Samsung offers glimpse of round Gear S2 smartwatch coming soon

At its Unpacked event, Samsung plays a brief video about its next smartwatch -- its seventh wearable device but the first since the Apple Watch launched.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Samsung teased its next smartwatch on Thursday. The company will reveal full details of the wearable in early September at the IFA trade show in Berlin. Screenshot by CNET

NEW YORK -- Samsung offered a brief glimpse Thursday of its next smartwatch, a round device it hopes will lure consumers away from the Apple Watch.

The company played a teaser video for the Gear S2 smartwatch during the Samsung Unpacked event, which focused primarily on the Galaxy Note 5 phablet and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphone.

The video, shown at the end of the media event at New York's Lincoln Center, may have stolen the show. Samsung's new smartphones have been expected, but the company hasn't said much about its next smartwatch, the first that will hit the market since the Apple Watch launched in April.

The company will offer more details about the Gear S2 smartwatch on September 3 at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

Samsung introduced its first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, in late 2013 and followed that up with five more wearables over the next year, including the Gear 2, running its Tizen operating system; the Android Wear-based Gear Live; and the Gear Fit fitness band. The company a year ago introduced the Gear S smartwatch with its own 3G cellular connectivity and the Gear Circle, wireless Bluetooth headphones that fasten around the neck and vibrate when receiving a call.

Watch this: Samsung teases new Gear S2 smartwatch

While the devices initially looked promising, most haven't sold well, and the frequency of Samsung's releases have caused some confusion with would-be buyers. Still, the Gear devices made Samsung the world's biggest smartwatch vendor in 2014. In the second quarter last year, nearly three out of every four smartwatches came from Samsung, according to Strategy Analytics.

Samsung hasn't released a new smartwatch in over a year, though, and the market dramatically changed when Apple released in April the Apple Watch, a device that ranges from $349 to $17,000. With only three months in the wearables market, Apple has surpassed Samsung to become the leader in smartwatches. In the second quarter of this year, 76 percent of smartwatches came from Apple, while Samsung's control of the sector tumbled to 7.5 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

"Apple and Samsung together account for eight in 10 of all smartwatches shipped globally," Strategy Analytics senior analyst Rajeev Nair said at the time. "However, Samsung is a long way behind Apple and it will need to launch multiple new smartwatch models and apps across dozens of countries if it wants to reduce Apple's global smartwatch leadership in the coming months."

Samsung was expected to introduce a new round smartwatch alongside the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge at the Mobile World Congress trade show in March. Instead, the company focused on its new smartphones and its virtual-reality headsets. It's likely the company was waiting to see what Apple would introduce with its smartwatch before proceeding with its next device.

The company also has been working to get developers to make apps for the new device ahead of the launch. The smartwatch will run Tizen, Samsung's homegrown operating system that it has been pushing for its wearables, TVs and other devices.

Samsung Galaxy Gear S

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Samsung in April hinted that its next smartwatch would feature a round face, a break from its previous wearables that have all sported rectangular screens. The company didn't give many details but said the device -- its seventh in the past two years -- would be another "wrist watch type." Gear is the name for Samsung's line of wearables that includes its Gear S curved smartwatch, its Gear Circle wireless headphones and its Gear VR virtual-reality headset.

Justin Denison, vice president of product strategy and marketing at Samsung Electronics America, refuted the belief the company waited for the Apple Watch before figuring out its next smartwatch. But he didn't specify why Samsung has taken a year to introduce its next Gear device and declined to provide further details about the Gear S2.

"I don't think you'll ever see Samsung just wait and see," he told CNET on Thursday after the Unpacked event. "That is not part of our DNA. We want to innovate relentlessly. Anything contrary to that is likely not going to happen."

Updated at 2:20 p.m. PT with comment from Samsung executive.