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Samsung dumps Android for Tizen in new Gears

New wrist companions run open OS in first commercial Tizen product

Samsung dumps Android for Tizen in new Gears
The Gear devices serve not as standalones , but as accessories to the Galaxy range, allowing users to access a subset of parent-handset functions.

Samsung Electronics has launched two new smartwatches at Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona and both are running the open-source Tizen OS.

The Gear 2, follow-up to the Gear companion watch, and Gear 2 Neo, were aired yesterday at the mobile expo's pre-show. MWC 2014 officially starts tomorrow and Samsung will host an event it has named "UNPACKED 5" in the morning, which is widely expected to be the launch of its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5.

If the S5 also runs Tizen, this would be a significant shift within the global smartphone industry. Tizen is an open-source project based on Linux and supported by Samsung and Intel. The platform's licensing model is complex. Some elements have been developed by Samsung and are licensed under a model called Flora, which is free and permissive, but with some restrictions. Other elements are completely collaborative and open. However, the Tizen platform is not controlled by Google, which owns Android, the OS present in the vast majority of the world's smartphones.

The Gear devices serve not as standalones , but as accessories to the Galaxy range, allowing users to access a subset of parent-handset functions such as to accept or ignore incoming calls and messages. The range also is sensitive to the location of the main smartphone or tablet, allowing the option to beep a warning when the Gear moves too far away from the Galaxy device.

"Samsung continues to lead innovation in the wearable market by creating devices that are completely integrated into the lives of consumers through extended connectivity features, stylish customisation options and a robust application ecosystem," said JK Shin, CEO and president, IT and Mobile Division, Samsung Electronics.

"With the Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, we have enhanced everything consumers love about the Gear to offer unparalleled smart freedom in their everyday life."

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Samsung is touting the fresh wearable offerings as "significant improvements" on the Gear. The South Korean vendor has stuck with the aesthetic that defined the original model, keen to distinguish the Gear range as fashion accessories as well as technological ones. The wrist devices come in Charcoal Black, Gold Brown and Wild Orange for Gear 2, and Charcoal Black, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange for Gear 2 Neo.

But when it comes to the hardware, a number of things have changed. The camera is integrated into the face instead of the strap, for example, meaning users now have to hold the watch at slightly less natural angle when capturing images, but doubtless offering a more durable design. And Samsung has included more customisation options for the home screen background, clock face and font.

The watches also can act as remote controls for TVs and set-top boxes through an app and an embedded IrLED sensor. The addition of a standalone music player with Bluetooth headset allows users to leave the main device at home and still have access to music.

Both devices also include personal fitness functions and are capable of storing customisable fitness routines; they can also monitor a user's heart rate.

Samsung said the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo would be compatible with dozens of Galaxy smartphones at its launch in April.

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