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Samsung Smart Watch May Have a Long Way to Go

A sneak peek at Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch suggests other smart watches could still compete
September 3, 2013

Tech blog VentureBeat got an early look at Samsung’s anticipated Galaxy Gear smart watch, which is slated to be unveiled tomorrow at the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin. If the device the gadget maker shows off is similar to that prototype, the battle for smart watch supremacy will be far from over.

A sketch of a Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch prototype viewed and then drawn by VentureBeat.

The post, which appeared over the weekend, describes Samsung’s upcoming watch as a possible rival to Nike’s Fuelband or the Fitbit Flex. Venturebeat writer Christina Farr got time with a prototype sent to some app developers and select partners of Samsung, an indication that it should be similar to the final product. She wasn’t allowed to take photos of the device but made the sketch above from memory.

The device Farr saw had a large screen for a wrist-worn device–roughly 3 inches at the diagonal and about an inch more than the already sizable Pebble smart watch (see “Smart Watches”). She was told it can connect with Samsung Galaxy S phones and tablets, but whether it will connect with other Android devices or ones made by Apple is unclear. The prototype also had a 4-megapixel camera, speakers, voice controls, Wi-Fi capabilities, and a slew of health-related functions like heart-rate, workout, and diet monitoring.

A sprinkling of those features sounds great, but combining them all in a device with a big screen that I’m supposed to wear on my wrist all day long sounds horrible. I’ve been testing some smart watches lately with fewer functions and smaller screens than Samsung’s and I still feel like I’m wearing an electronic leash. Smart watches are supposed to have the opposite effect, making us feel less tethered to mobile devices. Part of my problem is that I have relatively slender wrists, so it will never be comfortable to wear an oversized watch.

An even bigger challenge to the designers of smart watches is finding a way to balance their utility and novelty with simplicity. Just replicating many of the functions of a smartphone–which I have to carry around anyway since the watch isn’t an independent device–seems silly. Including functions like the ability to view incoming calls, e-mails, and tweets, makes sense. Adding more than those core functions seems to defeat the purpose of these devices. Samsung looks to have decided that it needs to offer more than just a few wrist-worn alerts to convince millions of consumers to buy smart watches. I’d guess that simpler versions of the smart watch ideal will be more successful.

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