After weeks of speculation, the ‘Dick Tracy’ smartwatch from Samsung – the Samsung Gear S – is finally here, with its 3G connectivity and smartphone independence.
As a standalone device, we at Wareable think it looks pretty promising. Granted, you need a new SIM to take advantage of the telephony features and yes, Samsung’s gone it alone by choosing Tizen over Android Wear and, we know, the Gear S uses the same-sized battery as the Gear Live to power 3G and a bigger AMOLED screen - which can't be a good thing.
But what we’re really worried about is that Samsung is in danger of suffocating the smartwatch market before it’s even had a chance to shine. Let us explain.
The definition of over saturation
In one of its more prolific periods last year the Korean behemoth unleashed 28 new smartphones onto the high streets of the world in just an 11 month period.
While it was easy enough to decipher what handsets Samsung considered its most important ‘flagships’ were, by the fuss it afforded to their launches and of course the price-tags, the middle and lower end of the spectrum were a far more complicated affair; with budget-restricted consumers offered up a mesmerising plethora of similarly priced and similarly spec’d devices.
Samsung has released six new Gear smartwatches in less than a year
And it looks as if it is taking the same approach to the emerging smartwatch market. The original Samsung Galaxy Gear was unveiled on 4 September 2013, at the IFA expo in Berlin. The Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit were announced at MWC in February this year and went on sale in April.
The first Android Wear smartwatch from Samsung, the Gear Live, was demoed at Google I/O in March, before going on sale in June and now, just 357 days after the first ever Samsung Gear smartwatch was announced, we have the Samsung Gear S.
That’s six new Gear smartwatches in less than a year.
Just throw it at all wall, see what sticks
We know Samsung won’t consider this as a problem. The company sold over 300 million smartphones in 2013, with mobile analyst Juniper Research suggesting that almost 1 in 3 of every new smartphones sold was a ticket to the Samsung Galaxy.
Essential reading: Samsung Gear S hands-on review
The smartwatch segment seems to be going the same way. IT analyst Canalys stated that Samsung had a 23% share of the ‘smart wearable band’ sector in the first quarter of 2014 (with just one smartwatch on sale at that time), behind both Sony and Pebble. But recently published figures suggest the company is now well out ahead in a marketplace that has seen growth of over 250%.
The trouble is that in the same way that the smartphone market – below the higher-priced top end devices – became confusing for the regular consumer, the smartwatch market is in danger of treading the same path.
Samsung’s tried and tested method of throwing new products at the wall and seeing what sticks might work for the company’s bottom line – but there’s no benefit to early smartwatch adopters if there are blurred lines between a bunch of very similar devices; and there’s no reward for people who’ve spent money on the latest and greatest Samsung Gear device, only to see it superseded a couple of months later.
Samsung's method of throwing products at the wall to see what sticks is of no benefit to early adopters
So while we obviously want to see these new wearable industry grow and prosper, we’d rather see companies like Samsung taking their time, refining their products, and focusing on the user experience.
We’re sure the Samsung Gear S is a fine device, and it will most likely the best Samsung smartwatch on the market when it goes on sale in October. But does that mean you should all go out and buy one? We’re not so sure.
It's not over...
The risk is that people will feel short changed when the inevitable next Gear smartwatch is shown off, and already there are rumours that a circular Android Wear Samsung smartwatch will be becoming a reality in the near future. With LG just unleashing its awesome looking G Watch R, this is bound to happen sooner rather than later.
Buyer’s guide: What Samsung Gear should you buy?
Our message to Samsung is a simple one: give consumers a fair crack at having the latest must-have device without needing to upgrade every couple of months.
We love that you have embraced the wearable tech revolution with so much vigour but give the emerging smartwatch genre time to breathe, and spend time solving the challenges of this exciting new market, rather than dominating the market with quantity over quality.
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