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Galaxy Gear is a prime example of Samsung's hardware profundity

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 30, 2013
At Samsung Devcon in San Francisco, the new smartwatch is being worn and used; a video chat app seems inevitable

The smartwatch seems to be catching on, at least among early adopters working in the tech industry.

At the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, many of the 1,300 independent developers were wearing smartwatch devices on their wrists, though not all were the $300 Galaxy Gear version Samsung launched recently to pair with Galaxy devices like the Note 3.

Two developers at the event were wearing the Sony Smartwatch, which recently began shipping in its second generation for $200. But both said they would prefer the Gear device instead because it has a microphone and speaker for making voice calls. (The Sony device does not do that.)

Several developers said they have realised how a smartwatch really can simplify their lives when using a smartphone. For instance, they don't have to fish through a pocket, backpack or purse to quickly check an email or text notification on a smartphone, or in some cases take a call.

Many of the Samsung executives at the developer event sported new Gear watches with white wristband, including Curtis Sasaki, vice president of Samsung's Media Solution Center in the U.S. He presented the opening keynote.

After, Sasaki used his Gear smartwatch to take an up-close photo of a Computerworld reporter during an interview and conducted a phone call through the watch to the reporter to demonstrate the audio capabilities on the call.

"Having the ability to make phone calls on the watch completely changes my behavior," he said, noting that he no longer needs to grab his large Galaxy Note 3 smartphone to answer or make a call. People he calls are often surprised at the sound quality.

Asked whether the $300 price tag is too high for a Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Sasaki was non-commital: "I don't know about that. We're at the infancy of this category and Samsung will continue to innovate.... Wearables are a totally new product segment and we focused initially on our watch. We had a lot to do to make it work and make it a great user experience with a core set of apps."

One app that works with the Gear smartphone is an eBay notification feature that can be used to send an alert to the watch when an online eBay bidder is out-bid. Many eBay bidders want such alerts so they can make a quick response.

During the keynote, Gregory Lee, president of the U.S. mobile business for Samsung, said that working with eBay on the Galaxy Gear eBay app was just one example of Samsung's ability "to extend our mobile real estate."

Some analysts don't seen smartwatches and other wearables such as Google Glass catching on with more than a small audience. Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner, recently said wearables will remain a "nice to have, rather than a must-have" through 2017, with smartphones, and perhaps tablets, remaining the most faithful companion to consumers.


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