Samsung announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today two new models of its Gear smart watch, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.
Both watches are essentially the same device, but the Neo doesn’t have a built-in camera for snapping photos from your wrist. They are each successors to the original Galaxy Gear, which launched just a few months ago to overwhelmingly negative reviews.
Samsung hasn’t formally announced how many Galaxy Gears it sold, but the fact that it’s updating the product six months after the original is a sign that it wasn’t a hit with consumers.
Both watches will go on sale in April, but Samsung hasn’t announced a specific launch date. Samsung also didn’t say how much the new Gears will cost, but the current model costs $US300. If we had to guess, the Gear 2 will still cost about $US300, while the Gear 2 Neo will cost a bit less.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the new features in the Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo:
- The new Gears will include a universal remote control app and built-in infrared sensor that will let you control your TV from the watch.
- There’s a music player app that lets you listen to your songs, even if the device isn’t paired to a smartphone.
- The watches double as fitness trackers, and can monitor your heart rate, sleeping habits, and steps taken. The data syncs with Samsung’s S Health app, which comes preinstalled in Samsung phones like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3.
- Both models are slightly thinner and lighter than the original Galaxy Gear, but the Gear 2 is a bit heftier than the Gear 2 neo.
- Both models have a 1.63-inch colour touchscreen and the wristbands and watch faces come in a variety of colour options.
Other than that, the new Gears will mimic the functions of last year’s model. The Gear pairs with your Samsung Galaxy phone via Bluetooth using a special Galaxy Gear app. After the pairing, you can use Gear to check incoming texts, calls, emails, tweets, etc. without having to pull out your phone. You can also make calls from the watch using a built-in speaker and microphone.
The Gear also has an app store, which includes some big-name apps like Evernote and the mobile social network Path. However, other big names like Facebook and Twitter are still missing.
Finally, Samsung decided to switch up the operating system on the Gear 2. Instead of running on Google’s Android, the Gear 2 is powered by Tizen, another open source mobile operating system that Samsung is heavily involved in developing. Some see this as a move by Samsung to distance itself from its reliance on Google for its mobile products for stuff like tablets, smartphones, and smart watches.
In the short term though, don’t expect much to change. Tizen may make sense for a companion product like the Gear 2, but most of Samsung’s other mobile devices still run Google’s Android, which gives you access to excellent Google services like Google Maps, the virtual assistant Google Now, and the Google Play Store, which has more than 1 million apps. Tizen can’t offer that kind of rich ecosystem.
This isn’t the last big announcement from Samsung this month. On February 24, the company is expected to formally unveil its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, at a press event in Barcelona.
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