Samsung has launched its latest smartwatch, the Gear S, just days ahead of Apple’s expected iWatch launch, as the wearable tech market continues to heat up.
The Samsung device has a 2-inch curved screen and runs on Samsung’s own Tizen operating system, unlike its previous Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which ran on Google’s Android system. The Gear S has 3G, Wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities and is able to make and receive phone calls and send messages.
The new watch will be available from the beginning of October, but the price tag has not yet been disclosed.
Smartwatches have been criticized for their “techy” looks, but the Gear S looks like a traditional watch, which could give it a big advantage, analysts said.
“That improvement in the design is huge as far as overall adoption goes, because watches in the same way as smartphones are fashion devices,” Daniel Gleeson, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone. “There are 2 veins of smartwatches – one which is pure vanity and one that is practical one. Samsung is trying to hit across both those.”
But despite the big redesign and the enhanced capabilities, some analysts were unconvinced the smartwatch had enough useful features.
“I’m still unconvinced by its features,” Sam Gee, senior technology analyst at Mintel, told CNBC in a phone interview. “I don’t see what the average person will need one for and the natural design will come with an increased price tag.”
On the same day, Samsung also announced the Gear Circle, a necklace-shaped set of headphones that when paired with a smartphone allows users to answer calls and listen to music.
Samsung’s announcement came just days before Apple is expected to release its iWatch—and on the same day that Korean rival LG unveiled its second smartwatch, the G Watch R.
Analysts said Samsung’s timing was key, as a way for it to stamp its authority on the wearable market.
“Samsung is undoubtedly leading in this space, but with the rumors that Apple will jump into the market, they want to consolidate before the disruption Apple will undoubtedly bring,” Ben Wood, mobile analyst at CCS Insight, told CNBC in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, LG’s G Watch R runs on Google’s Android Wear operating system and is compatible with apps downloaded from Google Play store. Users can also be notified of missed calls and messages and monitor their own heart rate.
In contrast to Samsung, LG has opted for a round face that looks like a traditional watch—which analysts said round faces could appeal to the mass market.
“The traditional mass market has a pre-conceived idea of what a watch will look like and—round could be the way to go,” Wood said.