Samsung unveils new smartwatch: Can it compete with Fitbit, Apple?

Samsung's previous lines of smartwatches have had trouble gaining a large portion of the market share, possibly due to the limited number of available apps. The company says the latest generation will have more app options.

Mary Altaffer/AP
The ESPN app displays a baseball score on Samsung’s Gear S2 during a presentation in New York, Tuesday. Samsung says it expects about 1,000 apps to be available when the S2 launches.

This week Samsung introduces a new smartwatch, the Gear S2, to join the six they already have on the market. That isn’t the only challenge the South Korean conglomerate will face with this product, as it will be competing not only with the already fast-selling Apple Watch, but with Google’s recent Android Wear line.

According to global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation, Apple holds the No. 2 slot for makers of wearable devices in the April-June quarter, with a 20 percent worldwide market share. The Fitbit and its fitness trackers held No. 1 at 24 percent. Samsung was fifth with just 3.3 percent.

Samsung promises new apps, a new circular face, and a longer battery life (two days versus 18 hours) for the Gear S2 over Apple’s line of smartwatches, but did not provide additional details. The company said demos of the new apps will come Thursday at the IFA tech show in Berlin. They also declined to provide information on a specific price or release date for the Gear S2.

The limited selection of apps is one of the main challenges facing Samsung's smartwatches. They have been around for longer than the Apple Watch but haven't generated as much interest or sales. It has been difficult for app developers to create applications for Samsung products because they use their own operating system, Tizen.

When The Christian Science Monitor has reviewed the Samsung Gear line of smartwatches in the past, we have come to the conclusion that these watches are not always the best deal on the smartwatch scene. The reasoning has been that while the watch is significantly cheaper than others on the market, past versions of the Samsung Gear smartwatch have required additional data charges for in-watch capabilities. In addition, because Samsung products only run on the Tizen operating system, the watches have had a limited compatibility with phones beyond Samsung’s own Galaxy S or Note series.

While the S2 will likely require an Android device from Samsung, as in past versions, there may at least be some style differences. The S2 is the first Samsung smartwatch with a circular design, and the company says the watch's frame will rotate to help users access apps and notifications. It's not a new shape for smartwatches – Motorola and LG make circular frames, too – but it is a change. The S2 will also come in two styles – classic and modern – with various colors and bands.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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