If you think that Samsung’s Galaxy Gear announcement is about a watch, you might have missed the boat.
The multinational electrics company got into the smartwatch game this week with the launch of its new wearable computing gadget, Galaxy Gear. Like all new tech, the reaction to the device has been mixed. But behind the unveiling of this new smartphone companion was a much bigger message. One that confirms that wearable tech is here and it’s here to stay.
Samsung isn’t the first smartwatch to hit the market.
Sony has had its wearable tech out since 2012 with the second iteration of this device to hit the market late September. Kickstarter darling, Pebble, raised over $10 million dollars to get their e-ink smartwatch out to over 68,000 backers who believed in the device. And there are many other crowdfunded smartwatch developers expected to join the party in November of this year including Kreyos Meteor, Omate and Hot Watch.
What sets Samsung apart from those that are already playing in this space is its scale. Samsung is the worlds leading smartphone manufacturer with 30.4% of the world market share according to IDC.
This week’s announcement makes Samsung the first big player to have a wearable device available to the public. Samsung’s hat officially in the ring symbolizes its belief in this new form factor. The companies scale, and the fact that the watch will be available to the public in September, also gives wearable tech a huge advantage in achieving mass appeal which it will need to survive.
As smartwatches aren’t really smart – their brain is your smartphone – smartwatches strengthen the users’ reliance on their phones. In order for your watch to send messages, take calls, get directions and access other apps like your calendar it needs to be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth. This could mean even more market share in the smartphone game for Samsung if Galaxy Gear does well and Samsung knows this.
“Samsung’s ongoing smart device innovation leadership reflects our commitment to listen to our consumers, who want their daily lives to be easier and more enjoyable. Samsung GALAXY Gear benefits consumers by integrating smart device technology even deeper into their everyday lives, and bridges the gap between the mobile device and fashion worlds to create truly wearable technology,” said JK Shin, CEO and President of IT & Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics
At launch Galaxy Gear will only be compatible with Samsung devices which will make Samsung Fanboys even more loyal to the brand. But the real key is when Samsung opens up access to Galaxy Gear on non-Samsung devices. This may act as a Trojan Horse to those not familiar with the manufacturer by introducing them to S-functionality and their hardware strengths – all of which lead back to their smartphone.
Samsung wasn’t the only big name betting on wearables on Tuesday. Samsung announced that there will be over 70 applications ready for Galaxy Gear when it hits the wrists of early adopters September 25 (worldwide) or October 1 (USA and Japan). Brand names like eBay, Path, Evernote, Pocket, RunKeeper, TripIt and Banjo are all joining in on the party which confirms their belief in this sector.
Seventy apps may not seem like a lot especially against the 800,000 or so that are in Google Play. But when you compare this to other wearable devices like Sony, which has about 40 apps in its catalogue, and Google Glass, with only 12 official apps (68 in total if you count the unofficial ones), it’s pretty darn impressive.
Like the smartphone space, the app ecosystem will be key to the success of this hardware and the size and caliber of Galaxy Gear’s launch catalogue suggests that Samsung realizes this. The ability to launch with seventy smartwatch apps shouldn’t be underestimated in a time when brands are bombarded with needing to develop for multiple smartphone and tablet platforms.
With Samsung laying down the gauntlet for smartwatches this week, you better believe that the other smartphone titans like Apple and Google will be watching closely. Rumours have been flying for months now about Apple’s supposed iWatch. And Google just confirmed they acquired Android-powered smartwatch maker WIMM Labs late last month which suggest they are readying their own device.
With Galaxy Gear being the first to eat up a portion of the estimated 5 million smartwatch market in this space early on (similar to what Apple did with the iPad), the other manufacturers are sure to follow.