Along with new handsets such as the Galaxy Alpha, Samsung is expected to introduce the Gear Solo smartwatch in early September at Berlin’s IFA show. News of the watch comes from Korea’s Yonhap News and was picked up by Phone Arena. According to the report, the new Gear Solo will have a SIM card slot for mobile broadband connectivity.
The launch of such a device wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Samsung’s smartwatch strategy started last fall with the original Galaxy Gear running Android. Since then, Google has announced its own Android Wear smartwatch platform and Samsung has switched the Galaxy Gear’s software to its own Tizen operating system. A number of follow-up watches have been variations on the same theme with the Gear 2 and Gear Neo smartwatches, each with incremental differences from their predecessors.
Adding a SIM card slot to the product line sounds like the next logical step. But is it the right one?
There’s definitely some benefit to reducing, if not eliminating, the need for a smartwatch to connect with a phone for its data and lifeline to the internet. Take the new Timex Ironman smartwatch that debuted earlier this week as an example: Because it has a 3G connection, it can send or receive messages on the go, even without having a phone nearby.
That’s a pretty specific use case, though. If you’re not running or exercising, chances are you do have your phone with you, so a standalone smartwatch seems redundant in those circumstances.
Phone Arena suggests the Gear Solo will work like a phone for voice calls. That’s not a benefit, in my opinion.
Why? The experience of a voice call through a device on the wrist isn’t a good one, at least not yet. You can already do this with Samsung’s Gear watches, so I’ve tried it. You’re stuck with a hands-free conference call, for starters — so there’s no privacy — and the call sound quality is less than optimal for both parties. So it’s a redundant experience that’s actually worse than the experience the device is trying to replace or supplement.
Don’t expect to save money with a device such as this, either. You’ll have to pay for the service that comes along with that SIM card. It could be a simple $5 or $10 monthly add to your existing bill, of course, or — as with the new Timex watch — be bundled into the actual cost of the device: The new Ironman costs $399 and includes one year of 3G data service. There are no details on costs after that time.
Count me out of the “calls on my wrist” revolution, at least until the experience is improved — if it even can be made batter — until we’re not double-paying for mobile broadband service on companion devices and it’s something that most people actually want.