Gear S2 just the beginning: Samsung smartwatch designers
By Keith Liu October 5, 2015
- Gear S2 design inspired by analogue wristwatch movements
- Focus on designing a fashionable item, not just a tech product
AFTER having delivered six smartwatch models to the market, you would think that Samsung Mobile would know a thing or two about wearables.
Unfortunately, market share numbers by analysts show that despite having released an entire portfolio of Samsung Gear-branded smartwatches and fitness bands, they still account for only a fraction of what Apple has sold in the market with a single model.
And mind you, Samsung and other smartwatch vendors (Pebble, Sony, Motorola, etc.) had an almost two-year headstart in this nascent market.
The South Korean giant however, may finally have a winner in the form of the Gear S2.
Launched during the IFA 2015 consumer technology expo in Berlin back in early September, many pundits have called the round-faced smartwatch a success in terms of design and user experience.
Read also: Samsung's new smartwatch hands-on
But it’s taken a while for the company to get here.
“This is the seventh smartwatch Samsung has made. We had the small square-shaped one, we had the rectangle, we had the arch-shaped one as well,” Samsung product designer Jae Hyung Hong told Digital News Asia (DNA) at the company’s launch event in Singapore on Sept 25.
“This time, we came up with the round shape, so it’s just one of the different shapes we have so far,” he said.
“We reflected a lot on the consumer space, and 90% of the adult watches sold in the market is circle-shaped. Consumers find that more comfortable because they’re used to it,” he added.
But it’s not the round face that makes the Gear S2 special. Other vendors, like Motorola with its Moto 360 and LG with its Urbane watch, already have circle-shaped watch faces.
What differentiates the S2 is the rotating bezel which provides a physical, tactile way of operating the watch, without relying purely on the touch screen.
Round faces “make it harder for users to control the user interface as the size shrinks,” said Eunjoo Kim, Samsung’s user experience (UX) designer, referring to how our hands would block the screen when relying on just touch.
“The rotating bezel allows users to control the interface without any interruptions – it’s easier and more accurate,” she noted.
Taking inspiration from analogue time-pieces with rotating movements on the clock face, such as chronograph and dive wrist-watches, Hong and Kim designed a similar concept with the Gear S2’s bezel, providing 24 stops on the rotation movement.
They believe when consumers get used to turning the bezel according to the number of stops, they won’t even need to look at the watch to activate a specific function.
Every stop would move the pointer to a specific icon on the watch face, which is positioned along the edge of the circle. To select that icon, the user simply needs to press the physical button on the right side of the case, similar to using a normal watch.
“It is our way to deliver what consumers are really looking for. When we designed the round face, we wanted to make sure we delivered a perfect, rich experience, not only for the hardware but in software design as well,” Kim said.
This was partly the reason for Samsung to stick with its own Tizen operating system, rather than utilise Google’s Android Wear platform which is standardised across the board, no matter which vendor makes the hardware.
“Tizen offers the flexibility for us to create our own rich experience to meet our customers’ needs, as well as our partners’ needs,” Kim said.
The platform is also optimised for the hardware, promising a longer battery life compared with the Apple Watch and Android Wear-based smartwatches.
But at a more basic level, what really matters for Hong and Kim is that the Gear S2 meets the fashion needs of consumers.
“The main concept of Gear S2 is to be fashionable, as consumer demands always change, and fashion always changes too,” Hong noted.
After all, the wrist watch is more of a fashion statement than a tech toy for many people. That’s why the company decided to launch two variations of the device.
The Gear S2 (pic above) is a sporty-looking model which supports a variety of Samsung-made bands in different colours and designs, while the Gear S2 Classic (pic below) comes with a leather strap that can be easily removed and exchanged with any standard third-party watch band.
For this design team, they believe this is just the start.
“Our design won’t stop here, we’re always changing and developing our product,” said Hong, hinting at future iterations of the Gear S2 concept based on consumer feedback.
“We need to have a well-balanced approach – we want to lead the market, as well as listen to customers,” Kim added.
“We have a clear vision of where we want to go. I don’t think this is our final destination,” she said.
The Samsung Gear S2 is now available from Samsung’s retail outlets in Singapore at prices starting from S$448 (US$320).
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