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Samsung’s ‘smart watch’ gets mixed response

After months of anticipation, snowballing speculation and countless leaked photos online, Samsung Electronics Co. on Wednesday introduced the Galaxy Gear, a wrist-worn device that allows users to check messages and make phone calls without whipping out their smartphones.

The new “smart watch,” in spite its futuristic appeal, brought mixed responses, with many not wholeheartedly impressed with the latest device from the South Korean tech giant.

Among the biggest issue was that it had no phone functions of its own, nor the flexible display that designers’ photos leaked earlier in the year had suggested. While it can receive or send calls, it has to be wirelessly linked to a smartphone to do so, along with other functions.

Some users also took issue with the Gear’s 315mAh battery, which Samsung said would last a day upon charging. Given that the device is basically a watch, battery life was just not enough, they said.

Its limited compatibility also appears to be a stumbling block in its success. As of now, the Gear can only be linked to Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Tab 10.1, a large-screen smartphone and a tablet computer both released with the smart watch on Wednesday. Samsung has vowed to update other products of the Galaxy series to work with Galaxy Gear in the future.

The Gear has impressed most with its hardware, which has always been Samsung’s strength. Armed with 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display with 320x320 resolution, a single-core 800MHz Exynos processor and a built-in 1.9-megapixel camera, the watch offers an array of functions to entertain users.

U.S. tech media the Verge said users will be able to enjoy it “if you think of it as a toy and a fun accessory,” but that the problem was in its $299 price tag, which appeared a bit steep for a device that can only work as an accessory to another smart gadget.

With noticeable highs and lows, it remains to be seen whether the Gear will be a game changer in the emerging market of wearable high-tech devices, which research firm Gartner predicted will be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

Samsung’s archi-rival Apple Inc. is also planning to release its smart watch, and Sony and Qualcomm introduced their own watches Wednesday as well.

Samsung Galaxy Gear and Galaxy Note 3 will be released in more than 140 countries in the world on Sept. 25, Samsung said.

By Yoon Min-sik