Samsung Gear smartwatch – first look, release date and price
After months of anticipation, and no small amount of speculation the Samsung Gear smartwatch has finally been revealed. Though in the end the stainless steel, square-screened device with a plastic strap proved a little less James Bond and a little more Dick Tracy than was hoped.
Nevertheless, while the promise of a curved sleek screen failed to materialise we were still presented with a smartwatch that delivers text messages and calendar notifications on its 1.63 inch display.
Perhaps crucially, the Gear will allow users to make and receive calls from the watch when linked to their phone (the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note series for now). This makes it the smartwatch many people have been waiting for.
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A range of apps will also see the likes of Facebook and Twitter available for the Galaxy Gear and the watch will run on a customised Android operating system. This doesn’t come without a cost, and the advertised battery life of 25 hours is distinctly unimpressive.
The UK price of the Galaxy Gear has yet to be confirmed (though early indications are that it will cost $300 in the US). We do know that it will release in the UK on 25 September 2013.
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: video
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Five key features
Your smartwatch as a phone – one of the more impressive features of the Galaxy Gear is its ability to make and receive calls directly on the watch when it’s connected to your phone by bluetooth or wifi. You can simply raise your wrist to your ear in order to make a call, the Gear’s inbuilt mic and speaker covering the rest.
Until we have an opportunity to try this in real life it’s hard to say just how practical making phone calls on the watch will be – is it usable in crowded, loud places and will other people be able to hear the speaker are just two of the questions to be answered.
Smart relay technology – once paired with a compatible device, such as the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, the Gear acts as a companion. This means that what you’re looking at on your Gear will display on your phone when you pull it out of your pocket, so cutting down on unnecessary menu navigation.
Camera – though only operating with a 1.9Mp camera the Gear should offer a faster way to take photographs. That said, unless you’re planning on taking your shot in optimal conditions the results are going to disappoint.
Augmented reality – pointing your Galaxy Gear at the world around you will trigger an augmented overlay on the smartwatch. Useful if travelling abroad and looking for a quick way to translate road signs, or menus for example. Though this is a feature many smartphones can accomplish just as well.
App store – a Gear app store will be available at launch with specifically tailed apps. Expect the usual social media apps, but also fitness apps designed to work in conjuction with the built in pedometer and gesture detection. Versions of Path, Life360, RunKeeper and Phigolf have all been confirmed, while mapping apps will surely follow.
Expert verdict: Probably the best a smartwatch can get. But is that enough?
You can answer calls, take photos, use apps and check the time with the Gear. It’s supposed to be super convenient. I’m not really convinced…at least not yet.
The watch itself looks good. It’s colourful strap and chunky 1.63 screen are bold without being an eyesore; and its 25 hour battery life means you won’t have to unstrap and charge it at any point in the day.
But questions remain. From first impressions, the process of raising your hand to your head to answer calls seems odd. Likewise, it’s unclear how much of any text or email message you receive will fit on a screen. As you’d expect too, the apps you can use seem to have limited functionality.
Most importantly, you’ll need to own a recent Galaxy phone to use the watch. The oldest handsets supported are the Note 2 and S3, which isn’t ideal. If you own an iPhone, HTC or Windows Phone it’s not compatible.
In fairness to Samsung this is probably the best a smartwatch can get. I just don’t want one.
Rob Leedham, writer
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