The Galaxy Gear is Samsung’s foray into the nascent smartwatch industry. With next to no competition from other big OEMs, Samsung charges ahead of Apple looming disruptive device with a wrist mounted smart device of their own. Today we’d like to take a look at some of the preliminary pros and cons of this device, and briefly discuss what it is and is not.
Comparisons can be drawn to the Pebble smartwatch but in many regards these devices are not direct competitors. The Galaxy Gear has vibrant Super AMOLED display, the Pebble has a black and white e-ink display. The Galaxy Gear has a 720P camera, the Pebble does not. The Pebble on the other hand can last 5-7 days on a single charge—the Galaxy Gear boasts a full day. Apples and oranges some would say.
Juxtaposition aside, let’s look at what facets of the Galaxy Gear represent positive and negative attributes:
- Phone calls from your wrist
- Good Camera
- High build Quality
- Uninformative notifications
- Sub-par apps
- Bland, bulky design
- Has the battery life of a phone, not a watch
- Relatively Overpriced
- Compatible only with Galaxy Note 3 and 10.1
Based on these observations, we can clearly say that the Galaxy Gear isn’t a smartwatch. But Samsung doesn’t call it so anyway. It is however a powerful, fashionable, wrist-mounted companion device. It gives users a way to snap photos with unmatched speed and with its bluetooth connection, can quickly send them to your phone. In addition, you can take calls with speakerphone clarity without having to take your phone out.
One of the other key features that smartwatches are expected to conquer is notifications. A good smartwatch should provide notifications that are concise yet informative and apply to a plethora of services. The Galaxy Gear can handle email notifications, but only provides sender and content information if you are using Samsun’g mail client, which means you are left in the dark if using Gmail. Even worse for apps where Samsung has no influence (Facebook, Twitter) and will default to just giving you a numeric (rather than content) notification.
Apps are understandably lackluster, but if Samsung wants to make it in this market segment, apps will be key (as always). While they are waiting for developers to add software, I would like to see them refine their S-voice engine so that responding to texts via voice command is actually usable. Google has already demonstrated with Now that this is more than possible and having accurate voice to text will make the Gear so much more useful.
All in all, the Galaxy Gear is a novel approach to having notifications, phone calls and a camera “on demand.” Although apps and notifications have quite a ways to go, I still believe this is quite a serviceable first attempt in this segment. The one glaring issue preventing it from becoming widely adopted is the hefty $299 price tag. That price barrier is just too large to overcome for most people to accept the software limitations of this device. It is clear that Samsung is willing to invest in the hardware but without comprehensive notifications, proper voice-to-text and useful apps, the Galaxy Gear may not hit it off.