Samsung has entered the wearable technology market with the GALAXY
Gear Smartwatch introduced at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.
But be very clear; while this watch is loaded with tech, it’s not really very smart.
In fact, unless it’s paired to a Galaxy Note 3 (and Galaxy S 4 soon) it’s not very useful at all, except for telling the time, taking pictures and using the built-in pedometer.
The GALAXY Gear itself has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED screen in a metal display. It’s quite attractive and smaller than the leaked images circulating in the days prior to its release. The watches come in six colors, and the bands are not interchangeable so choose wisely. The watch face itself is customizable; you can choose digital, analog or other screens to display the time.
There’s a home button on the side of the bezel, and all other navigation is done using swipe gestures. In my time with the watch, it was easy to navigate and very responsive to my touch. I can see the gestures easily becoming something you just know how to do.
When the watch displays a notification of a call or a text, you can glance at your wrist and determine if you want to take the call, which you can do without pulling your phone out of your pocket or bag. You simply transfer the call to your watch, and use the built-in mics and speakerphone to go hands free.
You can also listen to music from your phone and use S Voice to give commands, but since there is no headset jack, everything you play will be public.
The watch communicates with the phone via low-energy Bluetooth, and much like the way we’ve become used to charging our phones at the end of the day (if they even make it that long) the watch will have to be charged as well. Samsung says battery life is expected to last about 24 hours. And it requires a separate charging dock which uses a micro USB connection.
You can customize the watch and add apps using the GALAXY Gear app on your phone. That’s also where you’ll find the photos and videos you take with the watch. The 1.9 megapixel autofocus camera will shoot images and 10 seconds of video. When I asked about privacy or any kind of notification feature, Samsung told us the watch has a noise function which clicks when a picture is being taken, and that can’t be disabled.
Not to worry though, most likely people will know you’re taking a picture – or doing something – because you have to raise your wrist a little in order to point the camera forward.
There are apps launching on the GALAXY Gear; Evernote, Glympse, TripIt and a few fitness tracking devices. More apps will likely be announced soon. We asked about GPS on the watch and whether it can be used as a standalone fitness device. The answer is maybe. You can use the pedometer function to track your steps, but if you want to track your route the way you would with an app like Runkeeper, you need to be connected to your phone to use the phone’s GPS.
The GALAXY Gear seems more of a fashion accessory than a ‘true’ Smartwatch at this point. Will people pay $299 for it when it becomes available later this month? Besides the fact, you will need to own a Samsung compatible device in order to unlock its true potential. It feels like too high a price point for something you can’t take out for a run and track your GPS location, or take and share a video on its own. Only time will tell if Samsung can master the wearable technology market.