Samsung’s pocket watch is a weird concept that raises interesting questions about wearables

Samsung’s hybrid pocket watch concept raises a lot more questions than it answers. That’s due, in part, to the fact that the company isn’t offering all that much information about what appears to be an analogue pocket watch with smart functionality announced in a press release tied to the Baselworld jewelry and watch show happening next week in Switzerland.

“Concept” is, naturally, a key word here. Really, Samsung seems to be doing a bit of peacocking here as it simultaneously tries to fit in and stand out among more traditional watch vendors at the event. The release carries all sorts of self-congratulatory tidbits like, “Samsung continues to lead the smartwatch category; connecting traditional Swiss design and innovative technology” and “Gear S3 is more than just a smartwatch, it is a beautifully designed watch that puts a timeless spin on the smartwatch category.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone take a crack at the idea, though aside from an Indiegogo campaign for an “open-source anti-smartphone” and some 3D printed at-home hacks, no one has seemingly really dared to go full throttle into the niche upon niche that is the smart pocket watch.

Chances seem pretty slim at this point that such a device will ever see the light of day, even from Samsung, a company notorious for flooding store shelves with a million different variants on a given theme.

Even so, the time is right for companies to start making big, bold, weird experiments in the wearable space. The smartwatch category has suffered, in part, from a flooded market of likeminded devices. Smartphones are one thing. The technology quickly transformed from luxury to perceived necessity. Smartwatches aren’t nearly there yet – and at this rate, may never be. For now they’re, at best, a proxy for our smartphones.

 A few companies (Samsung included) have had enough success for the space to make sense, but the rest of the competition is essentially fighting over scraps.

If nothing else, Samsung’s hybrid pocket watch raises some interesting points about the space. Like, if a watch isn’t designed to be worn on one’s person, can it really be classified as a wearable? How much of the wearable category’s value is derived from the body real estate it occupies? Devoid of a wrist strap, doesn’t the thing more or less become a tiny, much less useful smartphone?

Samsung is also showing off a number of devices created alongside Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa, which, like the pocket watch, appear to exist more to bolster the profile of the company’s existing product than to hint at any forthcoming release.

After all, the super luxury smartwatch may be the greatest niche of all. Sure, Tag has had some relative success with its Connected device – at least enough to justify a second generation of the product – but four digits is a lot to ask for a product designed to be upgraded ever couple of years. Even the nicest smartwatch likely won’t be getting passed along to the grand children.

Samsung May Unleash a Beast

Hot off the rumor mill on Wednesday is news of a new feature Samsung may include in its upcoming Galaxy S8. It’s dubbed “Beast Mode,” and that’s just about all that is known about it so far.

Spotted in an EU trademark application, Beast Mode would apply to smartphones, mobile phones and application software for smartphones, notedGalaxy Club, a Netherlands-based blog.

The Galaxy S8 is expected to be the first smartphone built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. If true, that lines up with the notion that Beast Mode could allow super high performance.

Another rumor is that the Galaxy S8 will have an optical fingerprint scanner built into the display instead of the body.

Further, it’s rumored that it will include Bluetooth 5.0, recently approved by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group — and that idea seems to carry a fair amount of weight.

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Countering Bad PR

“There’s a strong possibility that Samsung will incorporate Bluetooth 5 into the Galaxy S8,” said Ken Hyers, director of wireless device strategies at Strategy Analytics.

“With the cancellation of the Note7, the Galaxy S8 is now [Samsung’s] premier device to showcase the latest and best smartphone technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Samsung had to institute a global recall of millions of Galaxy Note7s after multiple instances in which the device spontaneously burst into flames. Some replacement devices also caught fire.

“Samsung has a PR problem,” observed Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. “Note7 is a disaster, and they need something with which to seize the technological high ground.”

Putting cutting-edge technologies in the S8 “will help a lot,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Remember, practically nothing is Bluetooth 5-compliant,” Jude noted. “As long as the S8 can talk to existing Bluetooth devices, it’s golden. People will be drawn to the latest, greatest technology.”

Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t replace 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2. It extends the functionality of these previous versions of the Bluetooth Core Specification.

Further, Bluetooth 5.0 lets manufacturers leverage interoperability and performance improvements incorporated in the core specs since 4.2 was released.

“From Bluetooth headsets and speakers to home control, personal robots and drones, Bluetooth is a default technology for connecting devices, with the smartphone as the hub of consumers’ device universe,” Strategy Analytics’ Hyers remarked.

“We are rapidly moving into a more complex connected device world,” he pointed out.

Samsung has focused heavily on the Internet of Things, offering smart TVs and smart appliances that can be tied to its smartphones.

Bluetooth 5 “is a huge advance over previous versions of Bluetooth from a connectivity speed and capacity standpoint,” Hyers pointed out, noting that it’s a natural fit for Samsung’s next flagship device.

The S8 will “be both a mass market flagship and a showcase for Samsung’s technological leadership” since the company has canceled its Note series of phablets, he said.

Therefore, Samsung “will be careful to only put technology and features in it that it’s certain will not create issues,” Hyers contended. As a relatively low-risk feature, Bluetooth 5 likely will appear in the S8 in Q1 2017.

Bluetooth 5.0 Specs

Bluetooth 5.0 offers 2Mbps of bandwidth, twice that of Bluetooth 4.2, with low energy.

The bandwidth can be decreased to achieve up to 4x the broadcast range of Bluetooth 4.2 with the same power requirement. That means home automation and security devices can cover entire homes, buildings or locations.

Developers can adjust the broadcast range, speed and security for different environments.

Bluetooth 5.0 delivers reliable Internet of Things connections, and it will increase the relevance of beacons and other location awareness technologies, which will enable a seamless IoT experience.

It also has ad extensions that enable more efficient use of broadcasting channels on the 2.4 GHz band.

Slot availability masks can detect and prevent interference on neighboring bands.

Keeping the Note7’s Specter at Bay

Many consumers returned their Note7 phablets to purchase an older Galaxy S7, Hyers said. “Given that history, “I expect that the Galaxy S8 will be the most carefully tested and verified smartphone ever released.”

Also, consumers in the know will see Bluetooth 5 as a future-proof technology, he suggested, while early adopters will see it as a useful item.

Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge to Receive Android 7.1.1 Nougat Update in January

Samsung last month rolled out its Galaxy Beta Program for Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge users to test Android 7.0 Nougat on their devices. The Korean giant has now announced that the final build of Android 7.1.1 Nougat will begin rolling out for its flagship devices in January.

Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge to Receive Android 7.1.1 Nougat Update in JanuaryThe South Korean company earlier confirmed in a response to a user query that it will skip the Android 7.0 Nougat update for the devices altogether, and jump directly to Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

Samsung will also pull the plug on its Galaxy Beta Program on Friday, December 30 midnight. This essentially means that there will not be any further beta updates for users under the program. The company will not accept or respond to any feedback received in the “Error Report” or “Suggestions” section, according to Sammobile, which got hold of Samsung’s statement through Weibo. Samsung says it will now manage feedback only via “community.”

The company said it thanks its Galaxy Beta Program members for their feedback and plans to apply as many useful opinions as possible in the final build. The Android 7.1.1 Nougat update, over an above the changes bring adds new emojis that reflect gender equality, GIF support right from the keyboard, and app shortcuts from the home screen.

Earlier this month, it was reported that some Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge users started receiving December security updates. The update started rolling out in select countries including India.