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The Galaxy Gear smartwatch: proof that Samsung can innovate?
Global Post ^ | 09/09/2013 | Geoffrey Cain

Posted on 09/09/2013 9:29:51 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

SEOUL, South Korea — Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, is marching toward the next battlefield in its war against Apple.

On Wednesday in Berlin, the Korean mega-corporation unveiled the long-anticipated Galaxy Gear, a wearable smartwatch set for release on Sept. 25.

Launched a week before Apple reveals its hyped iWatch, Samsung is trying to dispel its image as a “fast follower,” a common label that it imitates other technologies in tried-and-tested markets, rather than innovating on its own.

Whether it has effectively achieved that goal is a matter of debate.

Most reviewers have doubted that smartwatches will revolutionize electronics the way the smartphone has. True to that prediction, in its public debut the Galaxy Gear has been labeled the Swiss army knife of watches. Critics say the bulky, hard wrist screen is cumbersome, and find its 10-hour battery life to be limiting.

Regardless, Samsung can count on an energized domestic market to bolster the watch’s commercial success. When it comes to seizing new technologies, Americans are sloths compared to consumers here in South Korea, the Samsung empire’s fatherland, where the pressure to adopt the next tech fad is intense.

In the “Republic of Samsung,” trendy youngsters are gearing up for a smartwatch bonanza. It’s not a question of whether the gadgets are useful; as long as they look cool and have fun features they will become objects of desire, according to Korean 20-somethings interviewed by GlobalPost.

“Of course I’m getting the watch, and everybody will probably do it,” says Yoon Hyuk-joo, 20, a university student in Seoul. When asked how he’ll buy it, he said, “I’ll just use my credit card … You know, if you don’t get new stuff, people think you’re sort of backwards and maybe unsuccessful.”

For many in this newly-rich, hyper-wired democracy, consumerism is paramount regardless of the costs. In the race for prestige, Koreans have amassed the world’s heaviest load of household debt — buying top-notch diplomas, English lessons, overpriced apartments, cars, smartphones, and plastic surgery, writes the sociologist Ku Nan-hee in "Korea: A Country of Fad and Frenzy."

Call it the real “Gangnam Style.”

“Keeping up with the Joneses here is really remarkable,” said Mike Breen, author of "The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies." “The faddishness comes from the fact that the brands in Korea are the 'chaebol' [conglomerates like Samsung and LG] themselves, and not the products. Combine that with the way Koreans have been educated to compare themselves with others” and you have a spending super-storm.

Especially when it comes to the nation’s most powerful chaebol.

Known to Americans mostly for its Galaxy smartphones and TVs, Samsung wields enormous influence on its home turf. “With Samsung, there is an assumption that it has the best people and will lead, whether it’s in making batteries, offering life insurance, or anything else,” Breen said.

The Samsung Group, which is not a legal entity, refers to more than 80 affiliates that make everything “from chips to ships,” according to a common tagline. The group produces about 20 percent of all Korean exports.

Samsung Electronics is the empire’s crown jewel. The highly efficient, family-run company is awash in cash, giving it the resources to bet on a dizzying range of technologies while absorbing the failures.

“Samsung's competitive advantage is in its seamless, extreme execution that is possible due to its top down command and control management structure,” said Jasper Kim, a Samsung watcher and law professor at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul.

Each year, the corporation puts out a welter of Android-based smartphones and tablets in all sorts of sizes, loaded with software bells and whistles that critics deride as “feature spam.” The company also supplies the parts to competitors like Apple and Sony, making it nearly indispensible to the industry.

Compare that to Apple’s tighter focus — a strategy that involves putting out about one smartphone a year, and a relatively small array of other products. Samsung, despite its breadth, has yet to be first with a game-changing gadget like the iPhone or Sony Walkman. Instead, it prefers to watch how competitors fare before launching an onslaught. This holds true even with the Galaxy Gear, unveiled before the iWatch but after the Sony Smartwatch.

But being a “fast follower” isn’t always to the Samsung’s detriment.

Consumers in China and South Korea, two attractive markets, often prefer the feature-heavy build of Samsung products, which are also cheaper than iPhones.

Analysts say that in China, Samsung has established a clear lead over Apple, and is thriving despite growing competition from Chinese giants Huawei and Lenovo.

For now, with an increasingly saturated US smartphone market, the watch may be the next logical step at home — especially given that it can count on throngs of ravenous consumers here. Regardless of whether it succeeds, it’s a low-risk proposition. “Samsung and Apple are expanding their margins a bit” beyond smartphones, says William Stofega, a mobile analyst at IDC, a Massachusetts-based market intelligence group.

He said that the devices aren’t world-shattering, because they involve putting smartphone technologies on a smaller device. And even if the watch is a dud, Samsung, for one, can fall back on its size as it ponders the industry’s future and waits for its competition to make the next move.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: galaxy; samsung; smartwatch

The new smartwatch was unveiled along with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, a next generation of the company’s so-called “phablet” device (larger than a standard phone, with features like a tablet).

