Even in an industry known for evolving at an impossibly quick pace, it's rare for a product to be replaced in just five months. If you've read our review of Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch, however, it probably makes sense why the manufacturer would want to antiquate it as soon as possible -- while an interesting concept, the wearable was clearly half-baked. This morning, Samsung is starting off Mobile World Congress by announcing the Gear 2 (shown above, right) and the camera-less Gear 2 Neo (above, left), both of which (the company hopes) will address most of its predecessor's pain points when it arrives in stores worldwide this April.
The absence of Galaxy branding is no typo, by the way; the new Gear will run on the Tizen operating system, a platform which Samsung has been investing large amounts of money and resources into. It's not the company's first device running that OS -- that honor goes to the NX300M camera -- but regardless, it's hard to know exactly how different the user experience will be on a Tizen-powered smartwatch instead of an Android-based one. According to Samsung, we can expect a battery life of 2-3 days (two to three times better than the first Gear's one-day life), an "enriched application ecosystem" and some sweeping changes to the external design. Check out the gallery below and join us after the break for more details.
Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo press imagesSee all photos
Let's first talk about the design. The first thing we noticed was that the camera is now built into the front of the watch alongside the IR blaster, which is much better than the original Gear's distracting wart on the wristband. The mic, formerly on the clasp of the strap, has now been moved up to the body of the device itself; this means that Samsung will now let you swap the wristband with either Samsung-specific models or third-party versions. Samsung didn't elaborate on if this will be compatible with all 22mm straps (similar to Pebble) or if it's a different spec, but this is nevertheless a splendid improvement over the first Gear. It also features a home button just below the display instead of on the side, like the previous version.
With the new pair of Gears, you'll also get the same 1.63-inch touchscreen, a 1GHz dual-core processor (a bump up from 800MHz), 4GB internal storage, 512MB of RAM, infrared, S Voice, a heart rate sensor, IP67 certification for resistance to water and dust, a 2MP AF camera with 720p video capture (on the higher model, not the Neo) and a 300mAh battery. This means that the battery is technically smaller on the new Gear, but Samsung claims a life of 2-3 days; this is a drastic boost in performance over the original watch, even if the time between charges is still too frequent for many watch users. Lastly, both models will be compatible with "more than dozens" of Galaxy smartphones when it launches.
There are only a few slight differences between the Gear 2 and its Neo sibling: the Neo doesn't have a camera, the Neo offers one different color than the Gear 2 and it's a tad lighter (the Gear 2 is 68g, whereas the Neo is 55g; both are lighter than the original). Neither model has a price tag to go along with the announcement yet, but we like to see multiple options available at different price points. The top model will come in Charcoal Black, Gold Brown and Wild Orange, while the Neo replaces the Brown for a Mocha Grey hue. We hope to get hands-on time with the watches soon.