Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch review

Strapping on the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch we couldn’t help but feel we were now entering a new phase of technology and the way we interact with it.

Wearable is how Samsung describes the device – you don’t hold it or carry it on a packet – you strap it to your wrist.

It is a watch after all – a smart watch.

The Galaxy Gear is one of the first of its kind – Sony also has its SmartWatch and Apple is rumoured to be working on one as well.

The product works in conjunction with Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, and soon other Samsung Galaxy devices, and acts like a digital companion.

It can give the wearer a heads-up to your wrist when emails, messages and other alerts reach the Samsung smartphone.

It can even be used to make and receive calls right from your wrist.

DESIGN

The Galaxy Gear is not overly thick and chunky but with the 1.63-inch touchscreen it can still look large on anyone with a small wrist.

It has brushed metal face around the display that is finished off with four screws to give it a more industrial looking design.

The band is made of strong ribbed rubber-like material with a camera lens built-into the band.

It can also adjust to suit wrists of all sizes thanks to a sliding metal clip and numerous notches in the band.

Overall the Galaxy Gear looks pretty sleek and futuristic and is also available in a number of colours.

FEATURES

The Galaxy Gear from a Samsung is basically a Bluetooth accessory that can extend the presence of your smartphone to your wrist.

The 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display has a resolution of 320 x 320 so while it’s not a massive ultrasharp screen it’s no slouch either.

The time and other text and features were clear and easy to read with a simple turn of the wrist.

The watch side of the device is executed well but that’s like judging a smartphone by how well it makes phone calls.

That’s just one of many aspects of the product. There are already a number of apps already available for the Galaxy Gear including social networking apps including Facebook and Twitter notification apps.

But the frustration is not being able to type on the device to reply.

You can’t just bash out a message or tweet – the screen is just too small to display a full keyboard– it’s all done with S Voice.

Messages come through nicely to the Galaxy Gear but instead of typing a reply, users can just talk to the device.

This feature works well but can suffer if you’re trying to dictate your message in a crowded and noisy area as we found out.

Once the device has heard you, it offers the text to you for review and then waits for you to say “send”.

On the calling side we thought it was nifty that you can scroll through your contacts and then initiate the call from your wrist.

During the call, the tiny speaker in the Galaxy Gear was loud enough for you, and anyone else nearby, to hear your conversation.

And when we replied into the watch we felt we were constantly bringing the device to our mouth to ensure we were making ourselves heard.

From the outside it looked like we were secret service agents talking into our wrists, so unless you’re on your own, it might not be best look for the person who doesn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Having a headphone jack would have been ideal so calls could only be heard by the user only – but you can do that with your smartphone already.

But for having the latest information on your wrist like the weather, the time, your latest texts and notifications without having to constantly look at your smartphone is the aim of this product.

Yet constantly glancing at your wrist in a meeting or in a restaurant may be as much against etiquette as having your smartphone out in the open and using it.

That aside other uses for which the Galaxy Gear is perfectly designed is to run and track fitness apps.

Because the device is constantly on your body it is ideal to count the steps you take and the calories you’ve burned.

Prepare for an onslaught of work-out and lifestyle apps that work with the Galaxy Gear.

There’s already a built-in pedometer that does a great job keeping note of how far you’ve walked.

Another handy feature of the Galaxy Gear is the Media Controller that makes it possible to navigate the music and video you are watching on your device.

If you’re are relaxing in a comfortable position and have your device positioned for easy listening and viewing, you can stay in that comfortable position even when you have to pause the music or the movie from the Galaxy Gear.

And having that headphone jack on the smartwatch would have also come in handy here as well so you could hear the audio without disturbing others.

Having a camera on a watch is both handy and, for some, a little creepy.

Taking a picture with the Galaxy Gear is just a matter of sweeping down from the watch face to activate the camera and then tapping the screen to capture the image.

The 1.9-megapixel camera lens is positioned on the front of the band facing outwards and is positioned in a handy place for capturing that on the spot snapshot instead of having to reach for your smartphone.

Picture quality was above average for such a low resolution camera. Images captured with the Galaxy Gear can be transferred quickly to the Galaxy Note 3 for viewing and sharing.

Reaction to the Galaxy Gear’s camera was mixed. Some thought it was amazing while others thought it was like a hidden camera positioned where people don’t expect to find a camera.

Galaxy Gear can also help you find your Galaxy Note 3 if you can’t remember where you left it at home or on your office.

The smartwatch sends a signal to the phone to make it play a tune and make it easier to locate.

PERFORMANCE

The Galaxy Gear is easy to navigate simply by swiping left or right on the small AMOLED screen to get to the mode you want to use whether it’s apps, notifications, logs, media controller or the pedometer.

The device is fairly responsive and it doesn’t take long to get to your desired feature or screen.

By default the screen is dimmed out so finding out the time you either have to wriggle your wrist until the display lights up or just press the button on the right side.

It does this to conserve the battery which we found ran for a little over a day between charges.

But charging the device isn’t simply a matter of plugging in microUSB cable into the Galaxy Gear because there is no microUSB port.

On the back of the device are some charging contacts instead. This is to line up with the contacts on the separate charging frame that fits around the watch and clicks shut.

And it’s here where you’ll find the microUSB port for charging.

It’s not ideal having a separate charging tool like this because users may not remember to take it with them and will, therefore, be unable to recharge the Galaxy Gear if it runs out of juice on the go.

VERDICT

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is an impressive first version of a product that has a lot of potential.

There’s a definite movement towards wearable gadgets and, naturally, Samsung wanted to be one of the first companies to offer such a product.

But while the device is a useful product that will attract many users, there are still some missing features and refinements that will mean the difference whether people will buy it or not.

There are many people who don’t wear a watch – especially younger users who have grown up with a mobile on their pocket.

Cracking that market is hard enough but it requires a product that ticks all of the boxes and makes people want to wear it.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is well built, comfortable to wear and handy to have on your wrist.

It will appeal to early adopters and gadget lovers but still lacks the features that will give it a more widespread appeal.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Price: $329

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