Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch review
- Functional and premium design
- Easy and intuitive menus
- Built-in camera
- Dependency on the Note
- Lack of apps
- High price-tag
In 2013, the tech has gone into smartwatch mode. Sony was the first of the big players to hit us with a serious contender in the shape of the Sony Smartwatch 2. Meanwhile the Apple rumour mill has been working overtime kicking out tales of the Apple iWatch.
At the same time we’ve seen attempts to muscle in on the wrist action from smaller players like the Italian-born I’m Watch and to top it all off there’s been a myriad of different Kickstarter concepts all vying to raise the funds to become a wrist-borne reality.
Now Samsung has finally joined the battle with the new Samsung Galaxy Gear, a ‘companion device’ for the new Galaxy Note 3 and other Galaxy devices.
In simple terms this new ‘smartwatch’ piggybacks your existing smartphone but puts a lot of the functions on your wrist where it’s arguable that you need them most. But it’s more than that, it also comes with some hardware and software smarts of its own that makes it more than just a satellite of the Android device in your pocket.
It comes with 4GB of internal storage, 512MB RAM and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. Article continues after the video
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Design
Let’s start with the looks. This is a good looking watch. It’s suitably techy so you get some welcome futurist gravitas but it’s also been designed with enough style to ensure it’s something you’d actually be happy to wear.
That’s made all the easier by the fact the Gear will launch with six colour options: Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green.
We only had the chance to wear it for a short period of time but it feels solid and robust on the wrist. The overall design is sleek and minimal and the user interface has a distinctly paired back appeal.
But does it successfully bridge the gap between a mobile device and a fashion item? We’d argue it does. It’ll certainly turn some heads.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Size & build
The Gear hasn’t made the mistake of some smart or fitness watches we’ve seen in recent years. At 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1mm and weighing in at 78g it’s fairly chunky but it thankfully avoids the over-bulkiness of the Motorola Moto Actv.
There is one major flaw in the build that we found instantly – the strap. It’s impossibly fiddly to get on, largely due to the clasp being loaded with the microphone and speaker that enables you to talk into your wrist during phone calls. We watched lots of people struggle with this while we were having our time to test.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Features
First things first, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is a watch. Shocking but true.
You can customise the way it looks and how it tells you the time with several face options and the choice of ten pre-loaded clock types. So far so good.
But what makes it smart? It notifies users of incoming messages, such as calls, texts, emails and alerts, delivers a preview of those messages and creates the opportunity for users to accept or discreetly ignore those messages.
When an incoming message requires more than a quick glance, users can simply pick up their Samsung Galaxy devices and a clever Smart Relay feature will instantly reveal the full content on the screen of that second device. Very nifty indeed.
Another impressive feature is Memographer. The Gear comes loaded with a 1.9 megapixel camera on the outside of the wrist strap that lets you capture photos and video on the move with a single swipe down on the screen, followed by a tap.
You can literally shoot from the wrist in seconds and while we only saw the photos on the small 1.6-inch screen so can’t attest for the quality, this is still a really intuitive way to capture fleeting moments.
All of this content can be easily and instantly shared across the social networks of your choice.
All this is good but what about the phone calls? The Gear lets you make and answer calls without touching your phone. With speaker and microphone positioned in the wrist strap as part of the clasp, the idea here is that you can lift your hand to your ear as if you were holding your phone and they’ll be in the perfect position to carry out your call. We’re yet to be convinced that this is really a desirable way to talk on the phone, it still looks and feels a little weird.
While on the subject of voice, there’s plenty of vocal smarts in here too. Voice Memo lets you capture important thoughts or conversations on the move and these recordings can be saved automatically as text on your companion Galaxy devices.
Unsurprisingly there’s also S-Voice control. When we tried it out we had a 66 per cent hit rate in a pretty noisy environment which bodes well as this will surely be an important part of the overall user experience.
Fitness applications were always going to be desirable in a smartwatch. The Galaxy Gear answers that question in two ways. It works like a Pedometer to track physical activity via enhanced, built-in sensor technology. This feature systematically and automatically monitors users so they can track key personal data such as calories burned, steps taken and distance covered.
It also pairs via Bluetooth with existing apps on your phone with the key stats designed nicely to fit within the Gear’s display.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Screen
The Galaxy Gear boasts a 1.6- inch super AMOLED display. It’s sharp and crisp enough for what this will be used for. Photos, although small, are still clear. Videos were a bit of a struggle to watch when the content had any level of detail but would be ample for previewing the odd rapid Instagram video or Vine.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Apps
The Gear will run its own apps. At launch you’ll be able to make the most of Samsung’s own apps like ChatOn and also big hitters in the fitness world like MyFitness Pal and Runkeeper Pro. Samsung has also promised that more apps are on their way and this could really enhance the power of this as a useful tool.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Battery
Just like your smartphone, you’ll want the Gear to last day and Samsung happily claims it’ll survive a full 25 hours on a single charge.
Which smartphones work with the Samsung Galaxy Gear?
The new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 will both be compatible with the Gear. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will be after a software upgrade and Galaxy S3 compatibility upgrades are pegged for October.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Verdict
Smartwatches or ‘companion devices’ have to answer a few key questions. Do they look cool? The Samsung Galaxy Gear does. Is it comfortable to wear? Yes. Would I want to wear it everyday? Again, on first impressions, it’s a yes.
But perhaps the toughest test is will it genuinely be useful? From what we’ve seen so far the Gear has enough tools to sway us. The camera is genuinely innovative and fun while the potential for more apps is an appetite whetter. As ever what will make or break it will be the price.
Samsung Galaxy Gear release date: The Samsung Galaxy Gear will be launched with the Galaxy Note 3 in more than 140 countries around the world from September 25th, 2013.
Samsung Galaxy Gear price: TBC
Hands-on review by Kieran Alger