Bonnie Cha

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Samsung Takes Wraps Off Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

The time has finally come.

After all the leaks and an official confirmation from a company executive last week, today Samsung debuted its Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch at the IFA consumer tech show in Berlin.

Designed to be a smartphone companion, the Android-based wearable features a stainless steel frame with a 1.63-inch, 320 by 320 pixel touchscreen and rubber straps that come in six different colors, including orange, yellow and white.

For now it appears that the Galaxy Gear is designed to work only with the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition tablet, which were also announced today. Once connected via Bluetooth, the watch can alert you to incoming texts and emails. A feature called “Smart Relay” also mirrors what you’re seeing on your smartphone to the watch.

With a built-in mic, you can make and receive phone calls and draft messages, create calendar appointments and more using Samsung’s S Voice command system. The watch’s strap also has an integrated 1.9-megapixel camera. But before you get excited about living out your dream as a spy, the camera makes a shutter noise that can’t be disabled.

The watch is powered by an 800MHz processor and is estimated to have a battery life of 25 hours. The Galaxy Gear will also launch with more than 70 compatible apps, including Evernote, RunKeeper and Path.

“With Gear, today Samsung is reinventing a centuries-old object. Something that redefines tomorrow. Welcome to the future!” said Pranav Mistry, head of Samsung Research America.

Releasing the Galaxy Gear before other rivals like Apple and Microsoft is a big coup for Samsung, though it’s certainly not the first company to make a smartwatch. Sony released its first smartwatch last year, and the company’s SmartWatch 2 will go on sale later this month. After initial delays, the Pebble smartwatch, which received more than $10 million in funding from its Kickstarter campaign, started shipping at the beginning of the year.

Still, it’s a category of devices that really hasn’t taken off with the consumer yet.

According to a recent report by Juniper Research, shipments of smartwatches will reach one million this year. But analysts expect that number to grow to 36 million by 2018 with Samsung’s and Apple’s entry into the market.

While that remains to be seen, Samsung is betting its design and features will be a key differentiator.

“It’s not just a cool device. I believe it will become a new fashion icon around the world,” said JK Shin, president of Samsung Mobile Communications.

The Galaxy Gear Smartwatch will launch on Sept. 25 in more than 140 countries and will be available worldwide in October.

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