Are you geeky enough to buy a $300 smartwatch?
The company beat out rivals Apple and Google to launch. But consumers and experts seem wary of the Galaxy Gear and its possible limitations.
Is the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch by Samsung (SSNLF) the next big thing in social media devices?
The company certainly hopes so, as judged by the product's unveiling Wednesday at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.
The Galaxy Gear (pictured) has a lot of the bells and whistles consumers expect: a large screen -- but not too large for your wrist -- that allows the user to access a variety of apps, make phone calls, take still pictures, check email and, of course, track the time.
But a number of industry analysts point out that while Samsung may have beaten out Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and other competitors with its Galaxy Gear launch, the smartwatch has some technical shortcomings that may make it less of the breakthrough iPod moment some observers were hoping for.
One big issue with the Galaxy Gear is its limited battery life. According to the BBC, Samsung says the device "should last roughly a day with 'regular use' when new, but those wanting a more intense experience will have to recharge it more often."
There are also critics who wonder whether the Galaxy Gear and other smartwatches are just trendy extensions of smartphones. Deyan Sudjic, the director of the Design Museum in London, says Samsung is being schizophrenic about the message it's trying to communicate to consumers.
"Samsung's problems aren't just technical," he told the BBC. "Their designers have tangled with something that goes beyond technology. We wear wristwatches for all kinds of complex emotional reasons, of which telling the time is no more than an alibi."
Time Magazine was more blunt with this criticism: "It's big. It's gaudy. It's packed with fancy hardware and comes loaded with software features -- some of which you'd probably never use."
The Galaxy Gear is scheduled to go on sale Sept. 25 and will cost around $300. But experts note the smartwatch industry is still in its infancy and will need to evolve with demand.
Neil Mawston, an executive director at research firm Strategy Analytics, told The Wall Street Journal that smartwatch manufacturers are "clearly still in the experimental phase today of trying to figure out what consumers and businesses really want."
Mawston also noted this first generation of smartwatches should see modest global sales of about 1.2 million this year, with that number expected to rise to around 7 million in 2014.
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Reports say the generous benefactor behind the huge gratuities is a former PayPal executive.
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