Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

September 5, 2013

Samsung unveils new smartwatch that makes calls

BERLIN (AP) — Nearly 70 years after Dick Tracy began wearing a two-way wrist radio in the funny pages, the technology that once seemed impossibly futuristic will be widely available by Christmas.

Samsung on Wednesday introduced a digital watch for the holiday season that will let users check messages with a glance at their wrists and have conversations secret agent-style.

So-called smartwatches have been around for several years. But so far, they have failed to attract much consumer interest. That may change with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which offers the company a chance to pull off the same as feat Apple did with the iPad — popularize a type of device that has lingered mostly unnoticed on store shelves.

The Gear must be linked wirelessly with a smartphone to perform its full range of functions. It acts as an extension to the phone by discreetly alerting users to incoming messages and calls on its screen, which measures 1.63 inches diagonally.

“With Gear, you’re able to make calls and receive calls without ever taking your phone out of your pocket,” Pranav Mistry, a member of Samsung’s design team, told reporters at the launch in Berlin ahead of the annual IFA consumer electronics show here.

Sony and Qualcomm also introduced smartwatches Wednesday. Apple Inc. is expected to release its own smartwatch, though it’s not clear yet when. The release of separate products from so many manufacturers could stir interest in smartwatches in general. Meanwhile, Google is working on Google Glass — a device designed to work like a smartphone and worn like a pair of glasses.

With smartphones and tablets now ubiquitous, electronics companies are trying to create a new category of products that put advanced computing technology into everyday objects such as wristwatches and glasses. Research firm Gartner projects that wearable smart electronics will be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

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