First Looks: Samsung Galaxy Gear
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Smart Freedom
It’s finally official. After numerous leaks (mostly inaccurate) and the recent admission to The Korea Times from Samsung itself, the maker of the highly popular Galaxy-branded smartphones has just unveiled the Galaxy Gear smart watch, alongside the other highly anticipated device of the year, the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 smartphone.
As - erhm - promised by Mr. Lee Young-hee, executive VP of Samsung’s mobile business, the Galaxy Gear doesn’t come with a flexible screen. Neither does it come with a ridiculously big 3-inch display. A contemporary-looking watch nonetheless, it has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels, a custom 800MHz single-core processor, a rubber wrist band, a metal bezel, and a metal fold-over clasp. Only a single hardware button is found at the right side, and its task is to bring you back to the home screen (you can also double-click it to open a preset app). For storage, it comes with 4GB of internal memory; RAM is pegged at 512MB.
True to rumors though, the Galaxy Gear does come with a camera, but it only has a resolution of 1.9 megapixels. Meant to be a ‘memographer’, it’s able to capture photos with audio, as well as short videos (up to 720p). Charging of its 315mAh Li-ion battery is done via micro-USB, but the port isn’t on the watch itself. Instead, it’s on this little charging case (comes bundled) that goes around the watch. The case has pogo pins that will align with the contacts at the back of the watch. According to Samsung, the battery will last one whole day.
Expectedly, connection is done via wireless Bluetooth technology (Bluetooth 4.0 LE). But at launch, the Galaxy Gear will only work with the Galaxy Note 3. This is due to the additional transmission instructions that the current Galaxy S series smartphones lack. This can be solved via a firmware update to the master device (that is the phone), but Samsung isn’t willing to give us a timeline. Our guess is that recent devices, like the Galaxy S4, will get it together with their Android 4.3 update.
Also, Samsung thinks the Galaxy Gear is best paired with a Galaxy smartphone. Case in point: It's not even designed to work with the new Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), the third device announced today. (Update: Samsung has now said that the Galaxy Gear will be compatible with other Galaxy S and Galaxy Note devices, such as the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S III, firmware updates for the latter three are coming in October.)
Smart or Not?
Features-wise, the 73.8g Galaxy Gear is able to send and receive calls; in fact, it'd be a huge surprise if it isn't able to. It also does notifications (for calls, messages, email, and alerts), as well as something called Smart Relay. In essence, when you receive a notification on the smart watch, and go to pick up the phone, the content will automatically be shown. There's also Voice Memo, where you speak to the Galaxy Gear, and it sends the info back to the master device, and then sends back the final text to the watch. Then there's S-Voice, for hands-free launching of apps, creating of new calendar entries, setting of alarms, and checking of weather; a photo gallery; and a music playback control app for the master device. As mentioned above, the Memographer app is used for snapshots and short videos. And when you close Memographer, the data is transferred to the master device.
Another notable feature is that it can be used as a standalone pedometer. The watch has onboard accelerometer and gyroscope, but not GPS. Other features include a stopwatch, weather display, Auto Lock (not the watch, but the phone when the former is 1.5m away from the latter), Find My Device (you can have misplaced devices beep, illuminate, and vibrate), and clock faces (10 of them, no less, with more to be downloaded through Samsung Apps). Samsung is promising at least 70 optimized apps at launch via Samsung Apps, and these include popular ones like Evernote, Glympse, TripIt, ChatOn, eBay, RunKeeper, Pocket, Path, Line, Atooma, and Banjo.
The Galaxy Gear also has a great emergency feature. When you press the power button three times continuously, your location will be sent to a saved contact with a message.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear will be available in six colors, creatively known as: jet black, oatmeal beige, rose gold (with a beige band), wild orange, mocha gray, and lime green. Worldwide availability starts from September 25, but there aren't any specifics on per-country roll-out (e.g. there's no launch date yet for Singapore) or the price points at the point of publishing (Update: It's priced at US$299). Meanwhile, stay tuned to this space for more updates from HardwareZone.