As promised, Samsung unveiled the new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo tonight at Mobile World Congress, along with a surprise: a sports band that fits neatly into its ecosystem. The new products, frankly, are lots better than we’d expected — and vastly improved from last year’s initial versions.
(There also was the Galaxy 5 smartphone, a nifty piece of gear. But it’s not wearable in the taxonomy that we use here, so so we’ll leave the coverage to someone else.)
The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are essentially the same product; the Neo has more plastic and an integrated band, does not include a camera, and is lighter. The Gear 2 is metal, can use any 22mm-wide wrist band and includes a camera. Improved from last year’s version: the camera is on the bezel instead of the wrist band (hence the ability to freely replace the band) and there is a Home button that lets you scroll back immediately to an initial screen.
The biggest feature difference is the inclusion of a heart rate monitor on the back of the watch. The sensor includes a strong LED and sensors that can see and interpret blood flow. Also, the Gears can go three days on a charge, instead of the one day in previous versions.
The Fit was a surprise. It’s a lightweight product in every sense of the word: weight and operating system. It does the things that one would expect from a sports band: count steps, tell time, measure heart rate. It also talks to your Samsung phone and can alert you to calls, which you can either answer, ignore, or respond with a canned SMS. What’s striking about its appearance is the curved glass surface; as with the Gear, you move from screen to screen by flicking it one way or another.
And all this stuff works only with Samsung phones — but it works with many models, instead of just the Galaxy 3 of the original gear.
The competition is pretty clear. Pebble is directly in Samsung’s sights, as is Apple although no one really knows that Apple is up to. If we held stock in Basis, we’d be worried, too.
This all ships April 11. Prices were not announced.