The watch is expected to work as a companion to the phone-tablet hybrid. A 1.63-inch display allows you to check updates from your phone at a glance to your wrist, and use about 70 pre-loaded apps, mostly with gesture commands.

But what may be the best features allow you to initiate a phone call from the watch or take video or photos from a wristband camera both in conjunction with your mobile device.

Make Calls or Take Video

Using the watch’s S Voice feature activated by double-clicking a button on the side of the display lets you make a call or dictate a text message to your mobile device hands free.

The 1.9-megapixel camera on the wristband can take photos or short videos that can be stored temporarily with about 4 GB of storage on the watch or sent directly to your mobile device.

It’s not clear how wide the appeal will be for smartwatches. As one commenter here at Small Business Trends predicted on an earlier article about smartwatches, it may be that the only people who are interested in smartwatches are the same people who bought a calculator watch a few decades ago when those were hot. Time will tell.

1 posted on 09/09/2013 9:29:51 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

For those interested.... The Galaxy Gear will launch globally in late September and will be available in the United States for $299 in early October.

2 posted on 09/09/2013 9:31:33 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

For when it becomes too hard for the next generation to pull their NSA-approved tracking devices out of their pockets.

3 posted on 09/09/2013 9:34:06 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America's destiny.)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: SeekAndFind


And you’ve gotta just love that battery “life”.

Not picking on Samsung alone...Apple would have to to mucho better than that for me to even yawn.

5 posted on 09/09/2013 9:39:12 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Da Coyote

But $299.00 is an attractive price IMHO...

6 posted on 09/09/2013 9:39:54 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

"Kromega III. It's like asking a stranger for the time."

7 posted on 09/09/2013 9:41:24 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: SeekAndFind
You know, if you don’t get new stuff, people think you’re sort of backwards and maybe unsuccessful.

I just thought I would highlight that statement for everyone to sit and meditate upon.

8 posted on 09/09/2013 9:48:09 AM PDT by Drawsing
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To: Drawsing

Should I have been considered backward and unsuccessful for not buying a Chevy Volt or Windows Vista when it first came out?

9 posted on 09/09/2013 9:50:06 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Jumping into a fairly established but small market and claiming to be a pioneer. Sounds like Samsung is adopting the iPple model of innovation.

10 posted on 09/09/2013 10:06:27 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: SeekAndFind
I was hoping for something more like a vambrace or that forearm thingy that the Predator wore in the movie, except in English.


11 posted on 09/09/2013 10:41:56 AM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: SeekAndFind
I will send smoke signals before ever buying anything from Samsuck.

Don't feel too smug Apple, you area very close second.

12 posted on 09/09/2013 10:46:57 AM PDT by N. Theknow (Kennedys=Can't drive, can't ski, can't fly, can't skipper a boat, but they know what's best for you.)
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To: N. Theknow

area = are a

13 posted on 09/09/2013 10:48:19 AM PDT by N. Theknow (Kennedys=Can't drive, can't ski, can't fly, can't skipper a boat, but they know what's best for you.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Should I have been considered backward and unsuccessful

Well, I can unplug my rotary phone in the bedroom and take it into the kitchen and plug it into a jack there......Not many people can say that so I suppose I'm way ahead of the curve.

14 posted on 09/09/2013 10:48:53 AM PDT by Hot Tabasco (')
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To: Hot Tabasco

If I try to take the phone out of your bedroom, you will probably shoot me. ;-)

15 posted on 09/09/2013 11:34:05 AM PDT by SoothingDave
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To: SeekAndFind

Proof that Samsung can innovate? This thing is laughable!

First of all, the visual appeal is simply not there. Clunky-looking and with visible screws on the front face? I dare you to find a woman who will wear one of these in public.

Next, it will only really work if you own one of a small handful of devices.

Then you have the camera. Seriously? What for? Since you’re already tethered to a specific smartphone or tablet in the first place (see above), why would you want to take an awkward picture or video with an inferior camera when you have a better camera on you ready to go?

Hands-on reports say the thing is sluggish. The battery life is touted as a day, but Samsung routinely over-states battery life and hands-on participants also noted power was running out on the samples.

This isn’t innovation, it’s a fail-bag with an ugly strap (and visible screws). Smartwatches may or may not be a big thing in the future, but successful ones won’t resemble the Gear at all.

16 posted on 09/09/2013 12:24:38 PM PDT by kevkrom (It's not "immigration reform", it's an "amnesty bill". Take back the language!)
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To: Da Coyote

putting android, with a custom skin, on a smaller touchscreen is NOT innovation.

17 posted on 09/09/2013 12:29:04 PM PDT by HamiltonJay
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