Re/Code revealed Apple's plans yesterday morning. Samsung's announcement followed fast. The fast follower clearly hopes Apple's device will be nothing more than an iPhone companion product, as it has equipped its Gear S with its own 3G connection, meaning you can use it to make phone calls and use apps and services without a phone.
We think we know this about iWatch:
We don't yet know if it will be an independent device with its own processor, apps and the capacity to make calls.
Samsung has attempted to match and exceed Apple in each speculated iWatch feature:
The Gear S carries an array of health and fitness sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, heart rate, barometer, and supports Nike+. This is no great surprise given Apple's visible effort to develop health-related technologies.
Beyond the phone
The curved 2-inch Gear S supports voice calls, messages and notifications. It runs Samsung's own Tizen OS (bad news for Android), includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, and an on-screen keyboard. It also supports Samsung's Siri-like S Voice.
That Samsung wants to take the fight to Apple is no surprise. It set the scene for struggle last year when it introduced its first Gear smartwatch, following months of iWatch rumors. This first release wasn't very good.
Despite its faults, the flawed gadget gives Samsung's mobile chief, JK Shin, the chance to claim: “Samsung is leading this exciting and rapidly developing wearable category through progressive innovation."
'Not a copycat'?
Samsung's motivation to claim leadership here is crystal clear.
The company's reputation has taken a huge blow in recent years as numerous court decisions worldwide support Apple's view that it emulated the iPhone and iPad in its early Galaxy devices. People think it's a copycat. The company needs to change this reputation or it will become a joke. That's what it is attempting to do.
It is refreshing that Samsung executives seem to have read reports like this one, this one, or this one, which stress where it has gone wrong so far and explain that smartwatches must be more than mere smartphone companions in order to set the world ablaze. Wearable devices must be standalone devices. They must be genuinely useful to the extent that they will ultimately kill the smartphone.
It seems to me that Samsung's executives have taken this advice in developing Gear S.
I also believe they've held this plan up their sleeve to reveal at this time in an attempt to taint Apple's launch. After all, Gear S production may not even have begun -- it doesn't hit shops until October. This is a defensive move to claim leadership.
I hope the iWatch is also more than an accessory, but we must wait until next month to find out.
It seems timely that Google chair and ex-Apple board member, Eric Schmidt, yesterday said:
“Playing catch-up with the competition can only ever help you make incremental gains. It will never help you create something new.”
Despite Samsung's claims to market leadership, it isn’t really clear who is playing catch up. We'll know this for sure in a few weeks time.
Let the games begin.
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