Samsung is in talks with SK Telecom to release a version of the Gear 2 which has its own SIM and can make calls without needing a smartphone connection, according to a new report from The Korea Herald. The variant of the Gear 2 would be exclusive to the Korean market for a while, but international expansion isn’t out of the question, according to the report.
This wouldn’t be Samsung’s first exploration of a standalone watchphone – the company had one back in 2003 that was announced and then later cancelled, with a 94×64 screen and SMS capabilities. But this would be the first one to incorporate so-called smart features, and the first based on Tizen, Samsung’s home spun smartphone OS which provides battery-saving advantages over Android.
Battery would be an issue that needs addressing with the Samsung Gear 2 smartphone watch, since adding cellular calling capabilities would mean its existing power usage takes a hit. Still, Samsung already improved its battery life on the Gear 2 over the original Galaxy Gear, so perhaps adding telephony services would just bump it back to around a day or so, which is in keeping with most modern smartphones.
Samsung has offered an SDK for the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, so theoretically a standalone version could also run its own apps, too. I still think most of the value of smartwatches is in their ability to complement the experience of a smartphone, but if Samsung can put out a Gear 2 variant that has built-in voice calling cheaply and see how users respond, it’s probably not a bad idea for them to see how the market responds. In light of Google’s announcement of Android Wear, differentiating competing platforms is going to be key, after all.