As anticipated, Samsung have unveiled their new smartwatch ahead of rivals Apple, Microsoft and Google. The Galaxy Gear will show alerts, can be used to make voice calls and even runs apps. Samsung have declared it to be a “fashion icon” but is the demand for this new wonder product really out there?
The most obvious issue is that this is basically an accessory not a stand-alone product, it is a partner device. The Galaxy Gear must be hooked up with another Android device, in fact another Galaxy Android device. With sales of their handsets seeing a slow-down the company are keen to find another highly successful product but their market for this one will be limited to those who already have Samsung devices. The watch goes on sale 25 September and so we won’t have to wait long to see how things pan out but with a rival watch from Sony to come shortly which can be paired with any Android mobile Samsung could be in trouble.
The Galaxy Gear will be priced at £190 which is pretty hefty considering Sony’s rival device will be just £120 and Omate are planning to premier their product in October which will mirror the Samsung pricing but contain a 3G chip making it a standalone piece. The Toq from Qualcomm has also recently arrived, is also £190, will link up to a variety of Android devices and incorporates new technology which should give it a longer battery life than its competitors. Samsung have competition and will be relying on the loyalty of their existing client base.
The bigger question right now is how popular will smartwatches be overall? Whilst they enable you to view alerts and make calls without having to get out your phone they are not actually doing anything that your phone will not already do. There may initially be great interest in the watches as they are a new innovation and there will always be some people who feel the need to possess the latest gadget but it could be that these devices will enjoy only a short time in the limelight before people get bored of them after the novelty has subsided.
A clue to the demand for smartwatches may be found by looking at the current watch market. Whilst watches have been big sellers in recent years despite the recession and the fact that everyone has a mobile phone which displays the time, it is the luxury end of the market which has prospered. Watches are now valued for their aesthetic qualities with mechanical watches being the top pick. People are fascinated by the intricacy of the movements and the beauty of the designs and this does not auger well for smartwatches which are not visually pleasing.
It could be that smartwatches turn out to be a short term craze and are quickly rejected in favour of more traditional timepieces or a new wave of technology. Wearable technology is predicted to be the future but that future may not yet have arrived with the Galaxy Gear.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her bridal shop