By Luke Johnson (TrustedReviews) 3 Oct 2013
What is the Samsung Galaxy Gear?
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is the latest development on the smartwatch scene and Samsung’s most recent effort at a wearable gadget. A rival to the Sony SmartWatch 2, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is a second-screen companion to a Samsung Galaxy branded smartphone or tablet, and features a 1.63-inch touchscreen display. With an inbuilt camera and the ability to make and receive calls direct from your wrist, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is attempting to satisfy many needs, but is this enough to justify the hefty £300 price tag? With the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Samsung’s design team has managed what it failed with both the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 – a device that looks both appealing and high-end. With a stainless steel face and buckle, the Gear’s premium design looks and feels the part, but, at more than twice the price of its closest rival, it had to really. The textured plastic strap can be easily adjusted and the buckle is secure and at no danger of coming loose when fastened. The watch looks bulky when compared with a standard timepiece, but when on your wrist it feels light and comfortable. At just 73.8g in weight it is not particularly heavy and causes no discomfort after a day’s use. What’s more, with the body of the watch just 11.1mm thick, it is barely any chunkier than your phone. The stainless steel on the Gear gives it a sturdy look. Unfortunately within a week of collecting it, the buckle is covered with scuffs and scratches that ruin the overall finish. What’s more concerning is that the damage has been caused by the buckle rubbing on a desk. We expect more durability from a £300 device. Scuffing issues aside, the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s has quite a restrained design. A single sleep/power button on the smartwatch’s right side makes it look sophisticated and, well, watch-like. With a pair of noise cancelling microphones and a single speaker built elegantly into the watch’s buckle, the Gear’s only major design blemish is its strap-mounted camera. It looks like an awkward bulge and does detract from the slim, sleek appearance somewhat. In a move that continues Samsung’s push into more fashionable designs it has launched a range of Galaxy Gear colours. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is available in Black, Mocha Grey, Wild Orange, Rose Gold, Lime Green and the tastily named Oatmeal Beige.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear has come about due to the rapid growth of smartphone screen sizes and so, as you would expect, it features a relatively compact display. The Samsung Galaxy Gear’s 1.63-inch screen actually feels quite refreshing, doing its job without overpowering. Although it features just a 320 x 320 pixel resolution, this is more than enough to give the small Super AMOLED panel detailed and sharp visual. The 275 PPI (pixels per inch) is actually similar to full-HD 7-inch tablets. Although small the Samsung Galaxy Gear supports all of the touch commands you would expect from the smartphone it is connected to. The swipe-based interface is swift and easy to navigate and two-finger pinch to zoom can be used within the photo gallery. Being able to analyse pictures in closer detail direct from the watch further highlights the potential of the smartwatch as a standalone device is a handy addition. The Samsung Galaxy Gear’s screen offers bright colours but slightly weak contrast ratios. Gradients between colours are slightly blocky, with few subtleties in similar hues. It’s more detailed than the Sony SmartWatch 2’s similarly sized 220 x 176 pixel display, though. With Samsung’s phones and tablets renowned for their impressive displays, the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s screen has continued a trend, with good viewing angles, in particular, proving useful on the wearable device.
Features and Performance
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is powered by an 800MHz single-core processor and this is more than ample to handle the tasks required of it, for the most part. Partnered with 512MB of RAM, the watch runs smoothly, although load times for some features and applications (such as contacts and call logs) are lengthier than we would have liked. Unlike the Sony SmartWatch 2, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is limited to being compatible only with Samsung’s own branded phones. Further restricting the it is that, at the time of writing, it only works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Samsung has confirmed that it will work with the 2014 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 when it hits the UK, while compatibility with the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been promised for later this month. For now, however, it’s a party of one. This renders the Gear essentially useless for anyone but a Note 3 owner. Disappointingly, and somewhat fatally, a selection of the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s key features is not as fluid or effortless as they should be. Although you can receive email and Twitter alerts direct to your wrist, you can’t read the full messages on the Galaxy Gear. Instead the watch offers you the option to open the message on the parent device using Smart Relay. While it is useful to know when emails and social alerts are inbound, the lack of further access from the Gear renders the watch close to redundant. You can, however, read text messages on the Gear. Another disappointing Samsung Galaxy Gear feature is the incorporated S Voice command options. They supposedly let you make calls and send texts simply by speaking to the watch, but in practice the service is glitchy and struggles to understand what is being asked of it. Annoyingly, the most common reaction is ‘We couldn’t understand…”. It’s far from the time saving option it is supposed to be as attempting to use S Voice often takes longer than simply performing the task manually. Making and receiving calls direct from the Galaxy Gear is a good addition and audio quality is pretty impressive. The touch screen ensures making and answering calls is seamless and, in terms of performance, the Gear’s calling options work well. What is less enticing, though, is how much of a berk you look making calls, talking to your wrist like a 1980’s TV spy. During testing we felt too embarrassed to answer calls on the watch in busy areas on more than one occasion. One area where the Samsung Galaxy Gear does shine, is a as a fitness tracker, with the integrated accelerometer and gyro-sensor turning the watch into your own pedometer. Communicating with the parent device and the integrated Samsung S Health app, the watch let’s you track your daily step counts and set personal targets and conduct pre-set training sessions. Although a suitable all-in-one replacement to the likes of the Nike FuelBand, this is not a big enough redeeming quality to overshadow all of the Gear’s negative points. On overall performance, the Samsung Galaxy Gear shows faint glimmers of brilliance but comes up short on far too many occasions. Getting email and Twitter alerts would be far more useful if you could actually read the darn things, and while you can read text messages, we would like to see the option to reply direct from your wrist on future iterations.
