Samsung unveils ‘world’s first’ standalone smartwatch

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The 3G Gear S can stay connected, even when outside the Bluetooth range of a smartphone.

The 3G Gear S can stay connected, even when outside the Bluetooth range of a smartphone.

Samsung Electronics today unveiled its Gear S, a significant update to its wrist-wearable range that allows calls to be made from the device through inbuilt 3G connectivity, rather than having to rely on proximity to a parent smartphone.

Samsung launches the Gear S less than two weeks ahead of arch-rival Apple Inc's expected unveiling of its next iPhones, widely believed to include larger screens. Previous Gear models served as companion accessories, giving access to Samsung smartphone features by connecting to the handsets. The Gear S is thought to be the first wearable to deliver standalone smart functionality on the wrist.

​"Samsung is leading this exciting and rapidly developing wearable category through progressive innovation," said JK Shin, CEO and head of IT and mobile communication at Samsung Electronics. "The Samsung Gear S redefines the idea of the smart wearable and the culture of mobile communication. It will let consumers live a truly connected life anywhere, anytime."

The Gear S comes with a curved 2-inch Super AMOLED display and flexible band, which is swappable. As with its predecessors, it allows users to read messages and notifications, but the S is fully connected and does not require a nearby smartphone to deliver these utilities. While still expected to have a relationship with a Samsung handset, users can reply to incoming messages using the onscreen keyboard; use S Voice functionality; make and receive calls with complete autonomy; or get calls forwarded from their smartphones.

The Gear S allows users to control how they want to connect, choosing between 3G and Bluetooth connections, and automatically synchronising information when paired to a smartphone.

The wrist device provides access to information through widgets and combined notification boards. Features include turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation provided by HERE; a 24-hour news and views service from The Financial Times ‘fastFT'; and the ability to see and respond to social notifications instantly with Facebook.

Also included is a health-and-fitness app that uses on-board multi-sensors, built-in GPS, and S Health features. Applications such as Nike+ Running allow users to track activity while running, without the need for a smartphone.

​Launched along with the Gear S is the Gear Circle, designed to be paired with a smartphone as a hands-free accessory for receiving calls, listening to music, and making voice commands through a Bluetooth connection. It features a magnetic lock which clasps around the user's neck when not in use, as well as a vibrate function to signal incoming calls and notifications.

Both the Samsung Gear S and the Gear Circle will be available in global markets in phases through Samsung's retail channels, e-commerce websites and via carriers beginning October.

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