We’re still somewhat skeptical of wearable computing. It’s a cool concept, but continues to lack obvious practicality. The number of people who would find a smartwatch as necessary as a smartphone is going to be pretty low, and the Samsung Gear S doesn’t change that.
But working with the Gear S strongly sells the notion that there is a valuable niche of an always-connected device that extends, rather than replacing, your smartphone. Something that can survive things that regular phones can’t, and is even more mobile, while also being a fun thing to play with. Even with its limitations, the Gear S does a lot of things well, and with surprising practicality.
And if money grew on trees, we would probably recommend buying one. But there’s the rub, and it’s a big one. Relative to the hardware it contains, the Gear S is spectacularly expensive. The suggested retail price for our Verizon model is $250 with a contract, or $300 without. Other carriers range from $200 to $350 depending on the terms. If you’re on a subsidized contract, you’d very likely end up paying more for the watch than you would for the high-end smartphone it’s paired to. Even factoring in costs for miniaturizing the hardware, it’s ridiculous.
Granted, this problem isn’t unique to the Gear S. Most other smartwatches command similar premiums for actually far fewer features than the Gear S has. But it does present a self-fulfilling prophecy. Manufacturers assume that only extremely high-end customers will buy a smartwatch, and price themselves right out of anything but the high-end market. Until prices come down, that’s going to be a major roadblock to wide adoption.