Berlin - South Korean electronics giant Samsung on Wednesday unveiled its hotly anticipated smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, which allows users to make calls, receive text messages and emails and take photographs.
JK Shin, head of Samsung's mobile division, predicted the Galaxy Gear - effectively a mobile phone you wear on your wrist - would become “a new fashion icon through the world” as he launched the device at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin.
The new smartwatch has a touch screen of barely more than 4cm in a brushed-steel mount and wrist strap in six different colours. Contrary to rumours, it does not have a flexible screen.
Samsung is not the first company to introduce a watch that connects via wi-fi to a smartphone, alerting its user to calls, texts and emails - Casio and Sony already have similar products.
However, with its arch rival Apple still to roll out its rumoured “iWatch”, and the likes of Microsoft and Google not exhibiting at IFA, the South Korean giant has the field more or less to itself to wow the audience.
Unlike its competitors, the Samsung device allows users to make calls without taking their phone out of their pocket - instead, they can hold their wrist up to their ear and use the built-in speaker and microphone.
The Galaxy Gear will go on sale on September 25 and also has a tiny camera in its wrist strap.
Gadget enthusiasts from all over the world have converged on Berlin this week.
The first two days, Wednesday and Thursday, are reserved for the press. After that, IFA will open its doors to the general public from Friday through Wednesday to dazzle potential customers with the latest state-of-the-art gadgets on 145 000 square metres of exhibition space.
In addition to smartwatches, smartphones and tablet computers are sure to be a big draw for visitors, as the dividing line between the two becomes more and more blurred, as is demonstrated by growth of so-called “phablets”.
Electronic household goods, such as state-of-the-art kitchen devices - from ceramic hot plates to refrigerators - as well as the latest in flat-screen television sets will also be on display.
Sales of flat-screen TVs are beginning to fall off in Germany, so manufacturers are looking to ultra-HD devices to spur consumer demand.
Catering to the growing trend to inter-connect all gadgets, Sony will present a new camera lens that can be linked up to a smartphone to transform into a powerful camera.
In fact, organisers boast there will be more world premieres at this year's IFA than ever before.
And while many owners of Internet-enabled TV sets still do not use their devices to surf the web, there is also an information campaign on so-called “smart-TV”.
If the rival fair, the CES in Las Vegas in January, grabs the headlines and consumers' attention more with a rush of new products, IFA is still able to attract more visitors - a total 240 000 last year - and is a better gauge of what will be in people's stockings for Christmas. - AFP