Between July and September of 2015, Apple sold approximately 4.5 million smartwatches. Meanwhile, Samsung sold an estimated 600,000 units during that same period, which is pennies compared to Apple’s global market share.
And the numbers make sense — Apple Watch dropped in April 2015 to tons of fanfare, even partnering with designer brand Hermès to create luxe strap options for Apple Watch users. Despite Apple’s glam appeal, though, Samsung has long been a contender in the wearable tech industry since it dropped the Galaxy Gear in September 2013. With some bumps along the way, Samsung’s latest release — the Gear S2 — does everything a smartwatch should do, making the company a formidable opponent in the Apple vs. Android market.
While Apple’s smartwatch sales are at blazing highs right now, sustainable sales are what drives success. If the Samsung Gear S2 is an indication of what’s to come for Samsung, then the company is in a strong position in wearable tech — as long as they fix the one flaw that makes Samsung stand out like a sore thumb in the Android market: Samsung smartwatches operate on the company’s own operating system called Tizen, which is a huge issue in terms of compatibility.
Samsung Smartwatches Want To Be Compatible
A 2013 report by the Pew Research Center revealed that Android users are more diverse in terms of age, race, and income levels. So, even though Apple is currently selling more wearable tech, Android simply has a greater number of users: a report by comScore ranked Android as the top smartphone platform in July 2015 with a 51.4% market share.
So, what does this have to do with compatibility? Clearly, Apple Watch only works with iPhone (although some Android wearables also work with iPhone), but Samsung’s Gear S2 works with any Android smartphone running Android 4.4 or higher. This sounds like a solid move, but it still limits the list of compatible smartphones for Android users who want the Gear S2.
Sure, smartwatches are still in their infancy, and nobody is sure if they’ll become as ubiquitous as smartphones. But recent trends indicate that wearable tech is moving away from utilitarian designs and toward minimal, beautiful, and timeless looks that make us forget we’re wearing tiny computers. A quick browse through the offerings from Android Wear, Google’s stake in wearable tech, reveals a range of price points and designs that match the varied demographics of Android users.
Add that variety to Android Wear’s recent announcement that a new update will implement hands-free options for their smartwatches (like voice actions and gestures), and something like the Moto 360 instantly becomes more of an attractive option than the Gear S2 for an Android user who is shopping for a smartwatch with all the right perks.
The Gear S2 hits most of the right marks: it looks great, it’ll work with Samsung Pay eventually, and it’s user-friendly, which we’ll get into later. But until Samsung cuts ties with Tizen and hops onto Android Wear, Samsung’s smartwatches won’t be able to boast the same sales as Apple.
Samsung’s Smartwatches Are (Almost) Well-Rounded
In a review on ZD Net, Matthew Miller writes, “The Apple Watch is close [to perfection], but the lack of GPS and self-contained cellular service keeps it from perfection. These are both functions that are available in the Samsung Gear S2 and once again Samsung is beating Apple to the punch.”
Tech experts share similar sentiments celebrate the Gear S2’s intuitive bezel design, which enables users to scroll through notifications and apps without relying on a touchscreen. And while Samsung doesn’t offer anything like Apple’s force touch (which brings up different app options based on pressure sensitivity), it more than makes up for it with extras like its QWERTY keyboard. Meanwhile, Apple Watch relies on voice inputs if users want to send a message.
Samsung’s past forays into wearable technology have been surpassed by other options — for instance, the Gear Fit’s inaccurate fitness tracking is a far cry from the merits of Fitbit Flex, and the Galaxy Gear’s exposed screws feel archaic in comparison to the design of newer smartwatches. But the Gear S2 begins to restore our faith in Samsung because it addresses a range of pain points in terms of the user experience, making it a strong contender in the wearables market — especially once Samsung Pay becomes available.
However, in terms of industry domination, it’s hard to say that Samsung will have a strong stake anytime soon; the Gear S2 has a lot going for it, but the offerings from Android Wear have more apps, more connectivity, and more hands-free options.
Samsung holds a special place in the wearable tech industry because it was one of the first companies to release a strong smartwatch option. At the same time, though, Samsung needs to reconsider its game plan if it wants to keep up with the likes of Google and Apple.
After all, imagine how great it would be if we could have a fully Android-compatible smartwatch with the intuitive design of the Gear S2. Now pass that image along to Samsung. It’s not us, Tizen — it’s you.