Samsung and LG launch new watches while Apple waits

By Dave Lee
Technology reporter, BBC News

image copyrightSamsung
image captionThe Samsung Gear S has a curved screen, designed to be better suited to the wrist

South Korean tech firms LG and Samsung have announced more smartwatches, ahead of a widely anticipated entry to the sector from Apple.

The devices, from LG and Samsung, suggest renewed attempts to create a smartwatch that is perhaps more fashionable than previous efforts.

Samsung's Gear S features a curved screen, while LG's G Watch R has a more classic watch design.

Apple is rumoured to be preparing to launch its device next month.

Technology news site Recode has said the smartwatch - dubbed iWatch by Apple's fans and some of the press - will debut on 9 September.

However, in typically tight-lipped fashion, Apple has yet to confirm its plans. The company has sent out invites to a launch event, but did not share any clues about what would be on show.

Furthermore, analyst Benedict Evans noted that a lack of leaks showing a design for the watch might suggest production had not yet started.

Other sources, including the Wall Street Journal, also anticipate the unveiling of a 12.9in iPad.

Killer design

Other brands have been keen to set out their wares.

Smartwatches are expected to be a major focus of the forthcoming IFA conference.

The Berlin-based show is considered to be the European equivalent to the bigger Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held at the start of the year in Las Vegas.

At last year's IFA, Samsung launched its first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, and has since gone on to launch five more.

image copyrightLG
image captionLG's new offering has a more traditional style of telling the time

The surge of products was a sign, one analyst told the BBC, that the company was throwing everything it had into getting ahead.

"Samsung are deliberately trying to do something different," said Ben Wood, from CCS Insight, drawing attention to the latest model's curved screen.

"We're in an era of experimentation - no-one really knows what the killer design for a smartwatch is.

"Samsung's playing their strengths because they have curved screen technology in their portfolio.

"It does look very edgy in terms of design. Ergonomically, a curved screen makes a lot of sense around your wrist."

The Gear S uses Samsung's own operating system - Tizen - rather than Google's Android platform.

The watch also has space for a SIM card, meaning it can be used as a stand-alone device - other smartwatches are typically paired with a user's smartphone in order to receive information.

'Fashion statement'

Yet while Samsung does have a lead in the smartwatch market, it is certainly not a commanding one.

One reason for this, Mr Wood suggested, could be because the devices - from Samsung and others - are not seen as being particularly fashionable.

"They've got to look nice to be attractive to the mass market," he said. "A clunky piece of gadget bling is not really what the whole world wants.

image copyrightMotorola
image captionThe Moto 360 impressed tech fans due to its round shape

"Watches are first and foremost a fashion statement, it says something about you as a person."

Motorola drew plaudits earlier this year when it announced its Moto 360 smartwatch, which had a distinctive trait - it was round.

LG's G Watch R follows that line of design, adding more traditional aspects including analogue-style hands to display the time.

It is powered by Android Wear, Google's adapted operating system for wearable devices.

More details about both Samsung's and LG's watches - such as release dates and pricing - are expected at IFA next week.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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