.
Most of the major manufacturers are investing in wearable technology, including Google Glass and an Apple iWatch. However, this is a new market with little known about the expected demand. Tech Consultancy Canalys forecasts that by 2014, as many as 5million watches could be sold. Gartner predicts the wearable market, which also includes activity tracker armbands and eyewear such as Google Glass, to be worth $10billion by 2016.
But will consumers be prepared to splash out on another gadget, especially on one that is just essentially an expensive accessory if not paired with a phone or tablet. And will they be prepared to talk to their own wrist when using the smart watch to make phone calls?
Some of the 3Squared team already have the ‘original’ smart watch, the Pebble, which was also funded via Kickstarter, and most have rarely been used. With millions invested into making smartphones as small and easy to use as possible, we are not sure if there will be the demand that some are predicting. But with all the major manufacturers scrambling to release their own versions, we will watch this space.