Wearable Tech

Samsung Rolls Out Stylish Gear S2 Classic Smartwatches

Samsung on Monday began a global rollout of the latest versions of its Gear S2 Classic smartwatch, hitting China first.

There are two models in the Gear S2 Classic New Edition line — one with 18K rose gold plating and the other with a platinum finish.

They have ivory and black genuine leather bands, respectively.

The watches’ new faces feature characters from the Peanuts comic strip, as well as designs created by artists including Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Twisting the bezel changes the face.

New apps from CNN and Bloomberg include their own specialized watch face features.

Samsung also has added apps from eBay, ESPN, Uber and Voxer.

Introduced at CES in January, the New Edition line also includes Samsung Pay, NFC technology that soon will be available to users, beginning in the United States.

Samsung didn’t indicate pricing for the line.

Fashion Forward

“The new designs launched at CES are part of the larger trend towards more bling and enhanced appeal for women that we also saw from Huawei at CES, and from models like the Moto 360 2 and Pebble Time Round earlier this year,” remarked Cliff Raskind, a senior research director at Strategy Analytics.

That sensibility is reflected in “the premium metal-plated models, campy watch faces, and … leather straps,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The larger trend, of course, is that smartwatches are meeting the challenge of adding style and fashion a lot faster than they’re meeting the challenge of practical day-to-day convenience — battery life, comfort, size,” Raskind said.

Too Cool for the Real World?

Despite being extremely well made, with an intuitive interface and other good features, the Gear S2, predecessor of the New Edition line, reportedly has connectivity issues and only a limited number of apps for its Tizen OS, according to Kris Carlon, who reviewed it for AndroidPit.

Those aren’t the only reported problems.

“You can’t use the Verizon Message+ to respond through the watch. Typing is a joke … can’t use Gmail app to look at entire mailbox, only notifications, have to set up the email app to see everything,” said Foxy in a comment posted in response to the AndroidPit review.

When using WhatsApp on the Gear S2, the reply icon disappeared and couldn’t be retrieved even after the smartphone had been reset, reported Alfred Tang in another comment.

Battery life was “five to seven hours instead of the advertised 30 or 48” after the Instagram app was downloaded and used, BlueEyed Apache complained. “You can get a good 25+ hours from the battery but only if you use the watch solely for telling time.”

However, dropped connections weren’t a problem for commenter Adeshina Adeniran, who wrote that using the Gear S2 was “amazing and fun.”

Getting Better All the Time?

Lack of apps is a problem, but “with ESPN, Uber and CNN, I think we’re seeing the big names come in,” said Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.

“We need to see more local ones, but these are good ones to have,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Tizen smartwatch shipments will grow from 1.7 million units shipped in 2015, with 8.2 percent of the market, to 2.5 million in 2019, according to IDC.

That’s a 9.5 percent compound annual growth rate, but it won’t be enough. The market share for Tizen smartwatches will slip to 2.8 percent in 2019.

“More ecosystem and SDK focus is clearly needed if Tizen is to compete head to head in apps with watchOS, Android Wear, and even Pebble’s budding developer ecosystem,” said Strategy Analytics’ Raskind.

Tizen “remains much more confined to Samsung, limiting its ecosystem potential,” he continued, while Android Wear, watchOS and Pebble OS “continue to evolve and gain a following.” Attracting more developers to build more Tizen apps “will not be an easy task from its current low base.”

There might yet be hope, Raskind suggested, because Samsung Electronics’ new chief, DJ Koh, who took over the role Dec. 1, has the required software chops to address the apps shortfall.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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