New Samsung, LG watches to hit the wrists

SEOUL - SOUTH Korea's Samsung and LG yesterday unveiled smartwatches with upgraded functions and designs, as they step up their drive to lead an increasingly competitive market for wearable devices.

The Gear S is Samsung's first smartwatch that is able to make standalone phone calls with built-in 3G, alongside Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Users can make and receive calls directly from their wrist, or get calls forwarded from their smartphones. Notifications from social networks, calendars and applications can also be received.

It differs from its predecessors, with a bigger 2-inch curved display as well as pedestrian navigation and built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung's nascent Tizen operating system.

"It will let consumers live a truly connected life anywhere, anytime," said J. K. Shin, head of Samsung's IT and mobile communications division.

Global handset and software makers have struggled to diversify from the saturated smartphone sector to wearable devices.

Global smartwatch sales are expected to grow this year by more than 500 per cent from 1.9 million units last year, according to market researcher Strategic Analytics.

LG's G Watch R features a traditional wristwatch design with a 1.3-inch circular plastic Oled display that the company said provided "stunning image clarity even under bright sunlight".

It runs for up to 30 minutes in 1m of water and can receive notifications on missed calls and messages, upcoming events and weather forecasts.

"We wanted to complement the modern design of the original G Watch with the classic look of the G Watch R," Park Jong Seok, president of LG's mobile communications unit, said in a statement.

Prices will be disclosed when LG's new device hits key markets early in the fourth quarter.

The world's top smartphone maker, Samsung, said its Gear S, which features a Super Amoled display, would be available in global markets from October.

Samsung introduced its Android-based Galaxy Gear smartwatch last year, but received a lukewarm reception from consumers.

In June, Samsung and LG launched smartwatches powered by Google's new software.

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