Starting next week, you’ll be able to get your Dick Tracy on in the United States. Samsung’s 3G-equipped Gear S smartwatch that can be used for phone calls goes on sale for all four major carriers starting on November 7.
At full retail price, the device will cost around $350, although there are significant pricing differences among the carriers. A sizable proportion of the cost of the device will be the monthly charge for its cellular data plan.
[company]T-Mobile[/company] appears to have the best deal for a [company]Samsung[/company] Gear S. The carrier’s new “wearable rate plan” for post-paid customers costs $5 per month and powers the Gear S with unlimited talk and text as well as 500MB of data, after which it’s throttled to 2G service for the rest of the billing cycle. It will sell the Gear S up-front for $349.92 or on a financing plan that costs $14.58 for 24 months with no down payment.
[company]Sprint[/company] will sell the Gear S for $384, or monthly payments of $16 for 24 months. Post-paid customers on Sprint can add cellular connectivity to the Gear S for $10 per month as a new line of service on a shared data family plan, although the carrier is waiving the charge for heavy data users until December 2015.
[company]AT&T[/company] is subsidizing the up-front cost of the Gear S: It’ll cost $199.99 with a two-year agreement, and afterwards, you can add the Gear S as another device on a mobile share plan, which costs $10 per month. The standalone price, no-commitment price is $299. Customers who buy a subsidized Gear S can expect to get dinged by early termination fees if they figure out they don’t want to pay for cellular service on their smartwatch for two years.
[company]Verizon[/company] was mentioned in Samsung’s announcement, but it has not yet made its pricing public.
The Gear S runs Samsung’s Tizen operating system and it’s one of the most powerful smartwatches coming out this fall, with a dual-core professor, a 2-inch AMOLED screen, and the ability to make and receive calls and texts from your wrist from its own phone number. It can pair with a smartphone, but unlike many other smartwatches, including those running Android Wear, it doesn’t need to.
The Gear S will have the ability to provide turn-by-turn directions powered by Nokia Here maps, as well as act as a Nike+ fitness tracker. Browser maker Opera is optimizing its software for the platform as well.
There are a lot of potential advantages to adding cellular connectivity to a smartwatch. Runners will appreciate the ability to leave their phone at home and still make an emergency call, and it opens up smartwatches and health trackers to demographics who might not have smartphones or Wi-Fi networks at home, such as the elderly. Samsung’s not the only company investigating cellular-equipped smartwatches: Timex and Qualcomm are preparing the running-focused Timex Ironman GPS One+ with a free AT&T data plan for a release later this fall.
But the question remains whether consumers are willing to add another monthly data charge for a device they’re not convinced they need yet. Even at $5 per month — as T-Mobile is charging — it’s not an easy sell. At $10 per month, as AT&T and Sprint are charging, that’s a $240 cost over the initial price of the device for two years of cellular service.
Optimally, smartwatch data plans should work like the iPad LTE model or other similarly equipped tablets: You get to choose your carrier, pay month-by-month, and you’re not locked into a contract you’re not yet sure you want.
This post was updated at 1:20 PM ET to add additional AT&T pricing information.