Rumors have swirled for months that Apple has an “iWatch” in development—but Samsung could become the first manufacturer with a “smartwatch” device on store shelves, if a new report from Bloomberg is correct.
Two unnamed sources told the newswire that the Samsung “smartwatch” would be called the Galaxy Gear and make its debut in September, possibly in the days leading up to the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. Neither of those sources wished to be identified due to the sensitivity of the project.
The report indicated that the first version of the Galaxy Gear will not have a bendable screen, although one is apparently in the works; aside from that, details of the device’s capabilities and design were sparse.
If Samsung actually releases a smartwatch in the next few weeks, it would not only preempt a possible Apple device, but similar hardware reportedly under development by Microsoft, Dell, and other tech titans.
Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen estimated the global watch industry’s annual revenue at $60 billion a year, with gross margins of roughly 60 percent. “This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod,” he told Bloomberg in March, “something consumers didn’t even know they needed.”
Rumors suggest that Apple has dozens of designers, engineers, and other specialists working on a timepiece. Earlier this year, The Verge reported that Apple has “chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano’s proprietary touch operating system,” which led to battery issues. (While Apple apparently wants the device to last “at least 4-5 days” between charges, the current prototypes apparently offer somewhat less.)
But as with Bloomberg and Samsung, reports of possible iWatch features remain skimpy. In theory, a “smartwatch” could offer a host of navigation, mobile-payment, and phone- and email-related apps; but the small screen, combined with the need for lengthy battery life, pose significant challenges to any manufacturer seeking to put out such a device. If those challenges could be overcome, then “smartwatches” stand a chance of becoming the Next Big Thing—not to mention the Next Big Battleground between longtime rivals Samsung and Apple.