The impressive Galaxy Note III was not the only device that Samsung announced at IFA on Wednesday. The company also touted its new smartwatch the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The push towards wearable tech appears neigh, with reports of Apple working on its own smartwatch variant and Google having been testing its own pair of smart glasses, known as Google Glass for quite some time.
The Galaxy Gear announcement positions Samsung to offer one of the first forays into this emerging market; but is the Gear really a game changer? Read our full preview to find out.
From the first glance, it’s clear that the Samsung Galaxy Gear subscribes to a robust aesthetic. The sizable (by watch standards) 1.63-inch display is wrapped stainless steel case, which is a welcomed departure from the plastic casings that Samsung usually opts for. The thick rubber offers a vertical striation design that feels dependable and durable. The device’s embedded camera which is located on the strap facing away from the users blends naturally into the design; and the colored strap provides a sharp contrasts against the metallic casing allowing the device to really pop. The aggressive look will likely appeal to some tech savvy adapters, but it may be too loud for the general populace.
The most notable gripe with the design is that it may be a bit too big. The 1.63-inch AMOLED display is minuscule relative to most electronic devices, but it feels massive when strapped to your wrist. The display provides considerable overhang that when positioned towards the bottom half of your wrist can easily chafe against the top of your hand.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear makes the most of its screen real-estate with an intelligent interface design. Unlike Samsung’s TouchWiz Android UI skin, it’s extremely minimalistic controlling almost entirely through directional swipes. There is a menu prompt along with a camera shortcut located in the top right and left corners of the screen, but users can easily navigate through many of the device’s features with the simple swipe of a finger.
In line with the device’s intuitive control scheme the Gear also offers voice operation controls. The device houses a built-in speaker that allows users to conduct hands free-calls (while tethered to your smartphone device). Most of the functionality comes directly from S Voice, so users will be able to draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather with simple commands.
While the controls work well enough, the issue remains that the Gear can’t really do anything unique or new with them. With an 800MHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage the device is noticeably limited in its applications. The device does offer a number of built in features including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and pedometer; presumably making device double as a fitness watch, though its bulky design proves counter-intuitive to that idea.
Instead most of the functionality of the Gear derives from its ability to pair with other Samsung devices. Which is problematic considering the Gear is only able to connect to Samsung devices running Android 4.3, which at launch will only consist of the new Note 10.1 and the Note III, though Samsung did announce there it plans to issue an Android 4.3 update to the S4 and Galaxy Note II in the future.
While Samsung notes that the Gear will feature Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy support to pair to these devices, the company still recommends that users charge the smartwatch as frequently as one would a smartphone.
At this point, it’s difficult to be excited about the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The smartwatch basically extends the experience of a select few Samsung devices, and that experience is noticeably watered down. The form factor and hands-free access to the Gear do provide noteworthy utility, but it comes at a steep cost. With a low resolution display and limited specs the Gear is basically mirroring a portion of the features offered on a high-end device with budget performance.
To be fair, the Galaxy Gear is Samsung’s first attempt at wearable tech and the company is likely still working out the kinks. Brighthand doubts the Gear is indicative of what’s to come from wearable tech, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Samsung offer a much more aggressive wearable product somewhere down the line.
AS for now Brighthand remains skeptical of the Galaxy Gear, but consumers may disagree when the device officially hits shelves on September 25.