Just six months after Samsung Electronics released its first smartwatch, the company will start selling three more.
Following up on the Android-based Galaxy Gear that came out in September, Samsung unveiled a trio of new watches this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The South Korean electronics giant seems to be flooding the zone in the hopes of running out the clock on Apple before it can release the much-anticipated iWatch.
Samsung’s Gear 2, which has a built-in camera, and Gear 2 Neo, which doesn’t, can wirelessly connect with smartphones and run apps designed for a relatively new operating system championed by Samsung called Tizen A third watch, the Gear Fit, has a curved screen, runs basic software and is positioned more as a health device to rival the Fitbit — though it does tell the time.
The smartwatch wave isn’t isolated to Samsung. Motorola Mobility, which Google is selling to China’s Lenovo Group, said in Barcelona that it plans to release a smartwatch this year, and CNET reports that LG Electronics is working on one, too.
Seriously, they might as well call it Mobile Watch Congress. HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone company that’s currently in the red, is expected to be demonstrating the first of three wearable devices behind closed doors in Barcelona, my colleague Tim Culpan reported. On the show floor, Sony is showing the SmartBand, and Huawei Technologies has the TalkBand.
“We think that wearables in the future can be a large market,” Colin Giles, an executive vice president at Shenzhen, China-based Huawei, told Bloomberg News in an interview this week at Mobile World Congress.
Not everyone is convinced. Despite a marketing blitz, Samsung’s original Galaxy Gear was met with a lukewarm reception. Research firm IHS estimates the market for wearable devices, which includes smartwatches, to be worth less than $20 billion a year until at least 2015. Apple alone sold more than that in iPhones last quarter.
Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes wrote in a note last week that a smartwatch isn’t going to move the needle for Apple’s business. A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment.
Timing is everything. Apple isn’t always the first, but it’s shown a knack for putting together the right list of features in a well-designed package along with marketing that shows people why they need to have one. There were plenty of music players on the market before the iPod.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty estimates that an Apple watch could generate as much as $17.5 billion in its first year on the market. That would be just under what the iPad did in its first full year available.
Of course, the tech industry is very different from the days of the iPod. For one, Samsung is relentless. First impressions of the Gear Fit coming from Barcelona have been glowing. If Samsung keeps releasing a handful of new watches every six months, it might just find a winner.