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Samsung unveils 'Galaxy gear' smartwatch at $299 price

The smartphone let users check messages with a glance at their wrists and have conversations secret agent-style.

BT Online Bureau | September 5, 2013 | Updated 08:46 IST
Samsung unveils 'Galaxy gear' smartwatch
Photo: Reuters

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Wednesday unveiled its own much-anticipated digital smartwatch "Galaxy Gear" that will perform basic functions like calls, photos and messaging in concert with a smartphone.

The smartwatch uses Google's Android operating system, just like many of the phones and tablets made by the South Korean electronics company.

The Gear goes on sale in the United States and Japan next month. The rest of the world will get it sooner, on Sept. 25, with prices starting at $299. That is about twice the price of currently available devices such as the Sony SmartWatch and the Pebble.

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The Galaxy Gear strap comes in six colors and holds a basic camera that can be used to shoot photos and video. When linked to a smartphone or tablet, the Gear lets people check emails and Facebook updates from their wrists. Samsung said replies are possible through voice dictation. Voice commands can also be used for such tasks as setting alarms, creating calendar entries and checking the weather.

The Gear will be compatible initially with two Samsung products also unveiled Wednesday - the Galaxy Note 3, a smartphone with a giant 5.7-inch screen and a digital pen, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a tablet computer with a 10.1-inch screen comparable to Apple's full-sized iPad. But Samsung promised to update other Galaxy phones and tablets to work with the Gear in the future.

The number of apps that work with the Gear is also still limited. More than 70 apps are currently supported, including Facebook, Twitter and RunKeeper. That compares with the hundreds of thousands available for leading smartphones.

Unlike normal watches that can tick away for years on end, Samsung only promises a full day's use out of the Gear before it has to be charged.

Associated Press reports: So-called smartwatches have been around for several years . But so far, they have failed to attract much consumer interest. That may change with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which offers the company a chance to pull off the same as feat Apple did with the iPad - popularise a type of device that has lingered mostly unnoticed on store shelves.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear must be linked wirelessly with a smartphone to perform its full range of functions. It acts as an extension to the phone by discreetly alerting users to incoming messages and calls on its screen, which measures 1.63 inches diagonally.

"With Gear, you're able to make calls and receive calls without ever taking your phone out of your pocket," Pranav Mistry, a member of Samsung's design team, said at the launch in Berlin ahead of the annual IFA consumer electronics show.

Sony and Qualcomm also introduced smartwatches on Wednesday. Apple Inc. is expected to release its own smartwatch , though it's not clear yet when. The release of separate products from so many manufacturers could stir interest in smartwatches in general. Meanwhile, Google is working on Google Glass - a device designed to work like a smartphone and worn like a pair of glasses.

With smartphones and tablets now ubiquitous, electronics companies are trying to create a new category of products that put advanced computing technology into everyday objects such as wristwatches and glasses. Research firm Gartner projects that wearable smart electronics will be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

Mistry demonstrated the calling function on the Gear by holding it up to his ear and talking into a microphone hidden in the watch. The watch then relays the call to a smartphone over a built-in Bluetooth connection.

With AP inputs

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