Mobile World Congress 2014

Samsung smartwatch: New name, new start?


Samsung kicked off the 2014 Mobile World Congress by unveiling two new smartwatch models to succeed its original Galaxy Gear.

The Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo (the company dropped the "Galaxy" moniker) will be available in April and will use the Tizen operating system rather than Android.

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Samsung Galaxy Gear

The Gear 2 comes with a camera - which is positioned on the screen rather than the strap, unlike the last model - while the Gear 2 Neo doesn't have a camera.

Samsung described the new watches as "essential companion devices, allowing you to accept or ignore incoming calls and messages, and providing notification options based on your activity and habits."

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Samsung also said the new watches "act as an extension of your daily life, giving you more control with a range of stand alone features," directly responding to criticism of the original Galaxy smartwatch.

A Gartner report in November said that smartwatches had not shown any real value, and what was needed was "a product that has some stand-alone functions such as playing music, monitoring physical activities and bio data via different sensors."

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"Do not turn your smartwatch into a 'dumb' watch once it is disconnected from the smartphone," Gartner added.

The new Gear models allow you to control other electronic products in your home, such as your TV and set-top box, as well as acting as a standalone music player that can allow you to access your music even if you do not have your smartphone on you.

Furthermore, the watches offer personal fitness coaching, including a customized fitness routine and a heart rate monitor. It's part of a growing craze for fitness-related wearable tech, such as Nike's Fuelband and Fitbit.

The use of a new operating system, Tizen, means that the Gear smartwatches will be compatible with more than a dozen Samsung smartphones. This is ahead of a major Samsung event atMobile World Congress on Monday evening which will see the company launch the Galaxy S5 smartphone, expected to be one of the biggest announcements at the event and Samsung's answer to Apple's latest iPhone model.

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Ben Wood, a mobile and wireless industry analyst for CCS Insight told CNBC that the new smartwatches showed that Samsung had clearly learned their lesson after the release of the original device.

"The new watches are lighter, thinner and in the case of the Gear Neo, also likely to be less expensive," Wood told CNBC. "Integrated heart-rate monitor underlines the importance of health and well-being in the wearables category.‎"

—By CNBC's Kiran Moodley. Follow him on Twitter @kirancmoodley