At the time of writing, the collection of available Samsung Galaxy Gear apps makes the Windows Phone Marketplace look like it’s bursting at the seams. Less than 100 Galaxy Gear apps available and, sadly, this isn’t a case of quality over quantity. Many of the applications are pointless and bring little to the party, such as dreadful ‘mini games’ like spin the bottle and roll the dice. One of the few gems on the Galaxy Gear app store is Evernote, with shopping lists and notes able to be accessed directly from the watch. But solitary useful apps like this are the exception rather than the rule and does little justify the high price tag. Fundamentally, the Galaxy Gear doesn’t do a great deal of anything.
With cameras on smartphones and tablets now a prerequisite, Samsung has decided that watch wearers are in need of an integrated snapper too. The Galaxy Gear has a camera built into its strap, with a 1.9-megapixel sensor bolstered by auto focus capabilities. On an image quality front, the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s camera is comparable with the forward-
facing snapper on Samsung’s flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S4. With good lighting, images are of high enough quality for the likes of Twitter and Instagram but little else. Where the Galaxy Gear’s camera struggles is when faced with less than ideal light or when attempting shots with depth. Colour management, too, is on the weak side, with images looking a little bleak and diluted, while shutter speeds are farcically slow. Although the Gear can capture 720p HD video content at 30 frames-per-second, clips are limited to just 15 seconds. The only other shooting option is Shoot and Sound, which lets you capture an image with a short audio clip attached. Used at a recent NFL game at Wembley, this really helped bring images to life and better capture the true nature of a moment. The Samsung Galaxy Gear features 4GB of internal storage. This slightly limiting capacity is more than enough to ensure you can keep a few dozen snapped images safely stored, even when away from your connected smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Gear’s camera is far more a luxury than a necessity, and we can’t help feel it has added considerably to the watch’s price for only marginal gains. What’s more, if the watch’s battery is below 15 per cent, the camera is a no-go.
Battery Life and Connectivity
Battery life is another major stumbling block for the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Unlike your standard timepiece, which will go years between battery changes, the Gear will need to be recharged nightly. Although Samsung claims that the 315mAh power pack within the Gear will support 25 hours of continued use, this figure is more than a bit ambitious. Although making use of a low energy Bluetooth 4.0 connection with the parent device, the Samsung Galaxy Gear is still a bit power hungry. Given its limited staying power, recharging the Samsung Galaxy Gear has been made unnecessarily complicated too. In a bid to aid aesthetics, Samsung has omitted a micro USB port from the Galaxy Gear, instead bundling the watch with a separate dock. What this charging dock means is that to give the Gear a new lease of life, you either have to carry the dock with you or ensure you charge it nightly at home. Pleasingly, however, the Samsung Galaxy Gear’s recharge times are rather speedy, going from the red zone to 100 per cent in under an hour. While battery life isn’t the best, connectivity is strong, with the Bluetooth syncing facing no dropping issues during testing. The Samsung Galaxy Gear has a decent range when talking to a parent device, too, giving us alerts at more than 30 metres.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Gear?
Frankly, no, not this first generation attempt anyway. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a foundation on which the company’s smartwatch efforts can build, but it is far from the finished article. Samsung executives have even said so much themselves, stating that the watch “lacks something special” in recent interviews. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is sure to be superseded in a matter of months, and until the market has developed just a little bit more, you’re better hanging on to your £300, dignity and common sense. As quirky an idea as smartwatches seem, the novelty quickly wears off. Although you can make and receive calls as well as take pictures with the Gear, you will feel like a bit of a fool or show-off doing so.
Reasonable camera quality
Receive calls and texts to your wrists
Can’t read email alerts
Poor battery life
Review Price £300.00
Key Features: 1.63-inch touchscreen display; 1.9-megapixel camera; Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity to smartphones
TrustedReview score: 4/10
The Samsung Galaxy Gear might be the device which brings smartwatches to the fore, but it isn’t the one to convince the masses to adopt them. Its limited compatibility with just Samsung branded phones, and very few of them at that, is a major drawback and has limited the Gear’s market to a niche within a niche. The Gear is under supported, overpriced and feels like a rushed effort, made to beat the competition and rumoured competition, that has failed to achieve its potential.
Devo comprare il Samsung Galaxy Gear?
Francamente: no, almeno non questo tentativo di prima generazione. Il Sansung Galaxy Gear è un fondamento sul quale vanno concentrati gli sforzi della compagnia nel settore degli smartwatches, ma è lontano dalla sua configurazione finale. I dirigenti Samsung l’hanno praticamente dichiarato, quando, in recenti interviste, hanno affermato che a quest’orologio “manca qualche cosa di speciale”. È sicuro che il Samsung Galaxy Gear, nel giro di qualche mese, sarà messo a riposo, e finché il mercato non avrà sviluppato qualche cosa, anche solo di poco migliore, farete bene a tenere strette le vostre 300£, la vostra dignità ed il vostro buonsenso. Per quanto originale possa apparire uno smartwatch, la sua novità rapidamente svanisce. Benché possiate ricevere messaggi, e prendere fotografie col Gear, vi sentirete sempre un poco idiota ed esibizionista.
Il Samsung Galaxy Gear potrà anche essere il capintesta degli smartwatches, ma non al punto da convincere le masse ad adottarlo. La sua limitata compatibilità con i soli dispositivi della propria marca e pochissimi altri è il suo maggior svantaggio, che limita il suo mercato ad una nicchia all’interno di una nicchia. Il Gear è insufficientemente supportato, è sovrapprezzo è dà l’impressione di un tentativo affrettato, fatto per battere sul tempo la concorrenza e prevenire le voci di mercato, ma che non è riuscito a concretizzare il suo potenziale. Il punteggio di TrustedReview è: 4/10