Wearable technology has been hailed as the next big thing. From fitness bands showing up at Fashion Week to folks getting traffic tickets for rocking Google Glass, gadgets you wear seem to be gaining in popularity by the minute. Recently, smart watches have stepped into the spotlight, with offerings from Sony and Pebble on the market. Rounding out the top three is Samsung, whose Galaxy Gear is also making a big impression in the space. So what’s all the fuss about? Is the Gear the next must-have device? I went hands-on with Samsung’s smart watch and here are my thoughts:
Design: If nothing else, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is at least aesthetically pleasing. The adjustable band is made of a flexible material that feels sturdier than just plastic, and the clasp keeps the watch securely on your wrist. The review model I was sent is called lime green (which actually looks more like bright yellow), with five other color options available. The touchscreen was larger than I expected and very responsive with regard to swiping between options and tapping selections. Although I do tend to gravitate towards larger-sized watches I was a bit anxious about potentially damaging the face of the watch, but the Gorilla glass should hold up well. Battery life was actually pretty good, but one particular aspect of the design I did not like was the charging mechanism. You charge the Gear by snapping a separate plastic cover over the watch that you can then plug the micro-USB cord into. This seemed cumbersome to me, and I can just picture all of the replacement covers that will have to be ordered when the original gets left behind at the local Starbucks.
Functionality: The Samsung Galaxy Gear does do a few pretty neat things. There is a camera in the watch band and you can take pictures or shoot fifteen seconds of video. And you can make and receive phone calls using the watch, although I found this feature to be a bit buggy. The connection wasn’t great, and I don’t know if you can chalk the poor sound quality up to bad speakers or the microphone, but that wasn’t great either. Since you’re speaking into your wrist, I’m not sure how much safer this option will be while you’re driving, but at least you’re not fumbling in your car searching for your phone when it rings. The one thing you need to know about this smart watch is that it MUST be tethered to a Samsung smartphone to operate. So basically, you can’t use this watch unless you own a Samsung phone. And you have to be relatively close to the phone or you will lose the Bluetooth connection and the watch won’t work. To make matters worse, the Gear currently only works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Note 10.1, but compatibility updates are coming in the very near future that will allow it to work with the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy Note 2 as well. Apps are extremely limited, and although you can get text, email, and social media notifications, you can’t view some of them on the watch itself. There is a Siri-esque “S-Voice” feature that allows you to add items to your calendar, set the alarm and perform other functions but the voice recognition technology still needs work. Other features include voice memos, weather updates, a pedometer and stopwatch.
Verdict: Being a self-professed nerd, I think the fact that the technology exists that can make a smart watch possible is awesome. That being said, I won’t be running out to buy one just yet. There are still a few features the Gear or any smart watch would have to have to make it worth my while. I also can’t see a situation where I’d pay $300 for it either, the current price point for the Samsung device. But despite all the limitations now, wearable technology is here to stay and the Samsung Galaxy Gear will be a major part of the mix.
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