Last night I got a reminder from my friend Vlad that my Galaxy Gear headline wasn't technically accurate - the Gear wasn't Samsung's first wearable. I responded saying that technically wearables were a new category, he responded telling me that technically my headline was a lie. He had a point. 

"Today Samsung threw its hat in the wearables race with its announcement of the Galaxy Gear: a companion device designed to be worn like a watch."

Note while the Galaxy Gear is Samsung's first "wearable" by a modern definition of the term, this is definitely not the first connected watch that Samsung has released. Back in 1999 Samsung sold a watchphone under roughly the same conditions as the Galaxy gear. Borrowing from their announcement of the SPH-WP10:

"The SPH-WP10 is Samsung's first product developed as part of a market segmentation strategy designed to respond to the nearly saturated domestic market for wireless handsets. "

In other words, the phone market at the time looked mature and Samsung wanted to ride another growth wave. Sound familiar?

"As the smartphone and tablet markets shift from high growth to the early stages of maturity, forward looking companies are looking at other adjacent markets for continued growth."

The Galaxy Gear's roots seem firmly planted in a design that came out a decade later: the S9110 (pictured above on the left, the Gear is on the right). There are definite similarities in the industrial design between the S9110 and the Galaxy Gear, the latter looking like an evolved/more modern version. There are also physical differences:

Samsung Galaxy Gear Evolution
  S9110 Galaxy Gear
Release Year 2009 2013
Dimensions 41.1 x 57.5 x 11.98 mm 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1 mm
Weight 91 g 73.8 g
Display 1.76" 176x220 TFT 1.63" 320 x 320 Super AMOLED
Processor ? 800MHz single-core Cortex A9?
Storage/RAM 40MB/? 4GB/512MB
Battery 630 mAh @ ?V 315 mAh @ ?V

The S9110 was larger, thicker and weighed more - it also had a slightly larger, but lower resolution TFT display. Given the advances in display technology over the past four years, the differences here aren't unexpected at all. 

Samsung lists the S9110 as only having 40MB of internal storage, which I'm assuming refers to on-board NVRAM. There's nothing I could find that called out the silicon inside but it's safe to assume that it's something much slower than what ended up in the Galaxy Gear.

It's interesting to see the evolution of the S9110's design end up as the Galaxy Gear. It also feels like we're seeing a bit of a pattern here, with wearables showing up whenever phone markets appear to be saturating. I always assumed that this was the last major phone revolution, but I do wonder if there might be another phase after this one.

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  • ESC2000 - Friday, September 6, 2013 - link

    Give the surface 2 a chance. With the improved battery life of haswell, the genius type cover, and hopefully a thinner chassis, Microsoft will attract have a laptop/tablet hybrid success on its hands... maybe not second gen but within the next few years. It won't be the one device since it'll be too big but it is one step along the way.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 7, 2013 - link

    Samsung released dumbphone w/ pico projector years ago too (They released android one recently)

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