After months of speculation, Samsung has officially unveiled two new smartwatches, the Gear 2 and the Gear Neo. Both watches offer several improvements over their predecessor, the Galaxy Gear, including an interface powered by Samsung and Intel’s Tizen operating system and more powerful processor. While the two new watches are nearly identical, the Gear 2 features a smaller body-mounted camera than the one found on the original Gear, while the Neo has no lens at all.
Both the Gear 2 and Gear Neo feature the same superb 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 resolution Super AMOLED display as the original Gear. Both the Gear 2 and Gear Neo measure 2.3 x 1.5 x 0.39 inches making them longer and wider though slightly thinner than the 2.2 x 1.4 x 0.43-inch Gear. The 2.4-ounce Gear 2 is also a hair lighter than its 2.6-ounce predecessor but heavier than the 1.9-ounce Gear Neo. What’s more, both watches are IP67 certified dust and water resistant, something that was sorely lacking from the first Gear.
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The difference in weight between the Gear2 and Gear Neo is attributable to the latter’s lack of an onboard camera. Like the Gear, the Gear 2 gets a 2-megapixel shooter, though instead of the bulky camera slapped on the Gear’s wristband, the Gear 2’s camera is built directly into the watch’s frame where it could be used for video chat apps, though Samsung hasn’t said whether it will support conferencing.
The Gear 2’s camera can also capture higher resolution video and photos than its predecessor, maxing out at 1920 x 1080 where the original Gear could only shoot photos at up to 1392 x 1392 and video at up to 1280 x 720.
Inside, both the Gear 2 and Gear Neo get 1.0-GHz dual-core processors, 512MB of RAM and 4 GB of onboard storage. That’s a step up from the 800-MHz single-core chip found in the first Gear. In addition to improved specs, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo both get a built-in IrLED sensor, which when used with Samsung’s WatchOn app allows you to control your TV or set top box from the watches.
Samsung has also added the ability to listen to music without having to bring your smartphone, a huge convenience for fitness-conscious users. Speaking of fitness, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo also feature pedometers as well as heart rate sensors for use with their onboard personal fitness coaching apps, helping users to develop their own customizable fitness routines.
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Like their predecessor, both the Gear 2 and Gear Neo will be available in a variety of colors including Charcoal Block, Gold Brown and Wild Orange for the Gear 2, and Charcoal Black, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange for the Gear Neo.
Despite the improvements, the Gear 2 and Gear Neo still suffer from one major handicap: they are only compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones. That severely limits the audience for the smartwatches, as it means they won’t be compatible with any other devices. Sony’s SmartWatch 2 is compatible with all Android devices, while the Pebble Steel offers both Android and iOS support.
Samsung’s original Galaxy Gear was highly criticized for its lack of waterproofing, limited compatibility and relatively high $299 priced point. Will the Gear 2 and Gear Neo be Samsung’s first breakout wearable devices? We’ll have to wait until April to find out.