Global launch of latest Samsung smartwatches starts in China

Samsung announced on Monday the global launch of its Gear S2 Classic New Edition smartwatches, which first appeared at CES 2016 with 18K rose gold and platinum finishes.

The New Edition rose gold version incorporates gold plating atop stainless steel, not solid gold, according to Samsung.

That distinction would explain a price of 480€ (about $520 US), as seen as available for pre-order on the Dutch Cool Blue retail website.

Samsung hasn't listed official pricing or availability by countries other than to say China was the first country where the device was released.

A solid gold Apple Watch, by contrast, could cost a buyer as much as $17,000, although Apple sells many variations at much lower prices.

While Samsung described its newest watches as "merging fashion with technology," there is a debate in the industry over how much high fashion and rich materials will matter in achieving mass market acceptance of smartwatches.

Market research firm IDC said that 21 million smartwatches shipped in 2015, well below projections of many analysts. That number included the Apple Watch, launched in April, which some had predicted would sell 40 million units in its first year.

"People don't really see the value in smartwatches," said IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani in a January interview. He added that women aren't heavily interested in fashion smartwatches, despite attempts by Apple and now Samsung to attract women buyers.

A big concern with smartwatches is whether they will continue to be primarily notification centers linked via Bluetooth to a smartphone. Some enterprise IT managers want smartwatches to operate on their own cellular connection, independent of the smartphone, with a lot more apps than are currently available.

Samsung provides about 1,400 apps for use with the Tizen OS on its Gear 2 smartwatches. The devices will also have the ability to connect to Android smartphones and, later in 2016, to iOS devices.

The future for smartwatches used in business settings is unclear, analysts have said, although there is greater interest in providing enterprise apps for a range of wearables that include smart glasses and devices worn on other parts of the body.


Matt Hamblen

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