LONDON: Samsung Electronics Company has been making another run at that perennial technogeek dream, the wrist communicator, with plans in the next few months to unveil a smartwatch that works as a stand-alone phone.
Samsung’s watch-phone will be able to make and receive calls without being tethered to a smartphone, something most smart watches on the market now can’t do, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. It will also take photos, send email and come with GPS, Bluetooth and a heart monitor.
The South Korean technology company currently the top seller of smartphones is in talks with telecommunications carriers in the U.S., South Korea and Europe about the watch-phone. It will run on Samsung’s homegrown operating system, Tizen, which was co-developed with Intel Corp.
The recent craze for wearables has breathed new commercial life into wrist-communication devices, with companies including Google Inc. and ZTE Corp. planning smartwatches. Apple Inc., Samsung’s closest rival in smartphones, is widely expected to launch a smartwatch later this year.
Samsung has four on the market including the Galaxy Gear, powered by Google’s Android operating system, and the Gear 2, running on Tizen. The company has been marketing them with clever ads, one of which traced the evolution of watch-type communication devices from Dick Tracy through television shows such as “Knight Rider” and Star Trek.
Samsung’s new watch-phone, which will come with a SIM card, will be one of a handful of stand-alone devices on the market, and the only one yet from a major manufacturer.
Market-research firm IDC expects shipments of wearable devices including smartwatches to triple this year to more than 19 million units; smartphone sales are expected to increase 19% to 1.2 billion units.
The smartwatches have another function for Samsung, however. The company is increasingly using them to test out its Tizen operating system, the centerpiece of Samsung’s push into software to better compete with Apple and Google.