Watch war: Samsung racing to unveil device

competing with apple to develop wristwatch

Bloomberg NewsMarch 20, 2013 

SEOUL — Samsung Electronics is developing a wristwatch as Asia's biggest technology company races against Apple to create a new industry of wearable devices that perform similar tasks as smartphones.

"We've been preparing the watch product for so long," said Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business. "We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Lee had no comment on what features the watch may have, how much it would cost and when it would go on sale.

The South Korea-based company already plans to release three high-end smartphones this year — including the Galaxy S4 unveiled last week — as it competes with Apple for customers in a slowing global market.

Samsung's disclosure comes after people familiar with Apple's plans said last month the U.S. company has about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform similar functions to the iPhone and iPad.

The global watch industry will generate more than $60 billion in sales this year, and the first companies to sell devices that multi-task could lock customers into their platform, boosting sales of phones, tablets and TVs.

"The race is on to redesign the mobile phone into something that you wear," said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD Group in Port Washington, New York. "We're going to see formidable competition coming from many different directions — from device makers, accessory makers, even fashion designers."

Samsung and Apple are looking for new product lines as the $358 billion global market for handsets approaches saturation. Growth is projected to slow to 9.8 percent in 2017 from 27 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries.

Apple's sales growth last quarter was the slowest in more than two years, and Samsung in January warned of slowing demand.

"The issue here is who will first commercialize it so consumers can use it meaningfully," Samsung's Lee said.

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