Last year, Samsung was the first of the “big companies” to launch a smartwatch. They called it the Galaxy Gear, it ran Android under a heavily customized user interface (that, thankfully, didn’t have a special name), and it cost a lot of money. Reviews for the device weren’t the best in the world, while some pointed out the almost “test drive” approach of the device. This wasn’t meant to be Samsung’s best effort at a smartwatch. This was meant to be the device that made them first.
This was Samsung yelling, “First!” on all the comments sections on the Internet at the same time.
And they were first. While Samsung had the Galaxy Gear on store shelves, there were still just rumors about Apple, Google, LG, Microsoft, HTC (which was later confirmed by the company), and a ridiculous amount of other companies launching their own piece of wearable technology. The Galaxy Gear may not have technically paved the way for smart wearables on our wrists, but Samsung has the title when it comes to the biggest companies in mobile launching something in that market.
Was it worth it? Samsung has said in the past that they moved quite a few units of their Galaxy Gear wearable, so I imagine that, even if sales weren’t as high as they would have liked, they considered it a win in their book. After all, it was the first design, the first attempt, and I don’t think anyone at Samsung was unaware of the next step in the plan. While the Galaxy Gear was out there in the wild, they were already looking ahead — even more so than any other company looks ahead at the next device in any product lineup.
Almost immediately after the Galaxy Gear became available, we heard that Samsung was not only working on the Galaxy Gear 2, but aiming to release it at the beginning of 2014. The rumors suggested, hinted, and even nudged at the possibility of a Mobile World Congress launch. That would certainly change the yearly release schedule of so many other devices, the same schedule that most consumers have grown accustomed to over the years. But since it wasn’t official, everyone went about their business. Galaxy Gears were purchased.
Now, only a few months later, the successor(s) to the Galaxy Gear is here, and right on rumored schedule. Featuring a longer-lasting battery life (up to a reported 3 days, according to Samsung), and running Samsung’s Tizen OS instead of Android, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will launch in April for unspecified prices. The new wearables share the same look-and-feel (with some important changes to size and weight, mind you) as their predecessor, but it’s obvious Samsung did listen to all of the comments and reviews. They changed what needed to be changed — especially that battery life. You’ll also be able to change the smartwatch’s bands, apparently.
Samsung wanted to be first, but they also wanted a product out in the wild they could use as a test device. Not just one they had in labs, but one they could sell to consumers and listen to their feedback. This isn’t like a smartphone release, though. The Galaxy Gear never felt like a finalized product to me. This sort of just seals the deal.
The truth is, the Galaxy Gear never had to happen. Simply put, the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo are the smartwatches that Samsung should have launched in the first place. Full stop. Samsung should have known that consumers wouldn’t want a watch that lasted only a day with even low-to-moderate usage. They should have known watch owners would want to change the band.
Instead, those who bought a Galaxy Gear now have a device that effectively replaces their expensive device with features that the first should have had. If you own a Gear, it would make perfect sense if you wanted the Gear 2 or Gear 2 Neo, because they offer more than the original. The trouble is, with only five months separating launch announcements, and only six months separating launch dates, it’s almost too quick of a turnaround.
Then again, that will completely depend on the individual owner and what they want, or what they’re looking for. I think it will be interesting to see how well the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are adopted.