What’s Wrong With Samsung’s Newest Smartwatch

Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch in silver

Source: Samsung.com

 

Samsung recently released its new Gear S2 smartwatch, a device that’s tasked with finding Samsung some solid ground in a smartwatch market currently dominated by the Apple Watch. While Samsung unveiled the new Gear S2 models shortly after Google announced that Android Wear watches would work with Apple’s iPhone, opening a wide range of future devices to users who aren’t Android phone owners, Samsung’s smartwatches are only compatible with Samsung phones. Though we don’t know yet for sure, Gear S2 is likely to be no different, because all three new versions of the smartwatch run on Samsung’s own Tizen operating system, which will limit the appeal and reach of the devices.

CNET’s Scott Stein and John Falcone break down the array of different models available, noting that the Gear S2 is actually a family of watches that are made in two different styles, both 11.4mm thick. The main model is simply called the Gear S2 and has a minimalist look, while the more-traditional Gear S2 Classic is equipped with a black body and a leather band. The Gear S2 model is slightly larger and heavier than the Classic. Both watches feature a rotating bezel that enables users to scroll through apps and interfaces.

On the inside, the two models are largely the same, and the 1.2-inch 360×360 screen uses the same AMOLED tech used by Samsung’s smartphone screens. The watch is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor, includes 4GB of storage, and packs an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor, and barometer.

The watch’s sensors trackers will feed data either to S Health, which is Samsung’s own software, or Nike+ Running. The watches also integrate Bluetooth 4.1 for communicating with smartphones and audio devices, plus WiFi. The Gear S2 model can also include 3G capability. Both models should get two to three days of battery life, though the Gear S2 model with 3G will only get about two.

As Spencer Soper reports for Bloomberg, Samsung didn’t release any apps for the Gear S2 when it launched the device, though it said that the Gear S2 will support mobile payments, smart car keys, and remote control of smart home devices. The watch will also include notifications for calendars, email, and news, plus enable users to send text messages. But Samsung has a tough road ahead of it on the apps front, since the Gear S2 launched with no third-party apps — and no real ecosystem with which to attract developers to create them.

Geoffrey Smith reports for Fortune that Samsung has struggled to attract app developers to its Tizen operating system, “something that might limit the watch’s functionality until the company can build out the ecosystem to something more resembling Android’s (or iOS’s).” And Shara Tibken reports for CNET that even though Samsung has both sponsored contests and assisted developers in creating Tizen apps, “most app developers go with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software, with Microsoft’s Windows software for phones and Tizen often afterthoughts.” Additionally, Tibken points out that Samsung has traditionally struggled with software, and many of its homegrown apps have been called “bloatware.”

Another challenge is that developers who have created apps for previous Smasung wearables will need to change their designs for the new round face, since the Gear S2 leaves the squared-off design of previous Samsung smartwatches behind. Samsung gave developers months of lead-time by giving them the software in April, but Tibken notes that for many developers, creating a Tizen app isn’t yet worth it.
A device needs to have lots of users for it to be worthwhile for a developer to create an app, but it often requires many good apps to get people to buy a device. Tibken suggests that it may be up to Samsung to create useful new apps on its own, and later expand the ecosystem with software from its partners. (Making the Gear S2 work with a wider range of Android devices, and even with Apple’s iPhone, would also be a wise move if Samsung is serious about attracting a wide user base to the new smartwatch.)

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