This is why there aren't more Samsung Galaxy Gear apps

The Korean electronics giant still operates under an invite-only strategy for apps to run on its smartwatch, and it's unclear when that will change.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Wonder why the Samsung Galaxy Gear has so few apps? The answer is simple -- the Gear app store is still invite-only for developers.

Gear debuted last month with about 70 apps. Since that time, one of the biggest criticisms of the smartwatch is that there aren't a lot more apps available. However, Samsung says that for now, it's sticking with its plans to seek out apps instead of opening up the platform to developers at large.

"We've had sort of an an invite-only world," Curtis Sasaki, senior vice president of Samsung's Media Solution Center Americas business, told CNET. "We need to make sure we're ready to go big."

He declined to provide a timeline for when that could happen, only saying "we'll have to see how that goes."

The Korean electronics giant is hosting its first developer conference in San Francisco to get app makers excited about its devices. It wants them to create software unique to Samsung devices, setting its products apart from all the other Android vendors on the market. And it wants developers to build apps that connect together its various devices, such as smartphones, TVs, and home appliances.

To make that easier for partners, Samsung released five software development kits, including one for mobile. However, those SDKs don't apply to the Galaxy Gear.

Samsung launched Gear in September during a splashy event at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. The device sports a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED screen surrounded by a metal frame and includes a 1.9-megapixel camera embedded into the rubberized band. Gear runs Android and syncs with Galaxy smartphones and tablets, allowing users to do things like control their music or check messages without touching their mobile devices.

The Galaxy Gear initially only worked with the Note 3. Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Earlier this week, Samsung said Gear soon will work with the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, and other devices, rather than only running with the Note 3.

Galaxy Gear represents a new area for Samsung and is the company's answer to the white-hot trend of "wearable computing." Samsung views wearables as a way to counteract the slowdown in smartphone sales. The introduction of Gear also marks an important shift in the company's position in technology: long known as a "fast follower" that's able to pick up, emulate, and even improve upon existing industry trends, it is now moving to cut its own path with the unproven watch.

But for such a key technology, Gear's presence at the developer conference was minimal. Samsung held only one session specifically focused on wearables during its developer conference, a panel about the present and the future of the devices. Speakers included executives and developers from eBay, Path, and Intel Capital.

"Wearables is a category that's here to stay," Harry Singh, a director at Intel Capital, said during the panel.

However, Samsung may soon need to get more developers involved if it wants its device to really take off.

 

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