Go go gadget: Hands-on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch

The Galaxy Gear is a seriously limited gadget that's tethered to a phone and/or tablet that no one owns yet

Samsung's smartwatch sounds amazing and looks amazing--on paper. In the flesh, the Galaxy Gear is a seriously limited gadget that's tethered to a phone and/or tablet that no one owns yet. So much for innovation.

I donned the watch, which hits Australia in the coming months, and played with its features for a few minutes in a crowded press room under less than optimal conditions. That said, I don't see myself ever owning a Galaxy Gear.

Stylish but huge

The 1.6-inch Super AMOLED screen is beautiful. I felt like Inspector Gadget when I glanced at my wrist. But the display and plastic strap are massive. Wearable tech continues to struggle to appeal to all types of people, because it has to be comfortable, stylish, and small. If you have tiny wrists, the Galaxy Gear is not for you.

Several people commented on the fact that the Galaxy Gear looks like those iPod nano watchbands that were en vogue a few years back. It's a fair comparison. The Samsung watch's display is definitely more rectangular than the Nano watch, but the glossy black display just feels like wearing a mini-smartphone.

The watch responds like a smartphone, too. Swipe to the left or right to access different screens, like your notifications, clock, apps, and more. Swipe down to return to the previous screen. The Gear is quick, like a phone. But it's an accessory. That much is obvious.

Samsung is tying the Gear to the Note 3: "Better together" is the duo's tagline. But hundreds of millions of people own Samsung devices that aren't the Note 3, and they can't use Galaxy Gear. That exclusivity severely hinders Gear's potential. The company said it plans to widen the Gear's compatibility with other Samsung devices, specifically the Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4, and Note II, but reps couldn't provide a timeline for that roll-out.

The watch has apps galore: Path, Runtastic, Glympse, Line, Vivino, and more. But none of the majors are there. Instagram? Nope. Vine? Nuh-uh. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and news apps for browsing the latest headlines are all missing. Anything I would want immediate access to--you know, without digging my phone out of my bag--I can't get to on Gear. It seems like it would work well as a pedometer tied to Samsung's S Health tracking features, but US$299 is an awful lot to pay for a glorified health tracker.

You can answer calls with Gear--it has a speaker--but you have to hold the watch up to your ear to hear the person you're calling, thereby irritating everyone around you. You can also respond to messages, but only as a voice-to-text memo. I didn't get to test that feature, but voice-to-text is notoriously poor. I can't even trust Siri to understand my clearly enunciated dictations.

The Gear has a few cool features. The 1.9-megapixel camera, located on the north side of the watch strap, allows you to take undercover photos. It just feels awesome. The camera also shoots videos--neither camera nor video quality is very good compared to the smartphone, but that's to be expected.

The Note 3 pairing also lets you find the Gear if you ever lose it, which seems inevitable. (Watches, like sunglasses, tend to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle.)

Pebble proved a smartwatch is possible. Sony paved the way. Samsung has thrown down the gauntlet. Apple: It's your move now.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Appleconsumer electronicsIFASamsung Electronics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Caitlin McGarry

TechHive (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?