By Jungah Lee and Cliff Edwards
Samsung Electronics Co. set the price of its Galaxy Gear at $299 as the biggest maker of smartphones beat Apple Inc. in unveiling a wristwatch device that can make phone calls, surf the Web and take photos.
Featuring a 1.63-inch screen and 1.9-megapixel camera, the Gear will go on sale Sept. 25, the company announced.
The device will sync with tablets and smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android software.
Samsung showed the Galaxy Gear on Wednesday in Berlin at an event called IFA, Europe’s largest consumer-electronics show.
The companies are trying to invest in getting market share for wearable technology amid slowing growth in smartphones. The first companies to sell devices that multi-task could lock customers into their platform and boost device sales, with researcher Strategy Analytics expecting Samsung to ship 500,000 Galaxy Gears this year.
“Device makers like smartwatches because they are personal devices that are highly visible to consumers,” said Neil Mawston, an executive director at Strategy Analytics, in an email. “If you see your friend wearing a cool smartwatch on their wrist, you will probably want one, too.”
The Gear weighs 2.6 ounces, is available in six colors — including orange, gold and lime green — and has an ultra-thin screen using organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology. It has a fitness tracker and works with about 70 applications, according to Samsung. The device has a 4-gigabyte internal memory and 512 megabytes of RAM. It links wirelessly to a user’s smartphone to make calls.
Apple has a team of designers working on a watch-like device. The company sought trademark protection for the “iWatch” name in Japan, according to a June 3 filing. Sony already has its Smartwatch that syncs with Android handsets. The Smartwatch 2 will reach stores this month, and can be used as a second screen for the Xperia Z1 smartphone, Sony said at the IFA Berlin event.
“We expect Samsung Galaxy Gear to sell reasonably well, but it is most likely to be Apple that catalyzes the smartwatch industry,” Mawston said. “Apple should be able to blend the iWatch into its iOS ecosystem in a much tighter way than the fragmented Android community.”
Qualcomm Inc., the biggest maker of chips for mobile phones, will begin selling a connected wristwatch called Toq, the company said Wednesday.
Sales of wearable gadgets, including the Galaxy Gear and Google Inc.’s SmartGlass eyewear, will grow to 70 million units in 2017 from 15 million this year, according to Jupiter Research. The watch industry will generate more than $60 billion in sales this year.
Samsung also unveiled a product called Galaxy Note 3, a combination smartphone and tablet computer with a 5.7-inch screen, improved software and more accessories than its predecessor introduced at IFA a year ago.
Running on third-generation networks as well as the faster long-term evolution, the new Note has a 13-megapixel camera and allows users to simultaneously juggle two apps on the same screen with a digital pen, Samsung said.