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[Newsmaker] Will Apple Watch spell doom for Samsung?

The smart watch hype is at its peak as two of the world’s largest tech giants and archrivals ― Samsung Electronics and Apple ― step up their efforts to gain the upper-hand in a new round in a battle for the wrist.

The first wearable device by Cupertino-based Apple landed in stores in nine global markets including the U.S. Australia, and Hong Kong on Friday.

Even though South Korea was not included in the first group of the launch nations, the news of the Apple smart watch made headlines on many local news outlets over the weekend, reflecting a significant level of interest toward the wearable device in Korea.

Samsung pried open the doors to the smart watch industry with the first Galaxy Gear in 2013, and rolled out six more enhanced versions since then including the Samsung Gear 2, and Gear Solo, a standalone device that allows users to make calls without pairing with a smartphone.

The new Apple Watch is on display at a store in Tokyo, Japan, Friday. (UPI-Yonhap)
The new Apple Watch is on display at a store in Tokyo, Japan, Friday. (UPI-Yonhap)

Upping the ante against its rival Apple, Samsung announced on the same day of the Apple Watch launch that its new wearable device was being unveiled, releasing several teaser images of the new Gear smart watch on the firm’s official blog.

In the blog post, the Seoul-based tech giant hinted at diverse services that would be available on the upcoming digital watch by announcing its partnership with China’s search engine firm Baidu, Yelp, a restaurant finder app operator, and U.S. news network CNN.

Samsung, which shipped 1.2 million units of the Gear lineup last year, has taken the lead in the world’s smart watch market, followed by other market players including Pebble, Fitbit, and Sony, according to research institute Smartwatch Group.

Some market analysts anticipated the competition among tech companies to gain the lion’s share in the smart watch market would get much fiercer this year.

Research institute Strategy Analytics forecast total global smart watch shipments to grow 511 percent from 4.6 million units in 2014 to 28.1 million units in 2015, with the Apple Watch shipping 15.4 million units worldwide this year, replacing the current No. 1 post held by Samsung.

Some, however, cast doubt over the Apple Watch, saying the digital watch lacks the wow factor that could help outshine other products by Samsung or LG Electronics.

LG recently launched the world’s first Long-Term Evolution-support Watch Urbane, sporting the industry’s largest battery capacity and the first round-face display.

“Without many appealing factors, the Apple Watch will likely become just one of many ordinary smart watches,” said a market watcher who wished to remain anonymous, adding that Apple’s first smart watch, however, succeeded in drawing attention to the wearable devices.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heralcorp.com)
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