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 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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.”