Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is location aware, sporting Glympse’s friend-finding app

Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear will launch with 70 native apps, though the company highlighted only a handful of them at its big unveiling in Berlin and New York on Wednesday. Among those listed were exercise apps you’d expect in sporty wearables like MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper, social networking  apps like Path, and organization apps like Evernote and Tripit. But the one that particularly caught my eye was Glympse.

Glympse is a location-sharing and collaboration app, allowing you to temporarily transmit your location, intended destination and expected time or arrival to anyone with an internet connection. If you haven’t used it, it’s an extremely handy app for, say, meeting friends at an outdoor festival, or letting the in-laws know your ETA without having to field phone calls or text messages while driving.


But it’s also an extremely simple app that would be far more useful on my wrist or on the dashboard of my car, than in a smartphone buried in my pocket. If you’re in the driver’s seat or being jostled in a crowd the last thing you want to do is retrieve your phone, unlock your screen and open your Glympse app.

Glympse couldn’t agree more. It’s programmed all of its core functions into the Galaxy Gear app itself. Instead of just getting Glympse alerts or notifications on your wrist, you can actually view a full map, letting you track your friends’ whereabouts, see how far away you all are from an agreed-upon meeting point. You can also broadcast your location and request your friends’ locations with a few swipes of the Gear touchscreen.

According to a Glympse spokeswoman, the app functions entirely independently of any smartphone software, though you can still use the Android(s goog) app in your Samsung handset. It only relies on the smartphone for its connectivity to the internet and to supply its location coordinates, since the Gear doesn’t have GPS or cellular triangulation capabilities.

As my colleague Kevin Tofel wrote last week, wearable tech is ideal for contextual nuggets of information — it’s not a replacement for the smartphone or tablet:

The innovation I’m expecting is in hyper-personal contextual data: A watch or wearable that knows where you are, where you need to be, what’s next on your calendar, what your likes and dislikes are. Think of a personal assistant that’s better suited for glancing at data points on your wrist then forcing you to retrieve a phone from your pocket.

I alluded to this earlier by saying I want Google Now and other contextual type features on my wrist. Yes, it’s available on a phone already, but I think the phone is really the second-best place for Google Now. A more effective place is on the wrist, in Google Glass or other small tech that becomes “invisible”.

As with Kevin’s Google Now example, the second-best place for Glympse is on a smartphone. The reason is simple: Glympse is most useful when you’re engaged in some other activity, such as driving or walking or having a conversation with friends. The information Glympse is conveying is minimal – just a flashing icon on a map or a simple ETA. It’s not the kind of app you need to become fully immersed in on a smartphone display.

These new device designs and how apps are being recreated to take advantage of them will be two key topics at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference in San Francisco Oct. 16-17. In fact, Samsung’s own Head of Design Studio Dennis Miloseski will be on hand to talk specifically about Samsung and the mobile industry’s new approach to hardware design.

The Gear is the first wearable Glympse has found its way into, but the startup is plenty aggressive in the parallel internet of things world of the connected car. It’s already signed deals with Ford(s f), BMW, Mercedes Benz and Gamin(s grmn) to bundle its app or its location sharing technology into their connected car and vehicle navigation systems. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Glympse in Google Glass and other wearable  gadgets shortly.