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Tech Report: Get ready for the smartwatch!

A new frontier opened this week in the continuing battle between the consumer tech giants and it’s going to be fought on your wrist. In an event in Germany, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Gear, a voice-controlled “smartwatch” that syncs with Samsung smartphones, giving users a more personal platform for handling functions such as phone calls, texts, e-mail and music.

The idea of a smartwatch is not new. In fact, Sony has been marketing a wearable device under the brand name SmartWatch for over a year. However, what is new is the range of functions that are being built-in to the latest version and the serious investment dollars that companies like Samsung are now bringing to the table.

For now, the Galaxy Gear will only work with the 2014 version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, both of which were also announced this week. However, Samsung is working on updates for the Galaxy S3, S4 and Note II, which will also make them compatible with the Galaxy Gear.

The smartphone features included with the Galaxy Gear extend to 1.9 megapixel camera with the ability to record 720p video, and a microphone for voice-activated commands. It’s perhaps this last capability that holds the most promise for smartphone users.

If there is one drawback associated with owning a mobile device, it’s our inability to locate it when needed. Countless call, texts and even photo opportunities are lost when a smartphone is tucked away in a pocket or buried at the bottom of a bag. With a connected smartwatch, those notifications and opportunities are never missed, and we can respond immediately through voice commands. Those commands can even extend to Siri-like Internet searches or requests to play songs.

Talking of Siri, Apple has already filed a number of patents for a smartwatch-like device and it’s only a matter of time before the iWatch hits the shelves. (The perfect 2013 Holiday gift anyone?) Other known contenders for a piece of the new smartwatch market include the Qualcomm Toq, the “crowdfunded” Pebble and an updated SmartWatch 2 from Sony.

The Galaxy Gear will come with a choice of six colors – lime green, oatmeal beige, wild orange, mocha grey, jet black and rose gold. It’s expected to be released worldwide next month and have a U.S. price point of $299.

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