It looks like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 series will be the end of the road for the company's early smartwatches and wearables.
German Samsung news site Galaxy Club captured a notification from the Samsung Members app warning users that five wearables — the Gear 1, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear S and Gear Fit — will not work with the company’s 2021 smartphones.
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We’ve since found the same notice replicated on Samsung’s German support site, but it doesn’t offer much explanation as to why 2021 is the cut-off point. “The existing service quality of older Samsung Gear wearables cannot be guaranteed and ensured by app updates alone,” the text, translated by Edge, reads.
“You will be notified of this change after the galaxy wearable (Samsung Gear) app is updated to the latest version by sending an in-app notice,” it continues. “However, Samsung Gear wearables already used with Samsung smartphones (release year 2020 or earlier) can still be used.”
The fact that the five will continue to work with older handsets makes it seem like less of a technical reason, and more Samsung wanting to move away from indefinite support for a selection of wearables that are showing their age now. All the affected devices were released in 2013 or 2014 – a time when the Samsung Galaxy S5 was cutting edge – so it’s not unreasonable for the company to consider calling time on the aging watches.
It’s also fair to say that these aren’t vintage Samsung wearables by any means. The original Gear suffered from an uncomfortable design, weak notifications and poor battery life, reportedly resulting in a 30% return rate at Best Buy, while the Gear 2 only managed a lukewarm review from us a year later. The company would finally get the formula right with the round faced, twisting bezel design of the Samsung Gear S2 in 2015 – and notably, that wearable isn’t listed as losing support in 2021.
It’s not the first time Samsung Gear branded accessories have ceased to work between generations. The Samsung Gear VR was introduced with the Galaxy S6, but was last seen working with the S10 family. This was a little different, though: given Gear VR had to physically fit a phone inside, Samsung’s shifting designs and move from microUSB to USB-C meant buyers would need to apply for an adapter, or even purchase a whole new headset to keep it working. Given that, it’s perhaps surprising Samsung supported it for as long as it did.
It’s hard to imagine Samsung’s decision to abandon the five watches will disappoint as many people, overall. After all, if you’re the kind of person who can’t wait to upgrade to a Galaxy S21 in January, are you really likely to be wearing a six-year-old smartwatch?
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.