Smartwatch fever: Samsung, Qualcomm and others make big gadget announcements

September 5, 2013

It’s a good week to love gadgets. Several major consumer electronics companies are showing off their best new products for the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin, prepping consumers for the coming holiday season.

Samsung, Sony and LG, Samsung made a big splashes Wednesday with three smartwatches, new smartphones and a phablet.

Samsung unveiled three new gadgets, including its much-anticipated Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The watch, which sports a 1.6-inch touchscreen, is designed to work with users’ other Samsung devices. For now, that only means the Galaxy Note 3 phone and the Galaxy Note 10.1, 2014 edition tablet introduced alongside the watch. The Galaxy Gear, when hooked into another device, displays notifications and e-mail, acts as a health tracker, offers both Bluetooth and NFC chips and can be used to make calls and take pictures.

The watch will also have its own specially designed apps, and starting partners include companies such as Pocket, TripIt and Path.

Samsung wasn’t the only company to announce a smartwatch. Qualcomm also raised the curtain on its Toq, which has a display similar to an e-reader that should give the watch a longer battery life. It looks like the e-ink display on the Pebble smartwatch, but Qualcomm’s version comes in color. This watch will also let users manage calls, see text messages and manage notifications by being connected to a smartphone. It comes with two Bluetooth headsets.

Qualcomm hasn’t given many details on the Toq, such as screen size, but says it will be available in the United States sometime in October.

Not be outdone, Sony gave users a peek at its own smartwatch — actually the second swing at the category — which is water-resistant and set for a global launch “from September 2013.” The SmartWatch 2 is similar to its predecessor, but Sony will have to expand the number of apps available for the device to see success in its second round.

Moving on from watches, Sony also introduced hefty slide-on camera lenses for smartphones aimed at improving the quality of mobile photos, and there’s a new flagship phone for the company’s Xperia line.

The Xperia Z1 smartphone looks much like its predecessor, the Xperia Z, with a sleek glass design and the promise of water-resistance. This 5-inch, feature-packed smartphone has a 2.2 Ghz quad-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and 16GB of memory, which users can bump as high as 64 GB with an SD card. It also has a 20 MP camera that has a host of apps unto itself. The features let users live-broadcast video to Facebook, use the camera lens to recognize landmarks or make sense of surrounding signs, and pull off a shot by stitching several pictures together.

Related stories:

Samsung unveils Galaxy Gear smartwatch; new Galaxy Note

Samsung, Apple rivalry set to heat up in September

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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