Shin Jong-kyun, head of IT and Mobile Communication division of Samsung, presents the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch

Samsung Galaxy Gear steals limelight at IFA

Samsung has launched its eagerly anticipated smartwatch that can make calls, receive emails and even take photographs.

The Galaxy Gear, which allows users to access email, text and even make phone calls without touching their mobile, was the highlight of a host of new technology unveiled at the IFA technology conference in Berlin yesterday.

Head of Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America Pranav Mistry showed off the Galaxy Gear, which features speakers and microphones meaning people speak into and hear from the device on their wrist instead of a handset, during a presentation, which was live streamed to Times Square in New York.

He said: "This is an exciting time for all of us at Samsung. We have created something incredible. You don't need to get your phone out anymore. Gear takes the entirety of your digital world and places it right where you can see."

Mistry said Samsung was inspired by a traditional wristwatch with a simple face.

"It is stainless steel but light in weight," he said. "The strap is packed with technology of the next decade."

Users switch the watch on with a swipe, which unlocks features including apps, contacts, a camera and email, while incoming messages – such as calls, alerts and emails – show up on the smartwatch and can be accessed on the wrist.

Alternatively, "smart relay" technology means the message will automatically load with a linked larger device, such as a tablet or smartphone.

Mistry said the Gear's call ability allowed users to stay connected while keeping hands truly 'hands-free'. “You don't need to talk to the air like a bluetooth handset or get your phone out of your pocket," he said.

Galaxy S Voice – voice-activated command technology – allows users to draft messages, create calendar entries, set alarms and check the weather on the watch simply by speaking.

Galaxy Gear is designed to be used in unison with the newly announced Note3 and Note 10.1 2014 edition, but will be able to work with other Samsung smartphones and tablet models by October. It works using Bluetooth up to 10 metres away from the "parent" device.

Galaxy Gear's 1.9 megapixels camera, the Memographer feature, can capture both pictures and video and the device will last for more than 25 hours with a single charge and also has an inbuilt pedometer for users to monitor their fitness.

The smartwatch will be available in more than 140 countries with the Galaxy Note 3 from 25 September.

Going toe-to-toe with Samsung, Sony unveiled a host of new products including the Android smartphone Xperia Z1 – a waterproof smartphone that can take "world-leading" photographs.

The phone uses Sony's award-winning camera technology as well as applications including live social broadcasting – allowing users to share live streams of experiences on Facebook.

Sony also used the 45-minute conference in the German capital to unveil an attachment which turns smartphones into top-of-the-range cameras – the new QX10 and QX100 lens-style cameras which are designed to mount on all smartphones not just Sony models.

Sony president and chief executive Kazuo Hirari revealed the Xperia Z1, which will launch globally this month, at a packed press conference, calling the device "the absolute embodiment of that one Sony ethos" as it used expertise from every aspect of the company.

The 12.7cm (5in) phone features Sony's G Lens with a 27mm (1.06in) wide angle and bright F2.0 aperture, custom-made large 1/2.3-type CMOS image sensor Exmor RS for mobile with 20.7MP and a BIONZ for mobile image processing engine.

Sony say independent tests show the Xperia Z1 provides the "best overall image quality" of leading smartphones,

Applications on the Xperia Z1 include Social live, giving a live stream from the handset straight to Facebook. Likes and comments made by Facebook friends stream to the phone, allowing contacts to direct the filming from anywhere in the world.

The phone also has Info-eye, which provides information from the Eiffel Tower to food that goes with a wine the camera is pointed at.

Timeshift burst mode captures 61 images in two seconds, while the AR effect allows users to overlay a section of custom animations on to pictures. Hirari said media captured on the phone would be uploaded to PlayMemories Online2, a free cloud-based service with no storage limit.

Sony also launched the QX10 and QX100, high-performance camera that clips on to smartphones. Hirari, who described himself as "an avid photographer", said the cameras turned smartphones into "premier digital compacts".

Hirari also revealed that Sony's SmartWatch 2 could be used as a second screen for the smartphone. The SmartWatch 2 enables users to read messages, handle calls, access notifications from their wrists, as well as triggering the Xperia Z1's camera shutter.

Gadget fans are gearing up for a second day of product launches, with LG and Acer already claiming world firsts with their latest innovations, set to be unveiled at IFA today.

LG will be showcasing its G Pad, which it says is the only 8in class tablet to feature a full HD display and Acer's Liquid S2 is claimed to be the first smartphone that can record video in the 4K 'ultra-HD' format.

Panasonic, Lenovo, Toshiba, Philips and Dyson are among other companies holding press conferences during the show.

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