Samsung has filed a patent for a device it’s calling the Gear Solo, a smartwatch that, as the name suggests, can operate without the companionship of a smartphone, Patently Apple reported April 7.
The Korea Herald reported the same day that it has also learned of the Gear Solo from a source and confirmed that the watch is equipped with a universal subscriber identity module (USIM), a more advanced version of a SIM, with more memory, more processing power and support for software such as a mobile wallet or contactless payment solution.
The Herald earlier reported that Samsung is working on the new smartwatch in cooperation with SK Telecom, and that a source at the carrier said the Solo will initially be available only in Korea “but did not rule out the possibility of a release in overseas markets.”
Samsung’s Unlikely Competition
Samsung introduced the Galaxy Gear smartwatch last September, by most accounts setting a low bar for those planning to follow it into the wearables market.
Apple, HTC and other Samsung rivals are all expected to introduce smartwatches in the near future, in an effort to expand their ecosystems as smartphone sales slow.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear featured a 1.9-inch display, a chunky band with a camera built into it, and the ability to pair with only the Galaxy Note 3, a phablet introduced the same day.
In February, Samsung refreshed its effort, introducing the Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo (AT&T will begin selling both April 11). Both Gear 2 watches are noticeably slimmer and sleeker, particularly their bands. The key difference between them is that the Gear 2 has a camera—this time built into the watch face—and the Neo doesn’t.
Samsung also made the Gear 2 watches capable of pairing with “dozens” of Samsung Galaxy smartphones. They additionally differ from their predecessor in that they don’t need to wirelessly connect to a phone in order to play music.
While that’s a bit more liberating, Samsung seems to understand that the ultimate freedom would be to not need a phone at all (or at least not for short periods of time). In thinking so, it’s not alone.
The multifaceted musician will.i.am showed off a smartwatch that operates without a smartphone on the British program Alan Carr: Chatty Man April 4.
“I don’t carry my phone anymore. I just use—this is my phone,” he said, pointing to the watch, a thin-ish, roughly 2-inch-wide black band, with a shape more like a cuff-style bracelet than a traditional watch.
“There’s a lot of these smartwatches that need phones. My doesn’t need a phone. This is the phone,” said will.i.am, not sharing specifics, like the name of the watch, the software it runs or when it will be available. “I started the company myself. I funded it. I used my own money to develop it.”
“That’s amazing!” said Carr, as will.i.am tapped through a few screens, first dialing a phone number and then playing music that he began to dance to.
The smartwatch is also Bluetooth compatible, so it can connect to a headset, and it can access Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
“But,” deadpanned Carr, “does it tell the time, though?”