Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is widely expected to introduce an iWatch-type device early next month. And when it does, it had better have something groundbreaking up its sleeve, because both Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) and LG Electronics (NASDAQOTH: LGEAF ) just upped the ante in a big way.
If Apple wants its iWatch to make an impression, it'll need to beat these two promising newcomers:
LG wants the fashionable techie
First up, LG just provided the first glimpse at its new G Watch R, which it'll formally unveil at next week's IFA 2014 show in Berlin. To be sure, the retro appearance of the G Watch R makes a fantastic first impression that fashion-conscious consumers can appreciate, thanks both its circular 1.3-inch plastic OLED (P-OLED) display and an interchangeable 22mm calf skin leather strap:
The G Watch R is also powered by Google's Android Wear platform, so it will run all compatible apps in the fast-growing Google Play store. In addition, it features a "suite" of LG fitness and health apps, includes an embedded heart rate sensor, can run in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, and can use smart notifications to remind users of missed calls, messages, events, and weather forecasts.
Of course, the G Watch R will also surely draw comparisons to Google's more modern-looking Moto 360 device, which is reportedly set to debut on Sept. 4 and features a similar 1.5-inch circular display. But if anything, the G Watch R's classic appearance, basic smart functionality, and gorgeous display should be able to capture the hearts of many on-the-fence consumers.
Samsung is breaking down walls
Samsung, for its part, took a drastically different approach Thursday morning by simultaneously unveiling both the Galaxy Gear S smartwatch, and a slick new pair of earbuds dubbed the Gear Circle. Both will go on sale in early October.
The Gear S is a Tizen-based, aesthetically pleasing beauty -- albeit a touch on the large side given its huge, 2-inch curved AMOLED display. The Gear S also features "enhanced" multi-sensors for health and fitness, turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation with its built-in GPS, voice commands through Samsung's S voice functionality, and all of the usual apps you've come to expect a smartwatch to run.
However, perhaps the biggest differentiator between the Gear S and its underwhelming predecessors is its relative autonomy. Specifically, the Gear S not only features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but also built-in 3G connectivity. As a result, the Gear S doesn't require a smartphone to send and receive calls, messages, or notifications from social networks, calendars, and other apps -- though it'll certainly still pair with one if you so choose.
And that's where the Gear Circle comes into play. Specifically, the Gear Circle is a set of wearable earbuds enabling users to receive calls, listen to music, and make voice commands through a Bluetooth connection. The Gear circle also features a magnetic lock to clasp around a user's neck when not in use -- forming a sort of high-tech necklace, so to speak -- and has a vibrate function to alert users of incoming calls and notifications.
In short, by removing several huge convenience barriers with the Gear S and Gear Circle, I think Samsung arguably just took its biggest leap yet toward fostering consumer adoption of wearable tech on a broad scale.
Of course, that doesn't mean Apple can't still impress the world with its own smartwatch. In fact, Apple's iWatch is rumored to include a slew of sensors, a flexible OLED display (ironically provided by LG Display), and could benefit from any number of other under-the-radar features.
But in the meantime, as both LG and Samsung continue to add functionality and refine their own respective approaches to wearable tech, I can't help but wonder how much they're diluting the effect of any planned surprises Apple might have up its sleeve.
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