The wave of new and improved smartwatches started this year. Apple launched its first smartwatch in April. Several other players including Motorola, LG, ASUS, and Huawei have launched their new smartwatches this year. Sony launched its latest ‘SmartWatch 3’ in October last year. Rising consumer electronics brands like Xiaomi and traditional electronic brand Casio are also planning to launch their versions of smartwatches. And now prominent names from Swiss watch bazaar including Tag Heuer and Swatch would be launching their smartwatches with the so called “Swiss quotient” very soon.
Apple, with an “unofficially estimated” sale of Apple Watch between 3 to 5 million units so far, certainly brought a momentum in the smartwatch market and now commands a leadership position just next to Fitbit in the overall wearable segment. Apple’s arch rival Samsung unveiled its latest smartwatch, Gear S2 last month in IFA 2015. I assume Samsung by now has released more smartwatches than any other smartwatch company in the wearable segment. In 1999 Samsung had launched the first commercial smartwatch, which was actually a watch phone, SPH-WP10. This was followed by several models until now. Although there were improvements, the initial models of smartwatches were so bulky that they gave the impression of a phone hanging with your wrist. Lately with continued improvement in its smartwatch models Samsung had earned the leadership in smartwatch business with its Gearseries. Samsung had sold ~1.2 million units of Gear watches in 2014. However that leadership was short lived after the arrival of Apple Watch. Although Apple Watch sales figure is impressive, it definitely needs further improvements. Samsung in its Gear S2 has filled some of those gaps along with keeping the point-of-parity with the Apple Watch. Also it’s much different from Samsung’s own Gear watch. How the Gear S2 fares in the market remains to be seen, but an initial impression from its features says it has an edge over the Apple Watch.
With a round face and metal band it gives a traditional look. It’s a stand-alone watch performing phone functions without needing a smartphone to pair with it. It has an on-screen QWERTY keyboard for writing and sending text messages. There is 3G connectivity. You can make phone calls and send e-mails. The 1.2” circular screen has a display resolution of 360 x 360 and a pixel density of 302 pixels per inch. The other key features that come along with the Gear S2 are smart car keys, smart home control, mobile payment, and so on.
Like Apple Watch the Gear S2 also has several apps including weather information, heart-rate monitoring, sports tracking, stopwatch, time-zone and so on. The app icons are rounded and elegant; those go well with the round face. The apps can run natively on the watch without needing your smartphone, thus eliminating any lag due to communication with your phone. This is a downside in Apple Watch because apps there need to communicate with your iPhone.
The circular face is very easy to navigate. You can rotate the face to control the touch screen. The screen can be swapped to notifications or apps by simply and smoothly turning the bezel towards left or right instead of swiping on that small screen. The Gear S2 comes preloaded with 26 third-party watch faces, which include the ones made by CNN, Bloomberg, and so on.
The Gear S2 has Samsung’s Tizen OS customized for the watch. The device is made compatible to go with any other Android device with KitKat 4.4 or higher version of OS. It has a dual-core Exynos processor that runs at 1 GHz clock. It comes with 4GB memory and 512MB RAM. The device is equipped with a barometer, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and sensors for ambient light, heart rate monitoring, and so on. A single charge on battery can go for 2-3 days.
The Gear S2 series has three models – Gear S2 Classic with traditional look, Gear S2 3G for techies, and the basic Gear S2. The models have been tested in various conditions; wet climate, dusty environment, submerged 1 meter deep in water for 30 minutes, and so on.
LG’s Urbane Luxe, Motorola’s 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] generation Moto 360, and Huawei Watch are other similar models, also unveiled during IFA 2015. Sometime later I will talk about them as well. While competition has risen beyond Apple Watch for Samsung, I must say the Gear S2 has good potential to bring back Samsung’s fortune in the smartwatch business. The smartwatch holds a major portion in the wearable market segment. According to IDC the wearable segment is expected to grow beyond 150 million units by the end of 2019, and out of that more than 80% will be wrist-wear.