Samsung announces Gear Fit, a curved-display, fitness-tracking wristband

Just one day after announcing updates to its increasingly feature-laden Gear smartwatch line, Samsung on Monday revealed the Gear Fit, an activity-tracking wristband that shows the company understands not every wearable needs to include an exhaustive laundry list of fancy tricks.

On its 1.84-inch, curved, 432x128 Super AMOLED screen, the Gear Fit displays a rather modest complement of health data and Galaxy smartphone notifications. Users get basic pedometer data, along with heart rate information, and alerts for incoming calls, SMS, alarms, email, calendar items and even third-party apps. Built-in sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope and heart-rate sensor.

Now, about that heart rate sensor: Samsung was conspicuously vague about how the sensor works throughout its Samsung Unpacked event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung CEO JK Shin declared it “the first of its kind,” but no one in the company’s cattle call of executives explained exactly how the sensor collects data. 

gear fit onstage

Based on images of the Gear Fit’s rear chassis—which feature a tiny square window that makes contact with the user’s skin—it’s likely that Samsung has employed an optical blood flow sensor similar to what Basis uses in its activity tracker. The Samsung heart rate sensor will be our first line of inquiry as we spend more time with Samsung’s wearables during hands-on demos.

Nonetheless, the heart rate sensor keys directly into Samsung’s S Health software on Galaxy smartphones. “By tracking your heart rate, the fitness manager will tell you to slow down or speed up if there’s a sense you’re slacking off,” said one Samsung executive on stage.

samsung gear heartrate sensor

Samsung's heart rate sensor as it appears in the Gear 2 smartwatch.

The Gear Fit is compatible with 20 devices (that’s 10 times better device support than what the Galaxy Gear smartwatch offered when it launched about five months ago), and will start shipping on April 11, along with the rest of Samsung’s Mobile World Congress line-up. Customers will be able to choose from changeable straps in black, orange and mocha gray. Samsung notes the straps are hypo-allergenic—perhaps a veiled reference to FitBit’s Force recall problems. Battery life for the Gear Fit is rated for three to four days for typical usage. 

We’ve already covered most of Samsung’s Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo information in a Sunday report, but on Monday Samsung noted the Gear 2 models will support 17 devices (a far cry more than the five devices that are compatible with the first-generation Galaxy Gear), and will also go sale April 11. Pricing for all three wearables is still unknown.

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