Samsung Electronics plans to introduce a wristwatch in September that can make phone calls, play video games and send e-mails, potentially beating its archrival, Apple, to market with a piece of technology that moves mobile communications beyond the smartphone.
The watch, called Samsung Galaxy Gear, would be shown off “around the time” of an electronics industry trade fair in Berlin that begins Sept. 6, a person briefed on the matter said Saturday.
Samsung has scheduled a media event for Sept. 4 at which it is also expected to introduce the Note III, a new version of its “phablet,” a cross between a phone and a tablet. Apple reportedly plans to show off its first wrist-worn device, expected to be called the iWatch, at a Sept. 10 event in Berlin.
“The commercial launch will definitely be this year,” said the person with knowledge of the unveiling, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the company’s plans.
Neither Galaxy Gear nor the iWatch will be the first watch phone on the market. Sony recently introduced a second-generation version of its smart watch, a gadget that works in conjunction with a smartphone in the user’s pocket. Other smart devices like the Pebble Watch and the I’m Watch have also been sold for some time.
For Samsung, the idea is also not entirely new. The company introduced its first watch phone in 1999. Still, the category of smart watches remains underdeveloped, as none of the existing devices have captured the imagination of consumers.
But analysts say that could change now that the two biggest smartphone makers, Samsung and Apple, are getting into the watch business.
Canalys, a research firm, predicts that sales of smart watches will rise to five million in 2014, a tenfold increase from this year.
“Smart watches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” Chris Jones, an analyst at Canalys, said in a statement.
From a design standpoint, Galaxy Gear may be less innovative than some of the speculation around the device has suggested. The person with knowledge of the device said, for example, that it would not use a flexible screen, as some analysts had expected.
News of the Galaxy Gear introduction was first reported by SamMobile, a Samsung fan site.
Samsung declined to comment.