Do not underestimate Samsung's obsession with adding complexity to its wrist-worn wearables. The original Galaxy Gear smartwatch was a victim of its own feature creep, and the second-gen Gear 2 does nothing to simplify a wearables platform that tries to squeeze way too much into a teeny-tiny screen.
And now we have word from the Wall Street Journal that Samsung is planning to release a fully self-contained watchphone by July.
The company's current smartwatches let you conduct a phone call directly from a microphone-speaker combo built into their chassis, but you still have to connect to a Galaxy smartphone over Bluetooth to use this function. The new watchphone, however, would have a network SIM card built in, turning Samsung's rumored device into a fully realized call-making machine strapped to your wrist.
You know, like the kind Dick Tracy wears. Yes, again with the Dick Tracy. Does anyone even like Dick Tracy?
The original Galaxy Gear lets you make phone calls, but depends on a smartphone for that feature.
And of course this Tizen-based watchphone would also take photos, record your heart-rate data, and do all the other things a smartwatch could possibly do, because Samsung simply can't conceive of simplifying the basic smartwatch paradigm.
The Gear Fit activity-tracking wristband is a step in the right direction, precisely because it eliminates some of the over-engineered features that Samsung crams into its full-fledged smartwatches. But this new device would reverse the trend toward simplicity.
Or, to look at it in a slightly more charitable light, it would give Samsung another public test case for wearables experimentation.
IMAGE: MICHAEL HOMNICK. The Gear Fit is far from perfect, but we appreciate its more simple take on wearables.
The company is already selling four wrist wearables, and unsubstantiated reports say Samsung is preparing to release a smartglass product and a virtual-reality headset. So of course it wants to release a full-fledged watchphone. Samsung won't stop until it has every conceivable iteration of smartphone, tablet, wristband, and face computer imaginable. That's its vision of mobility--a world view that says every product path and feature set must be explored.
Samsung currently dominates the global smartphone market, so clearly it's doing something right. If the new watchphone can deliver uncompromising call quality and comfortable ergonomics--and can fix the interface problems of its current products--it stands a chance of mainstreaming an entirely new consumer electronics category.
But it will still have to convince normal people that it's socially acceptable to blurt words into their wrists.
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