By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated August 20, 2013.
Sept. 4, the date when Samsung is expected to unveil a new Galaxy Note tablet, is drawing nearer -- and the rumors about the launch of a smart watch on the same date are getting more detailed. This week, there are reports that the so-called Galaxy Gear smart watches will have a camera in the strap, tiny speakers and built-in near-field communication.
The Web-circulating reports, based on unnamed sources allegedly familiar with the company's plans, indicate that different models of the smart watch have been sent to developers. All the distributed models, however, have high-res OLED, full-color screens, are about 3 inches diagonally, and use Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connectivity with Android smartphones.
The watch also reportedly will have an acceleration sensor so that the device will automatically switch on when a user moves his or her arm upward for viewing. Although text input is unlikely, swipe and similar touch-based gestures will be supported. Integration with Facebook and Twitter, and at least some body sensors for health apps, are also expected at launch.
The smart watches reportedly distributed to developers run Android 4.1 and 4.2, and feature tight integration between the watch and Android-based phones or tablets. For example, an e-mail being viewed on the smart watch will also automatically be opened for viewing on the companion smartphone.
This kind of coordination between apps and companion devices is expected to become a major selling point for smart watches, as the syncing will allow quick glimpses and information on a wrist, with more detailed follow-up if desired on a larger device.
Reportedly, apps for this new platform will be available through the Samsung App Store rather than in the Google Play store, which could represent another step by Samsung to develop its own independent ecosystem.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, described the emerging picture of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch as a "pretty decked-out peripheral" that could become a leading representative of this new category of wearable computing.
Lose the Smartphone Altogether?
He pointed out that the Gear launch, assuming it occurs Sept. 4, would be yet another "attempt to jump in front of Apple," which has its own launch event, assumedly for the new iPhone, on Sept. 10.
When asked if there could soon be a smart watch that did away with using a smartphone as a companion altogether, such as one using Samsung's flexible screen technology to create a larger device wrapped around more of the wrist, Kay replied that such a device was "unlikely" in the near-term because of the physical area needed for a battery, radio antennae, and other smart phone components. But he did not rule out such a device eventually emerging after a few years.
Last week, Bloomberg News Service reported the coming smart watch would be called the Galaxy Gear, and would be able to make phone calls, surf the Web and provide e-mail in conjunction with a smartphone. That news service attributed its information to two, unidentified people "familiar with the matter."