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If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the smartphone wars, it’s that it’s nearly impossible for a mobile operating to be successful without developers making cool apps for it.
Right now, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are the only two operating systems with broad support from developers. If you want the best apps and updates first, you shouldn’t use anything else. That’s part of the reason why BlackBerry has bombed and Microsoft’s Windows Phone has struggled to get more than 4% of the global smartphone market.
Now on to the next big thing, which many believe is wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers. Samsung announced three new wearables at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week: The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches and the Gear Fit fitness band/smart watch. Meanwhile, other companies like LG, Motorola, HTC, Google, and Apple are all rumoured to have smart watches in the works. Most of those companies are expected to launch their wearables later this year or early next year.
But while many criticised Samsung for being first to market with a poorly received first-generation Galaxy Gear, it’s early entrance into wearables does give it one huge advantage over its rivals: it can now start courting developers to build apps and services for its smart watches.
At a Mobile World Congress developers event today, Samsung announced that it is opening the Gear Fit to developers and adding new tools to make it easier to build apps for the new Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo smart watches. Assuming developers bite — and companies like CNN, eBay, Evernote, and about 100 others already have — Samsung will have the most robust wearable app ecosystem over any of its competitors.
Samsung isn’t alone. Pebble, a hardware startup that makes the best smart watch you can buy today, also has an app store, but it doesn’t have as many big-name apps as Samsung will have when its new wearables launch.
Then there are two big elephants in the room: Google and Apple, the biggest players in smartphone app ecosystems. Google is expected to launch a lightweight version of Android for wearable devices in a few months. Apple’s so-called iWatch could launch as early as this fall. You can bet they’ll attract developers too.
But for now, Samsung has the biggest head start.
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