Gear Fit: Samsung strikes again with its 'build one of any device' plan

Stylish, real-time OS-based Fit smart wristband was unveiled at MWC along with two Tizen-based Gear smartwatches and the Galaxy S5 smartphone

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For sheer styling, the Fit easily won the greatest number of 'oohs and ahhs' from attendees at MWC, as well as the "Best in Show" award among all mobile devices displayed. "It is absolutely stylish and the kind of design that widens the audience beyond geeks and early adopters," Milanesi said.

Gear Fit should cost no more than $100 to cater to a general fitness audience, though even $200 would make it competitive with FitBit and Nike smart bands, Moorhead pointed out. Unlike most of its competitors, Gear Fit has a color display, but it trades off that feature and the heart rate monitor for a for a relatively short battery life -- three to four days.

Without a carrier subsidy, the Gear Fit would cost up to $300. It also requires a smartphone, which can run $600 or more unlocked, Moorhead noted.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said that Samsung and other smart fitness band makers need to drop the price below $49, or even close to $25, to "really pick up speed."

Samsung built its two new smartwatches (the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo) on the lightweight and adaptable HTML5-based Tizen OS. Android runs the original Gear device.

The Gear Fit will use even simpler software, an unspecified real-time operating system (RTOS) that requires less memory and a less powerful processor than the Gear 2 watches. The updated tech would improve battery live.

Samsung did release an SDK (software developer kit) to allow Android Apps to interact with Gear Fit, which could help overcome a major drawback of many wearables -- too few apps.

"A real-time OS is the only way to go for a device with a tiny battery, but there are no common standards for RTOS's across device makers. That's a limiting factor for the Gear Fit because of the splitting of developers' time" to work on multiple OS's, Moorhead added.

Gold said it isn't clear whether the Samsung RTOS is proprietary, but noted that the QNX OS from BlackBerry is widely used as an embedded RTOS in cars and other devices.

While Samsung's new smartwatches and the Gear Fit might seem purely for consumers and fitness buffs, Samsung officials said wearables are getting plenty of attention from business users.

The potential business users include doctors and nurses who want to quickly check on an alert about a patient instead of digging in a pocket or purse for a smartphone, and stockbrokers looking for faster access to notifications of suddent changes in a stock's price.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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