Samsung unveils Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches, running Tizen

BARCELONA, Spain—Samsung Electronics unveiled two new Galaxy Gear smart watches using the Tizen operating system and not Android, as had been rumored.

Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2 runs on the Tizen platform.

The smartphone giant made the announcement in advance of the Mobile World Congress trade show here. The announcement also came before Samsung's "Unpacked" MWC event on Feb. 24, where the company is expected to launch its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S5.

The new Gear watches, called the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo support the open-source Tizen platform and not Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, which runs the first Samsung Gear. That first watch was announced just six months ago, reflecting not only the fast-changing nature of the wearable computing market, but also Samsung's desire to improve on the first Gear, which received middling reviews. Samsung did not disclose pricing of the new watches but said they will be available globally starting in April.

Samsung said both new gadgets sport lightweight designs and the Gear 2's camera has been moved from the strap to the watch's main body. The Gear 2 Neo does not have a camera, The devices' home screen background, clock face and font are also customizable. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, which connect to phones via Bluetooth, let users accept or ignore incoming calls and messages, and providing instant notification options based on a user's activity and habits. The watches also offer personal fitness coaching in real time, and let users create customizable fitness routines and monitor their heart rate. Some of the first apps the new Gears support will be software from BMW, CNN, Expedia, Garmin, General Motors' OnStar, Line, Path, Weather Channel and Under Armour.

The original Gear was introduced last fall with much fanfare, and in November Samsung said it had shipped 800,000 Gear smart watches in the two months since its debut.

Samsung did not say why it was switching from Android to Tizen for its smart watches. The company said the watches will let "users connect to a wide variety of Samsung devices and access an enriched application ecosystem as the first wearable powered by Tizen based wearable platform." Additionally, the firm said the new devices  are compatible with "dozens" of Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

While Samsung's motives for moving to Tizen remain murky, the switch does indicate Samsung is still heavily behind the Linux-based platform. Samsung is the biggest backer of Tizen and a leading member of the Tizen Association. The group was created through the merger of the former MeeGo and LiMo platforms. Other Tizen supporters include Intel, Huawei, Orange and Vodafone, but several operators have recently cooled on the platform, including Orange, NTT DoCoMo and Telefónica.

Sprint (NYSE:S) is still backing the Tizen Association and earlier this month joined as a partner member, contrary to a recent report that the carrier had dropped its support for the fledgling operating system. The association recently announced 15 new partners who joined the group, including Sprint parent SoftBank, handset maker and network vendor ZTE, Chinese search engine Baidu and others.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Re/code article
- see this The Verge article

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