Samsung took a big leap into the emerging wearable tech space today with its new Galaxy Gear smart watch.
It’s a symbolic move by Samsung. While everyone is talking about wearable personal computing gizmos, Samsung is the first major company to actually make one.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s rivals Apple and Google are still in the development phases of their respective smart watches. Google is also developing a face-computer called Google Glass, but that gadget won’t be available until next year.
But despite all the hype surrounding the Galaxy Gear today, there’s one glaring problem with it. It only works with one Samsung phone, the soon-to-be-released Galaxy Note III. The Galaxy Gear won’t work with other Galaxy phones like the Galaxy S4.
The Galaxy S4 is Samsung’s flagship phone, a phone that’s likely to sell far more units than the Note III, which is more expensive and has a giant screen that appeals to a limited audience. Meanwhile, Samsung plans to sell the Galaxy Gear watch for $US300 on top of the ~$300 that the Galaxy Note III will cost. So if you want the full experience, you need to pay $US600.
That leaves out a bunch of Samsung Galaxy phone owners. As many as 100 million of them, in fact. It means if you have a Galaxy S II, III, 4, or one of the older Galaxy Note phones, you’re out of luck. Samsung says it plans to add Gear compatibility to other devices in its Galaxy family, but it’s odd that it didn’t at least include the flagship Galaxy S4 right from the start. The company is working on a software update for the Galaxy S4 and other Galaxy phones, but that software update has to be approved by carriers in the U.S. first. That could take a while. The only device guaranteed to work with the Galaxy Gear from the beginning is the Galaxy Note III.
And based on Samsung’s history of providing software updates for its phones, there’s a good chance some older Galaxy phones will never be compatible with the Galaxy Gear.
That’s a shame. No matter what your first impressions of the Galaxy Gear are, Samsung is first to market, and it’s making a big bet. Wearable technology is the next frontier in personal computing, but with the Galaxy Gear, Samsung isn’t hitting the ground running. Instead, Samsung is severely limiting the number of people who will be able to use the Galaxy Gear on day one.
Based on that fact alone, it will be hard for the Galaxy Gear to be the blockbuster gadget Samsung wishes it could be. Even if the final product ends up blowing away reviewers, even if it truly is the revolution Samsung said it would be, most people won’t be able to buy one.