Samsung’s upcoming high-end smartphone, the Galaxy S5, was supposed to be the company’s marquee announcement at this week’s Mobile World Congress, but another new device ended up stealing the show. Samsung’s new fitness-focused smartwatch, the Gear Fit, may be one of the first wearable gadgets people are actually excited to use.
Samsung more or less struck out with its first smartwatch last fall, the Galaxy Gear, which people complained was cumbersome and expensive at $299.99. While the company is offering improved iterations of the device with its Gear 2 and Gear Neo, the Gear Fit will have a narrower purpose as a fitness band targeted at health nuts instead of gadget geeks. With a curved 1.84-inch color screen, the Gear Fit should be sleeker and cheaper than its bulkier cousins. While lacking the bevy of apps available on the main Galaxy Gear line, the Gear Fit will still be able to display email and text notifications when synched up with a smartphone and even control a phone’s music. The device also has a heart rate monitor and can sync up with a health app on the Galaxy S5 phone. The Gear Fit’s simplicity could ultimately be its advantage as it tries to straddle the line between full-featured smartwatches and fitness bands like the Fitbit.
With so many watches, Samsung is obviously very bullish on the wearables market. That’s for good reason. Research firm Juniper estimates that 13 million wearable smart devices were sold in 2013, and that number will balloon to 130 million by 2018, creating a $19 billion industry. To claim dominance in this market Samsung will have to contend with startups like Pebble, whose smartwatch generated $10 million on Kickstarter, as well as tech giants like Sony. And of course, rumors persist that Apple will enter the wearables sector with an iWatch all its own.