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Samsung Unveils Galaxy Gear, Enters Wearable Devices Market


Posted in Mobile Health by Chris Wiltz on September 4, 2013

Samsung's Galaxy Gear Smartwatch boasts some interesting features that could make particularly attractive to health app developers. But it may not be enough for it to stand out from the pack. 

 

 


The Galaxy Gear sets itself apart with a built-in camera and next-gen sensor technology.

Since pulling your lightweight, ultrathin smartphone out of your pocket whenever you need to check it has become such a hassle, several companies have been debuting smartwatches – wristwatch companions for smartphones capable of running independent apps and partnering with your smartphone to control your phone, provide updates and notifications, and share data – effectively making it a second screen for your smartphone.

 Samsung's Galaxy Gear, announced today at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, is the latest of these, which the company hopes will stand out from the pack. And, while it won't end the ongoing debate as to whether anyone has created a truly “smart” smartwatch yet, the Galaxy Gear does boast some interesting features that could make it attractive to app developers, even in the healthcare space.

The device features many of the same bells and whistles seen in other devices like the Pebble Watch and Sony's recently-announced Smartwatch 2: touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and pedometer – meaning you should expect to see a plethora of running and fitness tracking apps (in addition to the already available MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper apps) as the device sets out to compete with products like the Fitbit, Nike+ Fuelband, and the Misfit Shine. The company says that the Galaxy Gear's strap is also loaded with next-generation technology with accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, which allow for features such as allowing users to make hands-free phone calls. You can answer a call simply by gesturing the phone up to your head and speaking as if you were holding a phone.
 
The most notable feature is the Gear's built-in 1.9 megapixel camera which can takes stills and record 10-second videos in 720p HD. Thinking of features like this, coupled with a Smart Relay feature that allows seamless screen transition from the Galaxy Gear to your smartphone, it'll be interesting to see if any enterprising app developers invent ways of using the Gear's video capability for health data sharing or even diagnosis.
 
Where the trouble will likely come into paradise for Samsung is that the Galaxy Gear is currently only compatible with Samsung's new Galaxy Note III smartphone, also unveiled today at IFA. Updates for older Galaxy smartphones that will allow them to use the Galaxy Gear are forthcoming, but for now the success of the Gear is very much tied into Samsung's ability to sell smartphones. A cynic might even say the Galaxy Gear is just a fancy add-on meant to propel Note III sales.
 
With the iPhone having such a firm foothold with app developers and medical apps in particular, it could be an uphill battle for Samsung, particularly with an Apple event schedule for later this month (September 10). Perhaps Apple will unveil its own iPhone compatible smartwatch? However Q3 reports show Samsung has captured quite a significant chunk of the the worldwide smartphone market from its competitors so perhaps all that is needed is for more developers to jump aboard.
 
The Galaxy Gear will retail for $299 and will be available in most countries later this month. It will be released the United States and Japan in October.
 
Images courtesy: Samsung Mobile Press
 
 
-Chris Wiltz, Associate Editor, MD+DI

Christopher.Wiltz@ubm.com 

 


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