Last night I got a reminder from my friend Vlad that my Galaxy Gear headline wasn't technically accurate - the Gear wasn't Samsung's first wearable. I responded saying that technically wearables were a new category, he responded telling me that technically my headline was a lie. He had a point. 

"Today Samsung threw its hat in the wearables race with its announcement of the Galaxy Gear: a companion device designed to be worn like a watch."

Note while the Galaxy Gear is Samsung's first "wearable" by a modern definition of the term, this is definitely not the first connected watch that Samsung has released. Back in 1999 Samsung sold a watchphone under roughly the same conditions as the Galaxy gear. Borrowing from their announcement of the SPH-WP10:

"The SPH-WP10 is Samsung's first product developed as part of a market segmentation strategy designed to respond to the nearly saturated domestic market for wireless handsets. "

In other words, the phone market at the time looked mature and Samsung wanted to ride another growth wave. Sound familiar?

"As the smartphone and tablet markets shift from high growth to the early stages of maturity, forward looking companies are looking at other adjacent markets for continued growth."

The Galaxy Gear's roots seem firmly planted in a design that came out a decade later: the S9110 (pictured above on the left, the Gear is on the right). There are definite similarities in the industrial design between the S9110 and the Galaxy Gear, the latter looking like an evolved/more modern version. There are also physical differences:

Samsung Galaxy Gear Evolution
  S9110 Galaxy Gear
Release Year 2009 2013
Dimensions 41.1 x 57.5 x 11.98 mm 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1 mm
Weight 91 g 73.8 g
Display 1.76" 176x220 TFT 1.63" 320 x 320 Super AMOLED
Processor ? 800MHz single-core Cortex A9?
Storage/RAM 40MB/? 4GB/512MB
Battery 630 mAh @ ?V 315 mAh @ ?V

The S9110 was larger, thicker and weighed more - it also had a slightly larger, but lower resolution TFT display. Given the advances in display technology over the past four years, the differences here aren't unexpected at all. 

Samsung lists the S9110 as only having 40MB of internal storage, which I'm assuming refers to on-board NVRAM. There's nothing I could find that called out the silicon inside but it's safe to assume that it's something much slower than what ended up in the Galaxy Gear.

It's interesting to see the evolution of the S9110's design end up as the Galaxy Gear. It also feels like we're seeing a bit of a pattern here, with wearables showing up whenever phone markets appear to be saturating. I always assumed that this was the last major phone revolution, but I do wonder if there might be another phase after this one.

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  • harpocrates - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    Spotted a small typo: "Back in 1999 Samsung sold a watchphone".

    I hasn't heard of Samsung's first attempt at a smart watch, so this is interesting to read about.
    Reply
  • GauravDas - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    "The Galaxy Gear's roots seem firmly planted in a design that came out a decade later: the S9100".

    I am confused. What is S9100? How does it compare to the S9110? What are you comparing when you say "a decade later"?
    Reply
  • mkozakewich - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    I think I've managed to parse it.
    Anand had just finished talking about the SPH-WP10, from 1999. Then:
    "A decade later [so, 2009] came a new design: the S9110, which the Galaxy Gear's roots seem firmly planted in."
    Reply
  • GauravDas - Friday, September 06, 2013 - link

    Thanks. I thought that the SPH-WP10 was same as Galaxy Gear, since it linked to this article. Reply
  • nerd1 - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    AFAIK samsung released its first smartphone back at 1999 with full touch screen. Reply
  • xdrol - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    How can you assert that the Gear inherited the design of the old smartwatch? Come on, it is a watch, that needs to have a giant flat screen. What possible other designs are there? Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    I think apple just tossed out the idea of a smartwatch to get these idiots to actually waste time and money on developing something so stupid and useless in anticipation of a market that will never materialize. Reply
  • LordOfTheBoired - Friday, September 06, 2013 - link

    That's funny, because I still really want a single wearable device that does it all. To the extent that I bought a case for my pocket computer solely to fabricate a digital bracer. And while pretty slick, it's no watch.
    Yes, I literally wear my nerdiness on my sleeve.
    Reply
  • rangerdavid - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    You, my friend, are a god among men. Kudos. No shame. Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, September 06, 2013 - link

    " I always assumed that this was the last major phone revolution, but I do wonder if there might be another phase after this one. "

    Really? I can imagine a few ways in which smartphones would evolve way past their current form factor, and I'm sure the technology from 10 years in the future would humble my imagination.

    What about the long promised foldable displays? Or pico projectors? What about all these hybrid docking concepts? None of them strike my fancy right now, but there will come a point where performance is no longer an issue...

    Those are the easy angles though. I think software and potential battery developments will probably usher the next revolution. A phone as fast as an i5 with a roll out display isn't worth much if you still have the same meager collection of mobile apps that aren't meant for serious work.

    This is an area where you'd think MS would have an advantage but they seem to be moving further and further away from that synergistic ideal...
    Reply

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