Samsung to introduce wristwatch-like smartphone ‘Galaxy Gear’ next month

FIRST MOVER::Wearable devices could be one of the next big smartphone trends, but it is unclear whether watches or glasses will lead the market, an analyst said


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 - Page 13

Samsung Electronics will introduce a wristwatch-like device named the Galaxy Gear next month that can make phone calls, surf the Web and handle e-mails, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Galaxy Gear will be powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system and go on sale this year to beat a potentially competing product from Apple Inc, the people said. The device will be unveiled on Sept. 4, two days before the IFA consumer electronics show begins in Berlin, one source said, asking not to be identified because the plans are private.

Asia’s biggest technology company is racing other electronics makers, including Sony Corp, to create a new industry of wearable devices as the market for top-end handsets nears saturation. The global watch industry will generate more than US$60 billion in sales this year, and the first companies to sell devices that multitask could lock customers into their platform, boosting sales of smartphones, tablets and TVs.

“It will carve a niche as this is an initial product in the market,” said Chung Chang Won, a Nomura Holdings Inc analyst in Seoul. “Wearable devices could be one of the trends in the smartphone market, but I’m not sure yet whether watches or glasses will set the trend.”

The Galaxy Gear being released next month will not have a flexible display, though the firm is continuing to work on developing a bendable screen, a source said. It will be unveiled the same day as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, a combination smartphone and tablet computer.

Apple had a team of about 100 designers working on a watch-like device, two people familiar with the matter said in February. The Cupertino, California-based company is seeking to introduce its device this year, one source said at the time.

Samsung became the world’s largest smartphone maker last year, overtaking Apple. The Suwon, South Korea-based company had about 33 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, while the iPhone maker fell to a three-year low as more consumers chose inexpensive handsets from Chinese makers, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

Sony Corp will introduce a flagship Xperia smartphone next month featuring imaging technology developed for its cameras and ultra-high-definition TVs, according to two sources asking not to be identified.

The new handset will also be unveiled on Sept. 4 before the start of the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, the sources said.

Xperia smartphones are part of chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony with handsets, TVs and game consoles that connect with the company’s entertainment content. To lure customers from Apple and Samsung, the Tokyo-based company is using “X-Reality” picture-enhancement chips developed for Bravia TVs and sensors for its Cyber-shot cameras, the sources said.

IFA runs from Sept. 6 to 11.