Samsung wasn't first to the smartwatch market, with big companies like Sony and little companies like Pebble both releasing products long before Samsung. Although late to the game, Samsung has already made a big splash with their Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, announcing today that they have sold over 800,000 units worldwide. By comparison, the Pebble smartwatch announced back in July that they had sold 275,000 units, despite being much cheaper.
What's even more impressive is that Samsung managed to sell that many watches despite initial reviews which ranged from lukewarm to downright hostile. Be sure to read our review of the Galaxy Gear for more. There were also reports that the phone has as high as a 30% return rate at Best Buy stores.
In addition to bad reviews, the Gear was initially only compatible with just one phone, the Galaxy Note 3. In the months since launch, other Samsung phones have been updated to support the watch, including the Galaxy S4 in the US and around the world. An update for the Galaxy S3 is going out as we speak.
So the Galaxy Gear is only compatible with three Samsung phones at the moment, meaning users of phones by HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. are simply out of luck. The Galaxy Gear is Samsung's play to keep consumers buying Samsung devices.
And it seems to be working. They have spent a lot of money and done an excellent job with the advertising for the Gear, making even average consumers interested. Most people have never heard of the Pebble watch, but they've heard of and want the Samsung watch, helping reach that 800,000 number despite the negatives mentioned above. We reviewed the Galaxy Gear and while it has its problems, it does have some potential.
The idea of a smartwatch obviously resonates with people and even though the Gear may not be the best smartwatch out there, it's working for Samsung.
In the UK, Phones4U was including a free Galaxy Gear with purchases of the Note 3 as a promotion earlier this month. The watch costs about $300 in the US and is being pushed at carrier stores as a suggested accessory for new customers who purchase a Galaxy S4 or Note 3. It is available at Best Buy, as well as all four major mobile carriers.