Samsung’s watch-phone will be able to make and receive calls without being tethered to a smartphone, something most smartwatches on the market now can’t do, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. It will also take photos, send email and come with GPS, Bluetooth and a heart monitor, the people said—a suite of features that would make the gadget-toting James Bond proud. (The fictional British spy used a wrist walkie-talkie in the movie For Your Eyes Only).
The South Korean technology giant—currently the top seller of smartphones—is in talks with telecom carriers in the U.S., South Korea and Europe about the watch-phone, and hopes to unveil the gadget between June and July, the people said. It will run on Samsung’s homegrown operating system, Tizen, which was co-developed with Intel Corp.
The recent craze for wearables has breathed new commercial life into wrist-communication devices. Samsung has four on the market—including the Galaxy Gear, powered by Google’s Android operating system, and the Gear 2, running on Tizen. The company has been marketing them with clever ads, one of which traced the evolution of watch-type communication devices from Dick Tracy through TV shows such as Knight Rider and Star Trek.
Samsung’s new watch-phone, which will come with a SIM card, will be one of a handful of stand-alone devices on the market, and the only one yet from a major manufacturer.
Many analysts say the smartwatch—with phone functions or without—isn’t likely to amount to much as a business yet.