The smartwatch competition is heating up just in time for summer. New reports today reveal that Samsung, the frontrunner in the smartwatch category, is preparing to take on its competition in June or July by releasing its rumored “Gear Solo,” which can make calls from a user’s wrist – without being tied to smartphone.
A report in the Wall Street Journal today reveals that Samsung is in talks with carriers in the US, as well as Europe and the company’s home of South Korea, to bring a standalone version of its Gear 2 smartwatch to market sometime in June or July. The details of the device are still relatively unknown, with unnamed sources saying that it will run on the Tizen OS like the Gear 2 and Gear Fit that are already on the market. The smartwatch will also be equipped with GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as the heart rate monitor that’s become a staple of the wearable tech category.
What will set this device apart will be its SIM card, which up to this point has been included only in smartphones and tablets. All other smartwatches have acted as companion devices to smartphones, and Samsung’s line of Gear devices have only worked with a select few of the company’s Galaxy smartphones. This device, however, would be able to access cellular networks for phone calls and mobile web access all on its own.
This is not the first example of Samsung’s plans to introduce the standalone smartwatch. Just last month, we heard that Samsung had filed a patent for something called “Gear Solo” in the Korean Intellectual Property Office, while rumors about a SIM-equipped smartwatch from Samsung had started swirling even earlier than that.
A smartwatch that can actually make phone calls is a neat trick, and could give Samsung a strong edge against its rivals when Google’s hotly anticipated smartwatches launch this summer. Since smartwatches already suffer from the conception that they’re little more than expensive smartphone accessories, outfitting a new watch with a SIM card could ben excellent way to set it apart from the pack.
That said, a smartwatch with a SIM card brings a whole other host of questions. For instance, most consumers who would even consider a device like this already have a smartphone. Would they really want to replace their phones with a watch for making calls and browsing the web on the go? Would anyone want to get a separate contract with a mobile carrier just to connect a smartwatch to cellular networks? Will there be any other improvements to the Gear Solo to silence critics of the Gear 2 and Gear Fit?
Samsung is clearly betting big on wearables, and smartwatches in particular. But smartwatches are already a pretty niche item. One capable of making calls and requiring another contract might be a niche that’s just too small.