Samsung, Motorola unveil new smartwatches

DECK the halls with all smartwatches: it’s shaping up as the Christmas of wearable technology.

Three of the world’s biggest technology makers unveiled new smartwatches in Berlin overnight. Samsung showed off three round smartwatches compatible with Google Android phones, Motorola released four versions of its iconic Moto 360 watch, and TomTom delivered three fitness-focused smartwatches.

The 10 new devices come just a day after fresh wearable technology announcements from Huawei and Lenovo, preparing consumers for what is shaping up to be a festive season of smartwatch-filled stockings.

After previewing its first watch in a year earlier this week, Samsung showed off its Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic before the IFA technology show in Berlin, and revealed both would work with all Google Android phones, charge wirelessly, and offer waterproof bodies that could be taken swimming.

Samsung Gear S2 Classic. Picture: Samsung
Samsung Gear S2. Picture: Samsung

Samsung Electronics Australia vice-president Phil Newton confirmed both the Gear S2 and the Classic would arrive in Australia in as little as four weeks and said its features, including a battery life of up to three days, would appeal to an active Australian audience.

“It’s designed and built for the Australian lifestyle — you can go surfing, swimming, kayaking and take this smartwatch with you,” Mr Newton said. “It has an IP68 rating which means you can submerge it in up to three or four metres of water for up to an hour.”

The new Samsung Gear S2

Mr Newton said the new watches would also charge wirelessly, using widely available Qi chargers, and were based on an open-source software, Tizen, that would allow them to work with phones “across the Android platform” unlike past models.

The smartwatches could also be used to control internet-connected devices from their 1.2-inch round touchscreens, Mr Newton said, such as door locks, thermostats, and coffee machines.

“The idea is that the Gear S2 will become part of the whole Internet-of-Things concept,” he said.

Samsung will also release a 3G version of the Gear S2 watch that will use a virtual SIM card to operate independently of a phone, allowing users to place calls and send messages on its own.

But the 3G model may not come to Australia, with a Samsung spokesman confirming the company was “in discussions” with local telecommunications companies about offering the device.

New smartwatch ... the new Samsung Gear S2. Picture: Samsung

Samsung will face plenty of competition in the smartwatch race, however, with Motorola replacing its iconic round smartwatch, the Moto 360, with four new timepieces today, including models designed for men, women and fitness enthusiasts.

However, fans may be disappointed to discover the company has yet to shed the “flat tyre” appearance of the watch’s face, with a black bar remaining at the bottom of its screen.

The Moto 360 Sport offers the greatest number of new features, including a GPS chip to help it track the wearer’s speed, distance and pace when exercising, and a silicon body and UV coating for use outdoors.

Moto 360. Picture: Motorola
Moto 360. Picture: Motorola

Two of the other three Moto 360 watches are designed for men, with a choice of 46mm and 42mm watch faces, while a fourth model for women offers a 42mm face. The watches also feature a battery upgrade, now promising up to two days of power.

A Motorola spokeswoman confirmed the smartwatches would come to Australia, though pricing and launch dates were not yet available.

The Moto 360 Collection is available for pre-order in the US, however, with prices from $US300 — $US430 ($428 — $614).

The new Moto 360

On the fitness front, TomTom also unveiled three Spark smartwatches in Berlin, including models designed for cardio, GPS-tracking and mobile music, with the latter storing 3GB of song files on the user’s wrist.

The sporty smartwatches will be launched in stores this October.

The new wave of smartwatches arrives almost six months after Apple launched its Watch, drawing new users to the fledgling market.

Research firm Telsyte says Australians bought 370,000 smartwatches last year but that number is expected to grow by at least half this year, exceeding $400 million in just three years.

Managing director Foad Fadaghi said the new releases were likely to produce a smartwatch-heavy Christmas season.

“There’s a very large percentage of wearables given as gifts,” he says. “The only challenge is how many other gadget products will be out there at the time, competing in that gifting space.”

The new arms race: smartwatches are coming back, with models from Samsung, Motorola, Huawei

PREPARE for the return of the smartwatch.

After a sales spike early this year, fuelled by Apple’s first wearable device, the smartwatch is poised to make a comeback, with many major technology companies lining up to cover your wrist.

 

The IFA technology trade show in Berlin played host to a wave of smartwatch announcements last week, with early exponents Samsung and Motorola taking another run at the market, while relative newcomers Huawei, ASUS and TomTom issued their own challengers.

Coming attraction .... Samsung plans to release the Gear S2 smartwatch in Australia this year.

The success of the current smartwatch crop may also be helped by Android Wear’s new compatibility with Apple iPhones.

But analysts warn it could take more than new features and greater compatibility for smartwatches to go mainstream, with cheaper prices and more apps needed to make a case for their widespread adoption.

Samsung headed off its IFA rivals by revealing its smartwatch days before the event, showing off its first round smartwatch, the Gear S2, ahead of its own conference.

