By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) -- Apple Inc. on Friday released its new smartwatch -- Apple Watch Series 7 -- in South Korea in the latest move to further boost its presence in the growing smartwatch market.
The release came as the pandemic-driven stay-at-home trend and rising health concerns have fueled the popularity of smartwatches fitted with health care and fitness features.
The latest Apple smartwatch comes with a 20 percent bigger screen and a 40 percent thinner body than the Apple Watch Series 6. Its battery runs for 18 hours, like the previous model, but charges 33 percent faster.
It also supports advanced health and fitness tools, including an ECG app that records one's heartbeat and rhythm using the electrical heart sensor. Preorders began last Friday, with prices from 499,000 won (US$420).
The newest Apple Watch will directly compete with Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4, released in August, with new Wear OS, which the South Korean company jointly developed with Google.
The Galaxy Watch4 comes in 40mm and 44mm variants, with the starting price for the LTE models set at 299,200 won here. It also supports features that allow users to measure body fat level and monitor their blood pressure, blood oxygen level and irregular heartbeats. Its battery runs up to 40 hours.
Samsung's latest smartwatch is currently in short supply as consumers are drawn to its high-tech health monitoring functions and more sound operating system that the company said offers "more seamless and connected user experience."
Consumers still have to wait for around four weeks to get their hands on the new product due to supply constraints, which industry officials say are expected to be resolved by this month as the company has pumped up its production.
The two rival tech giants have also stepped up their collaboration with luxury brands as part of efforts to target more fashion-savvy young consumers and expand an ecosystem of accessories and their portfolios of limited-edition mobile products.
Samsung joined hands with Thom Browne for a series of limited-edition models featuring the American brand's signature stripe. Last month, it released the Galaxy Watch4 Classic Thom Browne Edition. Apple has been working with the French luxury brand Hermes, among others, for aesthetic and unique strap options.
According to industry tracker Counterpoint Research, Apple was the world's largest smartwatch vendor with a market share of 28 percent in the second quarter. Samsung was the No. 3 player with a 7.6 percent share behind China's Huawei, which registered a 9.3 percent share.
Samsung, however, gained a 0.8 percent market share while Apple lost 2.1 percent in the wearable devices industry that overall grew by a whopping 27 percent from a year earlier.
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