The Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will be available from April

MWC: Samsung updates smartwatch LG joins race

Samsung has released two new versions of its Gear smartwatch, which will be powered by its own Tizen operating system.

Due to be available from April, the Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are the first update to the South Korean firm’s smartwatch that was first released last September and will come with a slew of fresh customisation settings.

The new devices, which have been unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, are designed to work as companion technology with the user's existing smartphone and are powered by a lesser-known operating system called Tizen, developed jointly by Samsung and Intel.

Samsung spokesman Simon Stanford said: "Samsung continues to lead in the wearable technology market with innovative, creative devices that are completely integrated into the lives of our customers.

"Offering extended connectivity features, stylish customisation options and a robust application network, we have enhanced everything that people love about the original Samsung Gear to create a second generation of wearable devices that offer unparalleled smart freedom."

The Galaxy Gear wristwatch has been criticised for its clunky design and difficult-to-use features. The new Gear 2 and Neo 2 do not feature significantly upgraded hardware and the Neo does not have a camera.

On the Gear 2 the firm has moved a camera to the watch's main body from the strap, and both watches feature a couple of enhanced software offerings such as remote TV-controlling, fitness features such as heart rate monitoring, and a standalone music player function, Samsung said in a statement.

South Korean tech giant LG Electronics has also used MWC to announce that it will join the smartwatch race with a computerised wristwatch later this year, entering a nascent market where Samsung, Sony and smaller companies such as Pebble are already jostling for dominance.

Speaking during a pre-announcement briefing last week, president of LG's mobile communications division Park Jong-seok said early smartwatch models failed to demonstrate why consumers should buy them.

LG was a latecomer in both smartphones and tablets compared with its home rival Samsung, now the world's largest maker of smartphones, but Park said LG's strategy is not to release a half-baked product.

Like other smartwatches, the LG smartwatch will be paired with a smartphone, but LG spokeswoman Kim So-yeong declined to comment on news reports that LG will manufacture an Android-powered smartwatch for Google. LG already makes some of Google's Nexus mobile products.

Part of LG's efforts to boost its mobile brand in the crucial North American market was to collaborate with Google. It manufactured Google's Nexus 5 smartphone, the first mobile device to be powered by KitKat, which is the latest version of Google's Android operating system, and the Nexus 4 smartphone.

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