But the South Korean tech giant held a few important details back, later revealing the watch would not only feature a 1.2-inch round screen, NFC chip for mobile payments, waterproof body, and a battery life of up to three days, but it would also deliver wireless charging, and could be used by most modern Google Android phones — not just Samsung models.

A second, Gear S2 Classic model, will deliver the same features in a more traditional look with standard watch bands, while a third model, yet to be confirmed for an Australian release, will use an e-SIM to operate independently of a smartphone.

More traditional look ... A Samsung Gear S2 watch is fitted onto a cardboard cutout at the booth of South Korean electronics giant Samsung ahead of the opening of the 55th IFA fair in Berlin. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL.

Samsung Electronics Australia vice-president Phil Newton said the company’s latest smartwatch had been designed to look more like a typical timepiece than its past efforts, despite its internet-savvy inclusions.

“It looks and feels like a watch,” he says. “You can control the product with a dial that’s just like a traditional watch.”

The Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic, due in Australia as early as next month, represent the first smartwatches from Samsung in a year, after it released the Gear S at IFA in 2014.

But since that time the world’s biggest smartphone maker has lost leadership of the smartwatch market, with Apple gaining control with its Watch.

Research firm IDC recently crowned Fitbit king of the wearable technology market with a 24.3 per cent share in the second quarter of the year, followed by Apple with 19.9 per cent. With no recent releases, Samsung fell to fifth position with just 3.3 per cent of the market.

But Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi, who predicts Australians will spend $400 million yearly on smartwatches by 2018, says consumers are ready for new products with better features.

“What’s happening is that (Google) Android products have been very weak in the last six months rather than Apple’s product being very strong,” he says. “That kind of market is ripe for innovation.

“If you look at the first half of this year, there were no new Samsung (smartwatches). The Android products ended and they just sat back and didn’t take Apple head on.”

Fadaghi predicts interest in smartwatches will continue to grow, particularly at Christmas, but their price may need to drop.

New look ... Motorola revealed a new generation of its Moto 360 smartwatch at IFA. (Motorola via AP)

“Many consumers are not willing to pay more than a regular watch for a smartwatch,” he says.

“If you look at the sweet spot, it’s the $200-$300 price bracket. There are parallels with the tablet market. When we saw cheap and cheerful $200 tablets, we saw the tablet market really explode. That also helped people get used to them.”

Fresh competition is also likely to boost their numbers, with smartwatches from Motorola, Huawei, ASUS and TomTom unveiled at IFA.

Motorola’s pioneering Moto 360 will be updated with four models, two for men, one for women, and one for fitness enthusiasts. All feature the signature round touchscreen of the first model, complete with “flat tyre” black border at the bottom of the screen, but a better battery life and, for the Sport, GPS functionality for tracking exercise.

Huawei’s smartwatch comes with a fashion focus, available in several finishes and with a Karlie Kloss campaign and a price up to $1,117, while ASUS’s ZenWatch 2 will arrive in two sizes and offer the latest Android Wear software compatible with Apple iPhones.

TomTom’s fitness-focused Spark smartwatch comes with a GPS chip, built-in music player, and activity-tracking apps.

The smartwatches will also have to compete with fitness bands from the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone, but Argus Insights argues its analysis of more than 300,000 consumer reviews shows smartwatches are being more positively received and could have a greater impact this year.

“Devices with more capabilities, like the Moto 360 and LG Watch Urbane continue to out-delight fitness bands,” according to its Consumer Wearable Demand report.

Motorola’s Moto X (Gen 4) may have full metal unibody

Lenovo-owned Motorola Mobility may already have started working on the fourth generation of its flagship Moto X smartphone. Although, details about the Moto X (Gen 4) are all but scarce at the moment, a leaked image doing the rounds on internet apparently shows off the phone — from the back — in all its metallic glory. You heard that right. If the purported image is to be gone by, we may be looking at Motorola’s first ever full metal unibody phone in the next Moto X.

Motorola currently has two Moto X phones in the market. One is the Moto X Play , while the other is the Moto X Style . Both the phones have a plastic build with the pricier Moto X Style having a metallic rim on the outside. According to the leaked image, the Moto X (Gen 4) will have a full metal unibody design which is slightly different from the current generation Moto phones. The vertical ascent that housed the camera module and the Moto logo seems to have been replaced by a larger, more prominent circular camera apparatus with a dualLED flash system incorporated inside. The Moto logo meanwhile sits flush below the camera. The upper and lower ends of the phone seem to sport a brushed polycarbonate finish, possibly to house the antennas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power button and volume rocker lie on the right while what appears to be the speaker vent is also placed on the lower end of the back. Sadly, that’s all the information we can gauge out from the leaked image.

Whether or not the upcoming Moto X will have two variants like the Moto X (Gen 3) is still not known. Also, there’s no information about the possible spec sheet of the alleged phone. That being said, the leak does raise expectations about what could be in store.