Samsung’s latest smartwatch is dripping with Apple envy
Samsung is fighting back at Apple’s growing influence in the smartwatch category.
Samsung SSNLF 2.94% may have started producing smartwatches in 2013, but in the past year it’s fallen behind in terms of sales. Now the company hopes its new smartwatch, the Gear S2, can help it catch up. After all, it’s Samsung’s first smartwatch since the Apple Watch was released in April.
The company’s latest wearable could be its saving grace. Despite the fact that its mobile division continues to sell millions of smartphones per year, Samsung profits have dropped for seven straight quartersas its mobile division fights off companies like Xiaomi on the low-end and Apple AAPL -2.81% at the high-end.
The Gear S2 is a smartwatch with a round screen—Samsung’s first—that runs the company’s homegrown Tizen OS. It’s got a large round display that’s slightly sunken into the watch’s design, and is “11.4 millimeters thin,” according to Samsung. Its round screen sports a 360 x 360 resolution that works out to 302 pixels per inch. Meanwhile, it’s Samsung-made dual core processor clocked at 1GHz, and the watch’s 250mAh battery can last up to two to three days. The Gear S2 can serve up notifications, track fitness stats, and can take voice input.
Samsung’s never been shy about borrowing design inspiration from Apple, and the Gear S2 continues that trend. Even before it launched, many noticed that the Gear S2 app hub proudly displayed round app bubbles that bear more than a passing resemblance to the Apple Watch’s grid of apps.
Samsung, perhaps in response to the Apple Watch’s digital crown, added a physical scroll to help users go through menus and select options. Unlike the digital crown, however, the Samsung Gear S2’s entire bezel will rotate. The Gear S2 also has two flush buttons on its right side for home and away.
One of the Gear S2’s banner features is that it works with Samsung Pay, a new mobile payment system that launched in the United States last week. With the Gear S2, you can make payments at certain points of sale equipped with NFC, similar to how Apple Pay works.
But the biggest similarity between the Apple Watch and Samsung’s new smartwatch is in terms of scope. In order for the Gear S2 to perform most of its functions, it will need to be paired with a smartphone—and that smartphone will need to be made by Samsung. (The Apple Watch only works with Apple devices.)
Samsung sold 73 million smartphones in Q2 2015, so it’s not like there is a shortage of eligible handsets and owners out there. But Android Wear, Google’s smartwatch operating system, can be used with billions of devices, including most Android devices, and more recently, Apple’s iPhone as well.
There will be three versions of the Samsung Gear S2. The mainstream Gear S2 comes in black and is paired with a leather band. The Gear S2 Classic is slightly smaller and lighter, and has a different look with its knurled bezel. There is also a version packing a 3G modem, as well, that allows users to make calls through their smartwatch, but unlike the device’s predecessor (the Gear S) a cellular connection is not a requirement. Samsung hasn’t shared price or release dates yet.
Samsung did not announce a new smartwatch running Android Wear, although it has released smartwatches running Google’s operating system in the past. One big downside to Samsung going its own way in terms of smartwatch software is that the Gear S2 won’t be able to tap into the thousands of Android Wear apps currently available.
The Gear S2 is Samsung’s seventh smartwatch, although other newcomers have managed to leapfrog the company in recent months. A recent report found that Samsung only shipped 600,000 smartwatches last quarter, which puts the Korean giant behind Garmin, Xiaomi, Apple, and Fitbit in the quest for wrists.
However, the needle is pointing in the right direction: Samsung’s wearable sales were over twice what they were last year. Samsung’s hoping its new Gear S2 can keep the momentum going.