Samsung and LG Just Upped the Ante in the Smartwatch War

If Apple wants its iWatch to succeed, it'll need to beat these two newcomers.

Aug 31, 2014 at 12:00PM

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:


LG's G Watch R is powered by Android Wear and features a 1.3-inch plastic OLED display. Source: LG Electronics.

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.


Samsung's Galaxy Gear S smartwatch (left), and Gear Circle ear buds. Source: Samsung.

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.

Foolish takeaway
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.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early-in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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