A mere six months after the introduction of the Galaxy Gear, Samsung is returning to the smartwatch market with two new models: the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. Announced at Mobile World Congress today, the new watches remain faithful to the original's look, but make a number of substantial alterations as well. The disappearance of the Galaxy branding is indicative of the biggest change: Android has been replaced by Tizen as the operating system on Samsung's smartwatches.
Interchangeable straps, dual-core processors, and heart rate monitors debut
The Korean company doesn't detail why it's making the switch — nor what it will mean for app compatibility between the first- and second-generation platforms — but it does say that the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will be compatible with "dozens" of Samsung devices right from launch. That's not as broad as Sony's SmartWatch 2, which works with any Android 4.0 device, but it's a significant step up from what the Galaxy Gear initially offered. Among the first apps for the new Gears will be software from BMW, CNN, Garmin, Line, and Path.
The new watches also add a standalone music player that can output to headphones via its Bluetooth 4.0 connection. A heart rate monitor and various exercise modes complete the list of significant new features, while almost all of the Galaxy Gear's basic functionality has been retained. You can still answer calls and check notifications, although the Gear 2 shifts the camera from the strap to just above the watchface, and the Neo discards it altogether. This allows Samsung to offer interchangeable straps for the first time. Internally, there's been a processor upgrade, moving from a single-core 800MHz chip to a dual-core 1GHz part, and the weight and thickness have been marginally reduced.
Other than lacking a camera and being lighter, the Gear 2 Neo is basically the same as the Gear 2, though Samsung has yet to disclose pricing for either of its two new smartwatches. The company plans to make them available to buy around the world from April, with the first chance to try them out expected to be here at MWC in Barcelona.