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Will Samsung's Mad Dash Approach to Product Development Kill the Galaxy Gear before it Launches?
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
September 17, 2013

Will Samsung's Mad Dash Approach to Product Development Kill the Galaxy Gear before it Launches?

By Tony Rizzo
TMCnet Senior Editor

Just last week we took note of the rather significant differences between how Apple and Samsung operate. We noted that we consider Apple (News - Alert) a long term and long distance marathoner and we likened Samsung to taking the “mad dash” approach to product development. We also noted that we think of Samsung (News - Alert) as building endless rows of similar looking little houses that quickly go up and that we think of Apple as following the long slow process of building bespoke high end houses full of individualistic fervor.

Given this collection of viewpoints we are certainly not surprised to hear that Samsung’s first effort at wearable technology – the Galaxy Gear smart watch that the company announced back on September 4, 2013 – may soon go the way of the dinosaur. The latest rumors to emerge from a variety of the usual suspects suggests that Samsung has already returned to the drawing table to redesign the Galaxy Gear and to deliver a more finished version of it either in time for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in early January 2014 or for next year’s Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) event later in February 2014.

We can’t say that this news is particularly surprising. In fact, we predicted that Samsung might rush an incomplete design out the door in another article we wrote when the rumors first emerged –rumors that Samsung eventually confirmed. We await the arrival of our review device – we haven’t had any real hands-on time with it short of what our colleague Rachel Ramsey was able to see at the launch event itself. Now we wonder if those review devices will ever see the light of day. We are waiting to hear back from Samsung as we write.

The Galaxy gear itself has a number of design flaws. It isn’t a “handsome” device by any stretch – the design is totally non-descript (again, the cookie cutter houses approach), and it won’t connect to anything other than the new Note 3 and the Tab 10.1 – which renders it rather ineffective out of the box. Yes, we expect it will connect with the Galaxy S4 at some point and in all honesty, since it isn’t really available yet the fact that it didn’t connect to the S4 out of the box doesn’t matter a whole lot. Finally, there is a real problem with the device – battery life. The Galaxy Gear will apparently barely run longer than 24 hours without the need to recharge it and alas this is simply an unacceptable issue.

The “Watch” End of it Matters

A non-trivial part of the smartwatch is the “watch” and along with the watch goes all of the usual attributes of a watch. The single most important attribute for those of us who wear them is that you put your watch on and it runs and runs and runs. Every 8 or 9 months it may require a new battery; if you happen to tool around with a mechanical self-winding watch, as we do, it needs no servicing at all save for a tune-up every four years or so. The very notion of having to charge a watch every day is a hard one to deal with.

That the Galaxy Gear suffers from such acute power issues strongly suggests that the internal electronics design is flawed – or, more likely, is nothing more than a prototype design that was rushed out the door way ahead of its time. We believe this is exactly the case, and the fact that it doesn’t sync up with the Galaxy S4 flagship is further proof of this.

Why did Samsung do this? Because it believed it had to get a smartwatch out the door ahead of Apple’s September 10, 2013 announcements – just in case Apple had an iWatch up its sleeve, Samsung needed to, from a corporate business perspective, have a smartwatch already out in the market.

Apple, of course, did not introduce a smartwatch – though as we mention in the first article noted above – the M7 motion coprocessor that Apple has placed in the iPhone (News - Alert) 5S absolutely suggests that an iWatch and/or other wearable tech device is not very far away from being released. In any case, whatever that timeframe will be, it won’t be happening in time for the 2013 holiday buying season, which means that Samsung can breathe a small sigh of relief and no longer needs to worry about the Galaxy Gear version 1. It can die off while Samsung goes back to the labs to finish up the internal design. Perhaps it will even try to add at least a touch of design flair.

Samsung is also likely calculating that Apple won’t make a next product announcement until after MWC is over. We should note here that MWC had been the traditional event that Samsung used prior to this year to announce its next generation flagship smartphones. It is as good a time as any to launch a paired Galaxy S5 and Gear v2 (or whatever Samsung ends up calling them). Meanwhile, if Apple looks to be ready to make an announcement prior to MWC, Samsung can still try to rush out its next Gear design at CES (News - Alert). Apple does not attend either CES or MWC, so that leaves Samsung some marketing room and room to have the floor to itself.

Will all of these gyrations matter? No. Apple will end up owning the real smartwatch cachet regardless of when it deigns to introduce it. It’s our bet that Apple’s will be a fine piece of jewelry. We’re prepared to exchange our mechanical watch for it. Much as we’ll test the Galaxy Gear and much as we can love it, if it proves itself worthy, we know we won’t ever replace our mechanical watch with it.

And that makes all the difference.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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