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10 features the Samsung Gear smartwatch must offer to preempt the iWatch

Evan Dashevsky | Sept. 4, 2013
Your wrist may become the next great mobile battleground.

Your wrist may become the next great mobile battleground.

Rather than play catch-up after Apple releases its much-speculated iWatch, Samsung is set to announce a smartwatch of its own on Wednesday. Although other smartwatches are currently on the market, the now-confirmed Galaxy Gear would be the first smartwatch from an elite mobile-hardware manufacturer with a proven ability to create bleeding-edge devices with mass appeal.

On Sunday, VentureBeat posted images and details of what it described as a prototype of the Galaxy Gear, but the hardware is missing a number of features that Samsung will need in order to steal the smartwatch market before Apple can even enter it.

Long battery life
The Pebble  smartwatch, with its low-powered LCD screen, can last about a week without recharging. And Sony says its upcoming Android-powered SmartWatch 2 will run for three to four days under normal usage. Not bad.

According to a recent unsubstantiated report, Samsung's Gear will offer 10 hours of battery life, though no one is sure whether that claim refers to continuous, always-on use or to mixed use, including standby. It had better be the former, because any smartwatch that requires midday charging is a smartwatch bound for failure.

The device's rumored 3-inch-ish OLED screen would probably be the biggest battery drain. One possible solution to help conserve power is a display that would activate only when needed. For example, the screens on Motorola's new Moto X and Droid phones remain dormant until the user picks up the phone, all thanks to a battery-saving function that Motorola calls Active Display. Using an accelerometer or other sensors, the Samsung watch's display might activate when you twist your arm to look at it.

Android and iOS support
The Galaxy Gear would be wise to distinguish itself from existing Android-powered smartwatches such as the Sony SmartWatch 2 by having the ability to pair with iOS devices as well. Unfortunately, nothing in the latest unsubstantiated report suggests the Gear will support anything but Android.

Gesture controls
Due to its unique placement on the body, a smartwatch would be the ideal device for gesture controls. For example, a flick of the wrist would let you ignore a notification, while lifting the watch to your face might prompt it to open S Voice (Samsung's proprietary, Siri-like digital-assistant app).

Smart haptic feedback
Since their inception, mobile phones have bzzz bzzz bzzz'd with alerts for incoming calls, new voicemail, and social media notifications. However, a device that's touching your skin at all times would have the opportunity to use vibrations far more dynamically.

The Gear would get bonus points for using vibrations at different locations around the wrist to signify different things. For example, a new email message might prompt a buzzing on the bottom of the strap. Or perhaps when someone mentions you in a tweet, you would feel a circle of vibration around your wrist.


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