What’s weird about reporting on the potential introduction of smartphone watches is that they actually aren’t anything new – every few years it seems some OEM comes up with a wrist-mounted phone that makes for an interesting demo but doesn’t go anywhere, like the LG GD910, for instance, the talk of CES 2009. Samsung readying a smartphone watch for a September 4 unveiling, as Bloomberg reports, then seems a bit like déjà vu.
The so-called Galaxy Gear from Samsung would be an Android-powered smartwatch that sounds like it can operate independently of a connected smartphone device to make calls, browse the web, send and receive emails and more. The Gear won’t use Samsung’s fledgling flexible display technology, however, as that’s not quite ready for prime time, and is still in the crowdsourced contest phase of development.
Samsung will introduce Gear on September 4, a couple of days ahead of the IFA consumer gadgets show, alongside the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung’s next giant tablet/phone mashup monstrosity. Bloomberg doesn’t say much more about the Galaxy Gear or what it will look like, but we’ve already seen some hints in previous trademark and patent filings from Samsung.
So besides the fact that Samsung and LG are very different companies, what’s changed between 2009 and now that makes the Galaxy Gear a more potentially interesting product than the LG GD910? Well, Android for one. LG’s phone was essentially a dumb phone that you wore on your wrist. Samsung’s Gear should have some tricks up its sleeve thanks to Google’s smartphone OS.
Of course, working with Android on a non-standard screen size brings its own issues. The open-source OS is highly customizable, as Nvidia’s SHIELD project proves, but that device is much more similar to a phone than what a smart watch would presumably resemble. Will Gear have access to Play Store apps? How will those apps behave? Will Samsung be applying a heavily customized skin on top and supplying its own limited stock of apps? The last seems most likely, as even with a super high resolution display, Android apps operating on a smaller screen would have tiny visual elements and touch hit points.
Note also that this specifically isn’t a device that requires a smartphone to operate if Bloomberg’s sources are correct, but a “wristwatch-like smartphone,” so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of integration between smartphone and smartwatch Samsung builds in. I’m betting there has to be some kind of connection, since that’s another advantage that modern devices have that weren’t necessarily available to the GD910 and other similar devices.
If this really is a full-fledged smartphone, however, it will likely be priced with one, especially if it boasts decent specs. That could make its initial appeal limited, but maybe for Samsung being first to market (especially ahead of Apple, which is said to be developing its own smartwatch) in this space that everyone’s watching was the top priority.