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With Apple expected to launch an iWatch in October, other vendors including Samsung, LG and Motorola, are getting a headstart with smartwatches in varied shapes and colors.
Smartwatches from Sony, Pebble and others have been on the market for a while, and the category continues to heat up. Samsung put three wrist wearables on sale in April, including two Tizen-based smartwatches.
Meanwhile, the new Android Wear OS from Google has ignited interest from LG Electronics and Motorola, with both companies shipping their gear as early as July. The most recent rumors peg October as the release date for an Apple smartwatch, and any iWatch will surely send fans into a frenzy.
Here's Samsung’s family of wrist wearables that went on sale in April. From left, the Gear 2 smartwatch has a price tag of $300, while the Gear Fit fitness band and the Gear 2 Neo smartwatch will each set you back $200. Both smartwatches use the Tizen OS and operate via Bluetooth with the Android-based Galaxy S5 smartphone.
The Gear Fit uses a proprietary Samsung OS that links via Bluetooth to the Galaxy S5. The cheaper Neo has almost the same features as its Gear 2 cousin, but comes without a camera, has more plastic around the watch face and is slightly smaller and lighter. All three have a vinyl wristband and get charged with a small connector attached to the back.
The Gear Fit
The Gear Fit shares some of the functions of the two new Samsung smartwatches and has the world's first curved SuperAMOLED color display, which measures 1.84 inches diagonally. With much of the focus on its styling, it also offers a heart rate sensor (as do the smartwatches) that focuses a beam of light at the top of the wrist. When properly worn, (snugly behind the wrist bone) heart rate measurement tests by Computerworld were consistently below the rates measured by a treadmill in a gym and off by as much as 12%.
With the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the accuracy of the heart rate monitor readings were better.
The Gear 2 adds plenty of functions to use with its 1.63-in. display and 1 GHz dual-core processor. It offers a 2-megapixel camera for taking video and still images, and has a speaker and microphone for making phone calls or listening to music that can also be ported to a Bluetooth headset.
There's a touchscreen dialer (shown) to make phone calls, or you can find a contact in your connected smartphone to make calls over the phone's wireless network. With 4GB of storage, the Gear 2 has enough room for an assortment of songs for workouts, short videos and even an audible coaching program to tell you to slow down or speed up on a run.
Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo fitness functions are similar: Both respond to voice commands with S Voice when you can't easily touch the watch during a workout. You can also set goals for a fitness plan, which can be enhanced with connections to the S Health app shown here (and others from third parties) on the smartphone. Apps that combine GPS tracking from the smartphone with vital measurements from a run can be stored for future reference.
The devices are also dust and water resistant, but there's no rating for resistance to drops and other shocks. If fitness doesn't interest you, both can be used as TV controllers, and all three Samsung wearables can be used to find your connected smartphone.
LG G Watch
LG and Motorola are both producing Android Wear smartwatches that will go on sale soon. The LG-produced teaser video here shows the metal body of its version, the LG G Watch. It will be waterproof and will come with a white or black band.
An unnamed source told the Web site 3G that the G Watch will go on sale July 1 along with the LG G3 smartphone. The smartwatch will have a 1.65-in. always-on display and will be compatible with devices running Android KitKat.
Motorola is expected to put the Moto 360 smartwatch on sale shortly after the LG G. The big focus at Motorola is on the round face of the Moto 360 device, which posed some difficulties for designers who were used to a conventional square design and were new to Android Wear, the new OS behind both devices.
Google posted a blog June 3 that went into some detail about Google Wear in advance of its developer conference Google I/O on June 25 and 26. "Think of apps on wearable devices as ... overlays on the OS itself," the blog says.
Apple is rumored to enter the smartwatch category with an iWatch (or a similar name) focused on health this fall, probably in October. Most recently, the Nikkei Asian Review cited unnamed sources who said the wearable device will have a curved OLED display, and that Apple will partner with Nike on it.
A UI designer named Todd Hamilton created renderings of a potential iWatch for a blog in January that has been making the rounds again lately. The renderings include this red one displaying someone's latest run of nearly a mile in 7:09 minutes. There's also a video. There's little doubt that an Apple smartwatch will draw attention, as did the first iPhone and iPad.