Samsung Gear S heading to major U.S. carriers with call routing trickery

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Samsung has managed to get the support of all four major U.S. carriers for its Gear S smartwatch, but watch out for that fine print.

Unlike Samsung's previous smartwatches, the Gear S has 3G and cellular connectivity built in, so it can make voice calls, send text messages and connect to the Internet without being tethered to a smartphone over Bluetooth. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless will all support the watch when it launches this fall, Samsung said in a press release.

When Samsung announced the Gear S earlier this month, it didn't give any details on how carrier support would work, but the fine print in an AT&T press release gives a clue of what to expect:

“Compatible Samsung smartphone (sold separately) must be on and connected to AT&T data network for SMS/MMS and 3rd party app notifications to be routed from AT&T smartphone to Gear S when Bluetooth connection is unavailable.” 

The fine print suggests that the Gear S won't be completely untethered, in that you'll still need to have your phone turned on and connected somewhere. This is just speculation, but the trade-off might be that users won't need an entirely separate voice, text and data plan to use the Gear S by itself, and it'll work with users' existing phone numbers.

Whether the carriers will look to extract another monthly fee for the privilege is still unclear. If they do, it could kill much of the desire for a standalone smartwatch that people seem to think they have.

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