If you thought the fact that consumer technology giants are crashing the wearable technology party would drive smaller players to quit, think again.
On the day that Samsung’s (SSNLF) Galaxy Gear smartwatch was to begin showing up in U.S. stores, Fitbit — the company whose wearable fitness trackers were firmly in the motion sensor-packing Gear’s crosshairs — announced a new smartwatch of its own: the Fitbit Force.
And the battle between the Galaxy Gear and Fitbit Force perfectly illustrates why other consumer technology giants are waiting before releasing their own smartwatches.
First, the details. The Force remains primarily concerned with tracking the activity of its wearer (acting as a pedometer that can also account for stairs climbed, sleep quality and calories burned), but Fitbit has added an OLED display, watch function, vibrating silent alarm, the ability to wirelessly sync with a range of devices (both iOS and Android) and a pending software update will display call notifications for owners of Apple (AAPL) iPhones.
And while the “smart” functions of the Fitbit Force may not seem up to the capabilities of the Android-powered Galaxy Gear, the Force is a fraction of the size of the bulky Galaxy Gear and weighs far less.
Sure, the Galaxy Gear receives notifications, lets you check e-mail, make or take voice calls and play music when connected to a smartphone. But the Gear costs $299.99 vs. $129.95 for the FitBit, and lasts one day at best on a single charge vs. last 7-10 days for its rival.
Fitbit’s offering even manages something the Galaxy Gear can’t pull off until older devices receive an update to the latest version of Android: wireless connectivity with Samsung’s own legacy smartphones like the Galaxy S III.
Will users pay the considerable premium, put up with strapping on a device that weighs just over one ounce less than the Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone and deal with daily recharging to gain the added functionality of talking through their wrist, being able to view e-mails and play music?
If the Galaxy Gear was truly autonomous that might be the case, but when the user is also required to carry a smartphone to do the wireless heavy lifting, the sell becomes a lot tougher.
With that in mind, you can bet rival tech giants are all studying the consumer reaction to the Galaxy Gear and will apply the lessons learned to their own efforts — even though waiting means missing the holiday shopping season and giving smaller companies like Pebble, Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin (GRMN) a window to extend their lead in wearable technology.