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Samsung unveils smartwatch ahead of rival Apple

Samsung unveiled a highly anticipated digital wristwatch Wednesday at least weeks ahead of a similar product expected from rival Apple.

The so-called smartwatch is what some technology analysts believe could become this year’s must-have holiday gift.

Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Gear in Berlin ahead of the annual IFA consumer electronics show.

Samsung says the Gear can act as an extension to a smartphone by discreetly alerting users to incoming messages and calls on its display screen, which measures 1.63 inches diagonally.

Users can even make calls, secret agent-style without getting out their phones.

The Gear also sports a basic camera and works with popular social media and fitness apps, such as Twitter and RunKeeper.

The Android-powered device starts shipping in most countries Sept. 25 with prices starting at $299.

It will be compatible initially with two Samsung products also unveiled Wednesday – the Galaxy Note III, which is a smartphone with a giant 5.7-inch screen and a digital pen, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a tablet computer with a 10.1-inch screen comparable to Apple’s full-sized iPad.

With smartphones and tablets now ubiquitous, electronics companies are trying to create a new category of products to lure consumer spending.

That includes building advanced computing technology into everyday objects, such as wristwatches and glasses.

Sony introduced its latest SmartWatch in June and unveiled an update Wednesday.

Google is working on Google Glass – a device designed to work like a smartphone and be worn like a pair of glasses.

Apple is seeking an iWatch trademark.

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