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Dick Tracy, your radio is here. Sort of.
Clear Channel's iHeartRadio digital music service has created an app for Samsung's second-generation Galaxy Gear smart watch that will be released in April. The app plants an early stake for the radio giant in the emerging so-called "wearable" device category as its digital radio service competes with Pandora and Apple's iTunes Radio for listeners' ears.
"It's undeniable at this point that wearables have traction and momentum. They're in the very early stages clearly, but it's clear that they're going somewhere," said Clear Channel's president of digital Brian Lakamp. No word on whether a smart ring app is in the works.
Smart watches can be best described as a smartphone accessory. Like Samsung's original Galaxy Gear smart watch that debuted last fall, the Galaxy Gear 2 has to connect to another Samsung device, like the Galaxy Note phone-tablet hybrid, in order to make phone calls or listen to streaming music. The same goes for iHeartRadio's smart watch app.
"Really what the watch app does is a simple remote control for your phone," Mr. Lakamp said.
People can use the smart watch app to choose which iHeartRadio station to listen to, scan or skip songs and rate whether they like a track. While listening to a song, album art will pop up on the watch's screen.
The app doesn't offer anything new for advertisers yet. Eventually iHeartRadio could pair a brand's audio spots with ads appearing on the watch's face. That could fix the biggest problem with mobile ads running on digital music services: If a phone is in someone's pocket while listening, they'll only hear the audio ad and will miss any corresponding images or videos. The issue is such that Apple has made a point of swapping out iTunes Radio video ads when it can tell a iPhone's or iPad's screen is off.
Mr. Lakamp wouldn't commit to any future ad plans but acknowledged the potential. "There is a longer term platform opportunity to engage using the watch with advertisements. That's not what this announcement is about, but is certainly a compelling direction the platform could go," he said.
Pandora is slated to release its own smart watch app for device manufacturer Pebble. The startup is credited with spurring the recent wearables push after a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign in 2012.