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TheStreet Open House

Samsung's New Smartwatches Add Fitness Features, New OS

Stocks in this article: GOOGSNEQCOM

By Anick Jesdanun, AP Technology Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- Samsung unveiled two new computerized wristwatches on Sunday, this time including health sensors and related fitness features to give people a reason to buy one.

Samsung's first Galaxy Gear smartwatch came out last fall amid much fanfare, but it landed with a thud in the marketplace. Samsung and its smartwatch rivals had failed to persuade many consumers that they need to be able to constantly check messages from their wrists. Wearable devices that succeeded tended to be fitness products such as the Fitbit.

The new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will have a heart rate sensor, a pedometer and various tools to measure exercise, sleep and stress levels. The low-resolution, 2-megapixel camera on the Gear 2 is being moved to the main body; it was on the strap on the original Gear. It's not immediately clear if the Gear 2 Neo has a camera.

It's also unclear whether the new watches will continually display the time. In the original Gear, that feature was shut off to save battery, which lasted just a day. The new watches promise two or three days under normal use, putting them more in line with what rivals offer.

Samsung didn't immediately reveal prices for the new watches, but said they would be available in April.

Samsung Electronics announced the new watches Sunday ahead of the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain. Samsung has a major event Monday evening, during which it is expected to announce a successor to its popular Galaxy S4 smartphone.

The company decided to make the latest smartwatches with a little-known operating system called Tizen OS, instead of the Android system from Google (GOOG) used in the original Gear, as the South Korean electronics company tries to break the dominance Google has on mobile devices.

The move gives some credence to a fledging system that Samsung and other backers want to see on all sorts of devices, including televisions, refrigerators and cars. Samsung already has a Tizen camera out, but a Tizen phone has yet to emerge, despite expectations of one last year. For now, Samsung is putting Tizen on a smartwatch instead.

Although Google gives away Android for any manufacturer to use in its gadgets, it's loaded with a range of Google services, including stores for apps, music and video. Samsung is trying to promote its own stores as well and ends up confusing users by including two of everything.

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