Samsung wants you to make Gear 2 apps, ASAP

The Korean electronics giant unveiled three new software development kits to make it easy to create programs that work with its new wearables and its Galaxy S5.

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
3 min read
Won-Pyo Hong, president and head of Samsung's Media Solution Center software business, kicks off the company's developer day at Mobile World Congress. Shara Tibken/CNET
BARCELONA, Spain -- Samsung on Wednesday introduced tools that will allow developers to create apps for the company's new wearables and flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone.

The company, speaking at a developer day at Mobile World Congress, released a software development kit for its Gear 2 smartwatch, which is based on the Tizen operating system, and an SDK for its S Health application. It also launched a Gear Fit SDK that will allow developers to make apps for their Android devices that can interact with the Gear Fit.

Full CNET coverage of the 2014 Mobile World Congress
"One of the key goals was to make it really easy to make Gear applications," said Curtis Sasaki, the head of Samsung's Media Solution Center business in the US.

He noted that the Gear 2 software, while running on Tizen, is ready to interact with Samsung's Android device because of a widget that runs on the Gear 2. Developers also can create standalone applications for that device. In the case of the Gear Fit, a host application in Android is always required, Sasaki said during a keynote at the company's developer day attended by more than 500 developers.

Samsung on Monday unveiled its newest flagship phone and three new wearable devices -- the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches, and the Gear Fit health band. The company is counting on its new products to help it establish a strong position in the wearables market. It's also using the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo as a way to launch Tizen, the open-source Linux operating system that's an alternative to Android.

As part of the announcement of Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, Samsung said it would open up its software development kit for the wearables to developers. In the case of the first Gear, Samsung closely controlled what apps could be on the Android-based device, rather than opening the gadget up to the entire Google Play universe of apps. Before launching the first device, Samsung sought out app developers and worked with them to create software that would work well with the smartwatch.

Samsung will now allow any developers to make apps for the Gear 2, but it's still keeping app development for the Galaxy Gear invite-only. However, it's unlikely that Samsung will devote much effort to gathering more apps for the first smartwatch. Instead, it will focus its efforts on its new wearables.

"Obviously Tizen, the wearable platform, is something we think is open and makes it very easy for developers to create widgets easily using Web technology," Sasaki told CNET.

Curtis Sasaki, the head of Samsung's Media Solution Center business in the US, reveals the many apps that will launch on the Gear 2. Shara Tibken/CNET
Gear 2 will launch with about 100 apps globally, with the first batch curated by Samsung. The company expects many other developers to release apps over the next few months. Samsung hosted its developer day on Wednesday at Mobile World Congress to drum up interest in making apps for its devices.

Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo work with 17 Samsung devices. Gear Fit works with 20, with the extra three coming from Samsung's Tab 3 tablet series.

Gear Fit can also be used as a standalone device for health features. However, features such as notifications won't work unless the fitness band is connected to a Samsung mobile device.

Meanwhile, Samsung on Wednesday also introduced an upgraded Samsung Mobile SDK 1.5 with finger-scanning technology and gesture functions included in the Galaxy S5. It also released an updated multi-screen SDK for developing apps that can simultaneously operate on TV and mobile devices.

Watch this: Samsung Gear 2, Neo smartwatches grow up
Updated at 2:55 a.m. PT with comment from Samsung executive.