Samsung ditches Android for Tizen with new Gear 2 and Gear Neo smartwatches


A few hours ago serial leaker @evleaks tweeted an image of what was said to be two Galaxy Gear smartwatches: Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear Neo. Of course he came back a few minutes later to confirm that the smartwatches are not Galaxy branded. He was right. Samsung has just made official the successor to its current smartwatch, Galaxy Gear, named simply Gear 2 alongside a another new model joining the Gear family, the Gear Neo. As we have seen with previous Samsung devices with the Neo name, this particular smartwatch lacks some specs that the Gear 2 packs and this could be a pointer to different pricing of the two with the Gear 2 obviously being the high end guy while the Gear Neo is the budget smartwatch.

Why did Samsung drop the Galaxy branding?

Simple: Tizen. Samsung has always reserved the Galaxy branding for its Android-powered devices so it certainly makes a lot of sense to distinguish that extensive Android line up from its new offerings running a different operating system. Samsung choosing to go with its nurtured platform and not Android lends a lot of credence to rumours that went round after the company’s closed door meetings with Google that resulted in the signing of a 10 year patent cross-licensing deal. It was rumoured then , that Samsung had agreed to tone down its aggressive push towards Tizen and extreme customization of Android and would instead retain Tizen for its wearables while continuing to churn out its many smartphones running Android. Google on the other hand was to sell off Motorola so as to ward off any chance of it competing with its mobile platform’s most profitable OEM whom it risked losing. The Gear 2 and Gear Neo certainly join many of those dots for us.

Still, the matter about which operating system the Gear smartwatches run on should not be viewed as an indicator that Samsung is shifting goal posts. I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of such sentiments elsewhere. That’s simply not true. On the face, save for aesthetic changes with the introduction of the home button the Gear 2 and Gear Neo remain the same functional smartwatches as the Galaxy Gear has been minus the part where the latter shipped with a not so mature firmware that led to many reviewers trashing it at the first instance but it got better with time (thanks to updates) and ended up shipping over 800,000 units in just 2 months.

The two smartwatches will have the following specifications:

  • Size: The Gear 2 measures 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm while the Gear Neo measures 37.9 x 58.8 x 10.0mm
  • Weight: 68g for the Gear 2 and 55g for the Gear Neo
  • Display: 1.63 inch Super AMOLED (320 x 320)
  • Processor: 1GHz dual-core processor
  • Memory: 4 GB internal storage, 512 MB RAM
  • Camera: 2 megapixel  (that can shoot 1920×1080, 1080×1080, 1280×960). It will record video at 720p. This is exclusively for the Gear 2. The Gear Neo does not have a camera.
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate
  • Others: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, IrLED
  • Li-ion 300mAh battery  touted to last up to 6 days with low usage and 2-5 days for normal usage
  • IP67 certification to ensure the device is water resistant, dust proof and has excellent noise cancellation.
  • Colour options : Charcoal Black and Wild Orange for both versions with the Gear 2 getting a Gold Brown iteration while the Gear Neo will have to make do with a Mocha grey

The smart watch’s features include calls via Bluetooth, the re-positioned camera, and support for push notifications from apps like mail. In addition, they will come bundled with apps from the likes of Runtastic, Paypal, Expedia, CNN, Volkswagon and others with a primary focus on health and fitness since besides keeping you up to date with time, the smartwatches will also monitor your heart rate, play music via Bluetooth as you jog in the morning and with an IR blaster to boot, make sure you don’t miss the good old remote control in your living room.

As you can see from the above specs, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo are almost identical with the Neo missing out on just the camera (likely to cut down costs) while certainly getting all the software love that its senior sibling is getting. Compared to the Galaxy Gear, the near Gears have an IR blaster, something which the Galaxy Gear lacks. Samsung has also moved the camera from the strap to the head of the watch in the Gear 2 making the smartwatch less bulky. Samsung has gone for optimizations so as to get better battery life instead of going for a bigger cell which would certainly have made the device bulky. The new Gears have a 300 mAh battery, a capacity that is slight below the Galaxy Gear’s 315 mAh. The camera, which has been upgrade, retains its sound and shoot feature while others like the internal memory, the RAM and the display remained untouched. The processor has been bumped from a 800 MHz chip to a dual core one clocked at 1 GHz.

Samsung will also be releasing the new Gears into the market with several colour options just like the Galaxy version of the smartwatch that debuted last year at the IFA in Berlin alongside the Galaxy Note 3. Unfortunately, they are likely to be just compatible with Samsung Android devices alone.

The Gear 2 and Gear Neo do not have official pricing information but the latter is expected to be more affordable than the former when they are eventually available starting in April.