Business, Hardware

MWC14: Samsung Launches Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear 2 Neo

Lots of people have been wondering about when Samsung would be announcing the Galaxy Gear 2, and as the leaks about Galaxy Gear 2 started to increase leading up to MWC 2014 in Barcelona, it appeared to be a done deal. So, we come to you today with a confirmation of those rumors, as Samsung has officially announced the new Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear 2 Neo. Samsung hasn?t wasted their time launching the Galaxy Gear 2 and the Neo as it hasn?t even been 6 months since they originally launched the first Galaxy Gear. This new update, however, makes a lot of significant changes to the hardware and software, many of which are welcome by the Galaxy Gear?s critics.

The expectation, though, was that Samsung would be launching one new device, not two. I believe that the need for Samsung to launch the two different models primarily comes from the fact that a lot of people are not okay with the camera on the Gear and probably won?t be able to wear it to a lot of places because of the camera. In the Gear 2, Samsung has improved the device?s overall thickness and removed the camera from the wristband and integrated it into the watch case. This makes the wristband much lighter, more flexible and overall more comfortable. Not to mention, it also makes it easier to change bands if you would want to do something like that in the future. While I?m not sure what Samsung?s plans are here, I think an optional metal or leather band will get a lot of fans for this watch.

In terms of hardware, they?ve upped the watch?s capabilities by including a 720P video recording function and added a hardware home button so that you don?t have to constantly swipe down to go back to the main menu like the original Galaxy Gear. They also added an IR blaster to the Galaxy Gear 2, which means that the watch can now function as a remote for any TV or device that accepts IR signals. The truth is that this functionality is a nice thing to have, but I don?t really see many people controlling their TVs with a smartwatch, the screen is just too small. There is also a built-in heart rate monitor in the Galaxy Gear 2 which will make this smartwatch a much more relevant wearable with more functionality than its predecessor.

The real unfortunate part for Samsung with this new watch is that they didn?t really improve the charging solution at all. It still has the pins on the watch itself which then requires you to dock the watch into a cradle that has a USB port and then you charge it through the dock. The inherent problem with this is that users will be forced to carry this dock around with them everywhere they go and cannot be easily replaced like, say a MicroUSB cable. The lack of a wireless charging solution is a little disappointing when you consider others out there already have it, and I would expect many more to relatively soon.

The Galaxy Gear 2 and the Neo will both have the same 320×320 AMOLED display that the original Galaxy Gear had, but will actually ship with a smaller battery. Not only will it ship with a 300 mAh battery compared to the 315 mAh of the original, but they will also be bumping the on-board dual-core SoC to 1 GHz from 800 MHz. This should help improve performance and responsiveness, but it may cause the smartwatch?s already mediocre battery life to get worse than it already is. During our testing of the original Galaxy Gear, it only lasted about a day to a day and a half which simply isn?t enough. However, there is a chance that with the Galaxy Gear 2?s software improvements they could get significant power savings. The biggest problem, though, is that because this watch as an AMOLED display it still can?t be ?always on? which is a huge problem for something that?s supposed to be a watch.
They?ve also made a huge change to the device?s OS, as it no longer runs Android. Instead, it runs Samsung and Intel?s own ?open source? operating system which was once known as Meego until Nokia killed it. I believe that this is the right decision on Samsung?s part because it should make this device easier to sell in the long term as a standalone device and it can also be more easily hacked.

The Galaxy Gear 2 and the Gear Neo 2 will be available in Black, Grey and Orange while the Gear 2 will also come in a gold-ish brown and a full metal watch face, much like the original. Both versions of the new Galaxy Gear 2 will be available in April for a yet to be determined price, although I would expect the Neo to sell for much less than the regular Galaxy Gear 2 due to the lack of a camera and premium watch face. Based on the previous price of the Galaxy Gear and the new models, I would expect the Gear 2 to sell for about the same $279-$299 price while the Gear 2 Neo will probably sell for $199 in order to make it more accessible to those not wanting a camera and premium watch face. We?ll be following any more details we hear about the Galaxy Gear 2 and any other new wearables at Mobile World Congress and beyond and will report them to you as soon as we get them.