Get ready for the smart-watch category of devices. On top of recent rumors that Apple is putting substantial resources into prepping an interactive iWatch, new reports indicate that its main competitor among smartphone makers, Samsung, is also prepping one.
If either product development is under way, it points to a new phase in the evolution of the post-PC era -- first smartphones, then tablets, and now, perhaps, watches.
The Samsung reports are based around the leak of screen shots that are allegedly of a smart watch from Samsung, branded as the Galaxy Altius. The images originated on a Korean message board.
Music Player, Clock, E-Mail
Several of the screen shots bear the name SKT and SK Telecom, a South Korean mobile service, thus implying a related cellular plan. There is also text indicating 1.5 percent of a full 235 MB of internal storage is used, suggesting that the device would have limited storage capacity and may be designed as an adjunct to, say, a smartphone.
The images also suggest a sliding screen that reveals tiles, not unlike a much smaller version of Windows 8, and there are functions for a music player, a clock and e-mail. The touchscreens appear to have a 500x500 resolution.
Previously, the name Altius was reported to be the code name for the next generation of Samsung's Galaxy S device. Some observers are suggesting that Altius might generally refer to Samsung's next generation of smart devices, or possibly that this watch is related to the next Galaxy smartphone as a kind of wrist-based extension.
Even if the screen shots are impostors, it is difficult to believe that Samsung, Apple's archrival in smartphones, tablets and courtrooms, would not be getting ready to compete with what appears to be Apple's next line of products. This week, a variety of reports have indicated that Apple has as many as 100 product designers working on what has been described as an iWatch, which could have some of the functions of the iPhone.
'Why Not a Watch?'
The Apple watch rumors claim the new device will include a curved touchscreen developed from a new form of flexible glass, sensors to monitor heart rates and provide feedback on exercise routines, near-field communication tap-to-pay functionality, voice control, maps and integration with other Apple devices, such as the iPhone. Some Apple watchers have predicted a spring launch.
Charles King, an analyst with industry research firm Pund-IT, did not rule out the possibility that smart watches could find a market inside businesses as well as with consumers, given the melding of the two markets. He pointed out that, once upon a time, what was then known as a smartphone -- the BlackBerry -- was thought to be a business-only device, and, of course, the "bring your own device" trend of employees using their consumer devices for work has transformed IT departments' strategies.
King said the two big questions he'd have about a smart watch's feasibility for businesses would be the practical usability of a device with such a small screen, and whether third-party developers could be enticed to create apps for such a platform.
He added that the possibility of a smart watch is "intriguing." Given the rise of mobile devices to this point, King asked, "if people can get used to writing e-mails and watching movies on a phone, why not on a watch?"