Samsung Electronics, as expected, announced its Galaxy Gear smart watch and the company's next phablet, the Galaxy Note III, at a media event just ahead of the start of the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin. Meanwhile, chipmaker Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) announced at virtually the exact same time its own smart watch, dubbed the Toq, during its Uplinq developer conference in San Diego.
The smart watch announcements further underscore industry interest in creating a new category of devices to spur electronics sales beyond smartphones and tablets. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and others have been rumored to be developing smart watch devices, and Sony, Pebble and others have already released smart watches.
Although Samsung and Qualcomm both announced smart watches, the devices aren't exactly in the same league. Samsung said it will sell the Galaxy Gear in more than 140 countries around the world starting Sept. 25. Qualcomm, on the other hand, said it expects to sell just tens of thousands of its Toq smart watches. Qualcomm executives explained that, although the device will go on sale to in October, it's more of a proof of concept device than Qualcomm's attempt to break into the consumer electronics market.
"We expect to make tens of thousands of these, not hundreds of thousands," Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Internet Services and senior vice president of software strategy, said in an interview with AllThingsD about the Toq. "A success, for us, looks like our partners picking up and running with this. Qualcomm isn't turning into a consumer electronics company."
Samsung, though, hopes its Galaxy Gear smart watch will be a major hit with consumers. The company said the gadget, which will go on sale in the United States in October, will cost around $300 and will connect to its Galaxy smartphones via Bluetooth. The gadget can notify users of incoming messages, such as calls, texts, emails and alerts, and delivers a preview of those messages. A feature called Smart Relay will allow users to receive notifications such as email on the Gear, and then pick up their Samsung Galaxy phone and the relevant email will appear there. Users can also conduct hands-free calls with the Gear using the device's built-in speaker, and can snap pictures and video with a 1.9-megapixel camera. The device also includes a number of applications from app vendors like Path and Pocket--Samsung promised a total of 70 third-party developers will make apps for the Gear.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
The Gear watch can last 25 hours on a single battery charge, runs on a 800 MHz processor and features an AMOLED screen.
As for Qualcomm's smart watch, the Toq, the device can alert users to texts, phone calls and other alerts, such as calendar and WhatsApp notifications. The watch connects to an Android phone via Bluetooth (Qualcomm said it is considering adding iOS support as well), can run for five days on a battery charge, and is powered by the company's 200 MHz Cortex M3 processor, according to reports. Interestingly, the watch uses Qualcomm's Mirasol screen technology, which Qualcomm said can be viewed in sunlight and does not use much battery power. Qualcomm has long pushed its Mirasol technology for ereaders and other devices, but has so far found few buyers. The Toq also uses wireless charging via Qualcomm's WiPower LE technology and supports stereo Bluetooth audio.
Qualcomm said it will begin selling the Toq online in the United States in October for around $300.
"As this new segment of wearable technology evolves, there may be some cannibalistic aspect to these devices, particularly related to some features of hand-held mobile devices such as music players (FM radio, music players, etc.) as well as smartphones (location tracking, fitness monitoring, etc.)," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue wrote in a research note. "Our initial assessment is that most first-generation wearable devices will be symbiotic devices, incremental to existing devices, and will likely expand the reach of existing intricately entwined ecosystems. From an OS perspective, given their widespread prevalence and app-support, iOS and Android may end up becoming the preferred platforms of choice."
As for Samsung's other IFA announcements, the company said its new Note III will go on sale in the United States in October through AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint (NYSE:S), T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM).The company didn't release pricing information or an exact launch date for the phone, which is the latest in Samsung's popular line of phablet smartphones. The Note III offers a 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen and a wide range of software features. It also supports LTE in up to six different bands and will support carrier aggregation.
Samsung also announced the Galaxy Note 10.1, 2014 Edition tablet.
- see this webcast
- see this Note III release
- see this Galaxy Gear release
- see this Note 10.1 release
- see this The Verge live blog
- see this Verge article
- see this CNET article
- see this Qualcomm release
- see this AllThingsD article
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Mike Dano contributed to this report.