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Samsung Beats Apple to the Smartwatch Game

Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy Gear, a voice-controlled “smartwatch” that connects to Samsung smartphones and can make phone calls, take pictures and display text messages and emails.

The Galaxy Gear, which was announced at an event in Berlin and simulcast in New York’s Times Square, has a 1.9 megapixel camera as well as a pedometer that can track physical activity. People can use the watch to control music on Samsung Galaxy devices.

“Galaxy Gear isn’t just a cool device that complements Note 3,” J.K. Shin, the president and CEO of Samsung’s IT and mobile division said, referring to an updated smartphone that he also announced. “I believe it will become a new fashion icon around the world.”

Galaxy Gear comes in six colors. People navigate on the 1.63-inch display (320 x 320 resolution) with a swipe across, while a swipe from the top to the bottom of the display brings you back to the previous screen. In something right out of a spy movie, a person can put her wrist up to her ear to make a phone call.

Galaxy Gear uses S-Voice, Samsung’s version of Google Now and Siri, for voice commands, like making phone calls and checking the weather. Samsung said the watch will come with over 60 apps.

“We wanted to make a wearable of tomorrow that is designed for everyone,” said Pranav Mistry, Samsung America’s director of research. “I can proudly say Galaxy Gear is tomorrow’s state of the art.”

The Galaxy Gear for now works only with the 2014 version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 Galaxy Note 3Mistry said that updates for the Galaxy S3 and S4 and Note 2, that will make them compatible with Galaxy Gear, are coming later this year.

Technology giants and nimble startups are eyeing the wrist as the next battlefield for consumer technology. Apple is said to be developing a smartwatch, and earlier this year patented “iWatch” in a handful of countries. The Pebble, a customizable watch that connects to your smartphone and saw huge support through a crowdfunding campaign, is available for preorder. And Sony has a SmartWatch out that’s compatible with Android.

The Galaxy Gear will be available in 149 countries on Sept. 25 and worldwide in October. It will retail for $299.

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