Tech Transformers

Samsung launches new smartwatches ahead of Apple in its biggest health push yet

Key Points
  • Samsung launched two new smartwatches and wireless earbuds: The Samsung Gear Sport, Gear Fit 2 Pro, and the IconX 2018.
  • Samsung has bolstered the fitness applications making it the biggest push into health yet.
  • Analysts said companies like Fitbit and Garmin could be worried.
Samsung launches new smartwatches ahead of Apple in its biggest health push yet
Samsung launches new smartwatches ahead of Apple in its biggest health push yet

Samsung launched two new fitness-focused smartwatches and a pair of wireless earbuds equipped with its voice assistant Bixby, in a bid to challenge the likes of Apple and Fitbit in the health space.

The three products are:

  • The Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch
  • The Gear Fit 2 Pro fitness band
  • The IconX 2018 wireless Bluetooth earbuds

Samsung's Gear Sport has a 1.2-inch circular touchscreen, rotating bezel to cycle through options, and comes in blue and black.

The Samsung Gear Sport on display during a briefing in Berlin, Germany, ahead of the IFA 2017 consumer electronics show kicking off. The Gear Sport 2 and Gear Fit 2 Pro are both water resistant up to 50 meters.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

The Gear Fit 2 is a slimmer band with a rectangular face. Both can withstand water up to 50 meters and the two devices run Samsung's own operating system called Tizen, as opposed to Google's Android Wear. The IconX 2018 are small earbuds that connect to devices and are a competitor to Apple's AirPods.

One key feature of the IconX is the ability to touch the earpods to carry out tasks, such as activating Bixby, Samsung's smart artificial intelligence assistant. Bixby was launched with the Samsung Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone earlier this year.

The device launch marks Samsung's biggest into health and fitness yet. To date, the company has dabbled with the S Health app, which is a central hub to monitor fitness, as well as bringing out a slew of wearables.

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 earbuds on display at a briefing ahead of the IFA 2017 consumer electronics show in Berlin, Germany. The wireless devices connect via Bluetooth.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

But Samsung is taking the challenge to many of the leading players in the wearable market like Fitbit, Xiaomi, and Apple with its latest push. Partnerships were a key part of the announcement which took place at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Germany.

Samsung struck a deal with Spotify that allows people to download songs onto their Gear Sport or Gear Fit 2 to listen offline. That means they can go for a run without the need for a phone and still listen to music. That feature has been available on the smartphone app version of Spotify, but this is the first time it has been made usable on a wearable.

Making the smartwatches water resistant up to 50 meters will also allow people to use them when swimming.

Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro fitness bands on display at a briefing ahead of the IFA 2017 consumer electronics show kicking off in Berlin, Germany.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

But wearables haven't really taken off as many expected and Samsung has trailed behind rivals. In the first quarter of 2017, Samsung shipped 1.4 million wearables, growing over 90 percent year-on-year, holding 5.5 percent market share, IDC data showed. In contrast, Apple has more than 14 percent market share.

Samsung's products come ahead of the launch of Apple's next generation Watch, which sources recently told CNBC, would be unveiled at the tech giant's September event, which could give the company a foot up.

Health apps could help market grow

CNBC revealed last week that Samsung would be launching a new wearable device at IFA. And DJ Koh, the company's mobile chief acknowledged the market hadn't exploded, but further health applications could drive the market forward.

"If we can put in place properly a smartwatch that can monitor everything for your health and provide the information, then the market will grow," Koh told CNBC.

Analysts said that Samsung's health push will worry the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, and TomTom who have focused very heavily on fitness.

"I think there is a general concern that the Swiss army watch smartwatch which is all things to everyone isn't grabbing the attention of consumers. There is no question the fitness and health dimension is proving to be successful. It has worked well with Apple," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone on Wednesday.