Samsung, LG debut new smart watches as Apple event looms

A break-down of what you need to know to understand the latest smart watch offerings from Samsung and LG. 

Ahn Young-joon/AP/File
A man passes by the Samsung Electronics Co. logos at its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.

As tech lovers eagerly await Apple's presumed entrance into the smart watch market, Samsung and LG are eager to prove to consumers that they've got the goods when it comes to wearable devices. 

The two Korean electronics companies have announced new additions to their smart watch lineups. And as is typical with these types of product releases, speculation abounds.

So, let's separate the facts from the noise. 

What products were released? 

Samsung announced Thursday a new smart watch called the Gear S that it says is the first smart watch on the market that can make and receive calls without a mobile phone close by. LG also announced Thursday its new G Watch R smart watch that comes equipped with a 1.3-inch circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and a calf-skin leather strap. 

LG G Watch R

The G Watch R will run on Android Wear, the adapted version of Google's Android operating system for wearable devices. Style-wise, LG's latest offering looks more like, well, a traditional watch. It has analog-looking hands that rotate in a clockwise fashion. It offers four gigabytes of storage and can work in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. 

LG says its watch will be available early in the fourth quarter of 2014 "in key markets." 

Samsung Gear S

Samsung's sixth smart watch launched in the last year comes with 3G wireless connectivity; a 2-inch sleek, curved display; and, like the G Watch R, a more classic "watch" interface. However, like Samsung's previous Gear 2 smart watch, this new watch will run on Samsung's own Tizen operating system as opposed to Android Wear, which is more common among wearable devices. It also comes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. 

Samsung says its watch will launch in October. 

Why is this significant? 

Tech companies view wearable devices as the new frontier in mobile devices at a time when developed markets have become increasingly saturated for sales of devices such as smart phones and tablets. Market research firm IDC predicts that wearable devices will more then triple this year, reaching as many as 19.2 million units in 2014. For example, in the wake of weak second-quarter earnings, Samsung, the world's leading smart phone maker, is looking to alternative sources for revenue. 

Further, these new devices were released just before the Berlin IFA Conference, which begins September 5. Considered to be the European version of the Consumer Electronics Show (held annually in Las Vegas), the event is a major platform for companies to market their latest gadgets. Samsung released the Galaxy Gear, its first-ever smart watch, at the 2013 IFA. Since then, it has released five more. 

Apple looms

Apple is widely expected to release its own smart watch – dubbed the "iWatch" by fans and the media – within the coming year. But while the company will likely make a splash whenever it does decide to release its new product – to date, it has given no firm details on when a new product will be released nor has it stated that a new product is even in the works – it will be a relative latecomer to the wearable party. In addition to smart watches from LG and Samsung, it will be competing with such products as the Pebble smart watch, the Sony SmartWatch, and Fitbit's line of devices. 

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