OPINION: Gears are slowly turning at Samsung with Gear Fit, subdued Galaxy S5

OPINION: Gears are slowly turning at Samsung with Gear Fit, subdued Galaxy S5

The Barcelona Opera House Chamber Orchestra that performed a seemingly never-ending opener made the Samsung MWC 2014 press conference’s 50 minutes feel short and subdued.

However, the South Korean electronics giant still hit a lot more right notes today than it did last year at its widely panned Broadway-inspired product unveiling. There was no song-and-dance routine to distract from the Samsung Galaxy S5 and its new wearables.

Reflecting its stripped-down and refocused talking points, Samsung insisted that it had gauged customer feedback worldwide and opted against delivering an all-encompassing device.

Instead of eye-popping technology with bloated software, it has chosen more practical hardware upgrades in its phone and wearables.

Gear Fit is almost a perfect fit

Samsung already unveiled its follow-up to the Android-based Galaxy Gear smartwatch prior to MWC. Little did we know it was teasin’ more than just a Tizen operating system for the minimally changed Gear 2 and Gear Neo.

Gear Fit

The Galaxy Fit turns wearables on their head by turning the display 90 degrees and stretching out the high-resolution display. In this way, it checks off another "world’s first" for Samsung thanks to its incredibly rich curved Super AMOLED display.

Consumers, still perplexed by Samsung’s flexible TVs and curved smartphones, can make sense of this new technology within wrist-mounted wearables.

The Gear Fit is part-smartwatch, part-fitness tracker and fully fashionable. It can receive instant notifications, reject calls, control alarms and keep track of your wellness through S-Health 3.0.

This completely eliminates the need to dig your phone out of your pocket in a number of cases. It also does away with the drudgery of foolishly running to your phone that’s charging in another room, only to realize it’s just a menial text reply of someone saying "k."

Always on-wrist, this accessory, at just 27 grams, solves these first world problems. And unlike the Fitbit Force, Nike FuelBand SE and Jawbone Up, it includes a heart-rate monitor, a sought-after feature among quantified self fitness enthusiasts.

Samsung still hasn’t mastered the art of ‘lure’

Gear Fit is being supported by an impressive 20 Galaxy devices. Contrast that to the Galaxy Gear, which initially worked with just one phone, the launching-in-tandem Galaxy Note 3. No one owned this phablet prior to simultaneous day-one launch. You had to shell out cash for both if you wanted the watch.

On top of that, Samsung announced that it has sold more than 200 million Galaxy phones and tablets worldwide. That translates into a lot of Galaxy Fit-compatible devices.

Gear S5

However, Samsung has failed to learn the art of the lure. It finally has an impressive new device that is expected to be cheaper than a smartphone and without a contract.

That’s why the Samsung Gear Fit should work with iOS and all Android devices. Without such interoperability, iPhone 5S owners, for example, won’t be tempted to own a Samsung phone.

Apple pulled this off when introducing its iPod and later the iPhone, turning millions of PC consumers into Apple-loving Mac users.

At the right price, The Galaxy Fit can act as that same "gateway drug" device that gets people to really appreciate and rely on the Samsung brand. It hasn’t learned that tact just yet.

5 features for Galaxy S5

More than software, the Samsung Galaxy S5 boasts a hardware specs bump that stays the needless Smart Stay, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause updates.

Galaxy S5

The company laid out its upgrades in five categories based on consumer feedback: design, camera, connectivity, stay fit and life.

With that, we get a perforated, dimple-backed Galaxy S5 rear that’s a more pleasing alternative to the faux-leather of the Galaxy S4 and Note 3. On the front is a slightly bigger 5.1-inch screen.

The camera is now 16-megapixels, up from the 13-megapixels found in last year’s model, and its fast autofocus software enables the phone to snap photos in .3 seconds.

Those looking for LTE Advanced speeds should be happy that the Samsung Galaxy S5 did promise that smart bonding WiFi and LTE for the fastest and most stable connection is possible.

For Staying fit, the S5 isn’t letting the Gear Fit get all of the glory. It has a heart-rate monitor of its own – where LG G2 puts its odd volume rocker – on the back.

It’s also good for staying out of trouble. It’s water-resistant, though not quite waterproof like the Sony Xperia Z2, and has a fingerprint sensor that rivals the iPhone 5S security feature.

Better battery life all-around

There’s no bigger consumer want than better battery life and the Galaxy S5 and Gear wearables deliver that through different means.

Galaxy S5

The S5 phone features a slightly larger battery at 2800mAh compared to the S4’s 2600mAh size. Combined with a new "Ultra Power Savings Mode," Samsung is doing everything possible to squeeze a couple extra minutes from its new devices.

Gear 2 actually has a smaller battery than its predecessor, but Samsung promises to extend battery life while dropping Android in the process. The Tizen devices are said to be good for two or three days, negating the daily charge endured by original Galaxy Gear owners.

The Galaxy Fit should achieve an even better three to four days of battery life.

Everything comes down to price

Samsung showed us that it could do something practical with its curved screen technology with the introduction of its Gear Fit wearable.

It also proved that Tizen is more than a also-ran operating system. In the case of the Gear 2 and Gear Neo smartwatches, it offers better battery life over the company’s prior Android model.

Most importantly, the Galaxy S5 had only one world’s first – the heart-rate monitor – that proved that Samsung doesn’t need to pack in every single function into its latest flagship smartphone.

All of these innovative-within-reason upgrades should enable Samsung to deliver a just as reasonable price, a key advantage the company has had over Apple’s iPhone 5S and its Android rivals in the 12 months.

  • More analysis: Samsung’s ‘let’s see what sticks’ approach is the right way to do wearables