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Samsung smart watch in the works

Samsung executive Lee Young Hee confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg that Samsung is working on a smart watch, combining the capabilities of a smart phone and a wristwatch.

By Steph Solis / March 20, 2013

The Pebble smartwatch is one of the few smart-watch devices on the market. A Samsung executive confirmed that the company is making a watch with capabilities similar to a smart phone's.

Pebble

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A Samsung executive told Bloomberg that the mobile company is in the process of creating a smart watch, combining smart-phone capabilities with the convenience of a wristwatch.

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“We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” says Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business. “We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”

Lee did not elaborate on what features the device would include, nor did he discuss the cost or expected release date.

The news comes after rumors have circulated about a smart watch from Apple. Bloomberg reports that about 100 product designers are said to be working on a wristwatch-like device that works like an iPhone or iPad.

Smart-watch devices have emerged on the market over the last year, one of the best examples being the Pebble smart watch. The watch is a Bluetooth-enabled device that works with iOS and Android phones. The project was introduced in a Kickstarter drive, as its team sought up to $100,000 of donations. The project ended up receiving more than $10 million, becoming one of the most successful drives Kickstarter has ever had. 

Sony released a similar product last year. The Sony Smartwatch lets you pair the watch with an Android phone to view weather forecasts, control music playback, and see e-mail and other notifications on your wrist.

While the rumors about an Apple watch are unconfirmed, the news of a Samsung watch raise questions about whether it would surpass an Apple watch just as Samsung’s Galaxy phones have done with the iPhones.

Jared Newman of Time’s Techland blog notes that Samsung could surpass Apple simply by stepping into the smart-watch market as the anti-Apple alternative. 

“If Apple does build a smartwatch that’s deeply integrated with the iPhone, it may be of limited use to Android phone owners," Mr. Newman writes. "Samsung could easily step in and be the anti-Apple alternative, just as it’s done with its Galaxy phones. The company outspent Apple on marketing last year, and it’ll likely keep on spending to puff up the Galaxy brand and sell more products to existing customers — including smart watches.”

Samsung could bring better Galaxy phone integration (which Pebble’s smart watch has struggled to do) and an aesthetically appealing display technology, according to Newman. However, Samsung could face a number of challenges as well: its lack of its own app store and a comparatively poor voice control feature, to name a few.

The competition over successful smart watches is not surprising considering the slowing pace of innovation in the mobile market, says Steve Hilton, principal analyst at Analysys Mason.

“In developed markets (like the USA and Western Europe), the growth in traditional wireless connections has slowed down considerably,” Mr. Hilton says. “We all have tablets and smart phones already. Manufacturers are looking to connect the unconnected. The connected watch is one example of the burgeoning Internet-of-things world.”

And as in most cases, new device mean new, and likely more successful ways, for mobile companies to profit than with traditional wireless connections, Hilton says.

“Like most things in the [Internet-of-things] world, the ARPU [average revenue per user] associated with the connected device is noticeably lower than the ARPU from traditional wireless connections, but the profitability can be very nice as long as the operating and capital costs to a mobile network operator are also low.”

For more tech news, follow Steph on Twitter: @stephmsolis

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