Bloomberg News

Smartwatch Early Adopters Beware!

August 21, 2013

Don't you hate it when you buy a brand-new, top-of-the-line smartphone, and then a better one comes out a few months later? Well, the same thing is about to happen to wristwatches.

Samsung Electronics is set to take the wraps off its latest Android-powered gadget, a high-tech take on an old technology: the watch. Dubbed Galaxy Gear, Samsung's smartwatch will be the star of the company's Sept. 4 news conference in Berlin before the IFA electronics show, two people familiar with the matter said last week.

The version Samsung plans to release this year will be able to handle phone calls, surf the Web, display e-mails, tell you the time -- and not a whole lot else. It probably won't do much without being connected to a smartphone, and it won't have the flexible-display technology that Samsung is currently developing.

"No one will own a standalone wristwatch, but rather, they will carry it as an accessory with smartphones," said Lee Do Hoon, an analyst at CIMB Group Holdings. "If Samsung's new watch is stylish with a lot of cool and 'wow' factors, and is also well-tethered to smartphones, it could create a new niche."

Motorola Mobility and Sony have tried unsuccessfully to turn smartwatches into a serious market. An electronics maker on a hot streak, like Apple or Samsung, may have a better shot. Apple is working on an iWatch of its own, people familiar with the matter said in February. Samsung is eager to beat its archnemesis to market and, in the process, quash claims that it's a follower.

But in Samsung's haste to be first, the Galaxy Gear version that comes out this year will lack some of the groundbreaking features that could make its smartwatch a must-own -- like a bendable screen. Samsung is continuing to work on that feature for a future device, one person with knowledge of the matter said.

Early adopters of the Galaxy Gear shouldn't be surprised if their shiny, new watch becomes outdated not long after they buy it. But that's how technology works, whether it's on your desk, in your pocket or on your wrist.

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