While Samsung now has more solid footing in the smartwatch game with the Gear line, the company was on more shaky ground back in 2011, when Apple Watch rumors first began. Those rumors indicated that Apple was working on a revolutionary health device, and Samsung was worried.
That's according to a new in-depth feature from Fast Company, which reports that the Korean company wanted to beat Apple to the punch with its own version of an advanced health wearable, the Simband.
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Samsung tasked the project to a relatively new division called the Samsung Innovation and Strategy Center, rather than Samsung Mobile, which was working on its own smartwatch project, the eventual Galaxy Gear.
After a couple of years in development, and a couple more years of increasingly bombastic Apple Watch rumors, Samsung started feeling the pressure. It scheduled an event called 'Voice of the Body' a week before Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, largely because it believed Apple was ready to announce the Watch (it wasn't, and wouldn't be for another six months).
Samsung showed off the Simband, a modular health watch that could be outfitted with custom health sensors to track blood pressure, skin temperature, sweat production, and heart rate. It also showed SAMI, a cloud-based platform that could instantly share all this information with doctors.
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Development proceeded smoothly after the event, until the Apple Watch was officially announced in September. That's when "the air went out of the tires," one engineer told Fast Company. The Apple Watch wasn't a revolutionary health device, it was a standard smartwatch. Once Samsung cleared its eyes of fear of missing out and realized it totally misjudged what Apple was doing, the Korean company saw the problems with the Simband: regulatory hurdles, research and development costs, and missing out on selling low-cost fitness bands like Fitbit to consumers.
The project soon lost key members as Samsung Mobile's Gear watches took precedence. Today, the Simband project is still being worked on, but not even close to the pace that it was before. Ah, the power of good competition.