Galaxy Gear: Everything You Need to Know About Samsung's Smartwatch (Update: Hands-On)

By Leslie Horn on at

Samsung just took the lid off its long-rumoured Smartwatch. Here's everything the Android-powered arm computer—officially known as Galaxy Gear—has to offer.

Galaxy Gear is a lot like a pared down smartphone you wear on your wrist. On the home screen you'll see the time, and shortcuts to access essential apps like the camera and your contacts. Swipe to navigate back and forth between different features. From the watch, you can make and receive calls, send texts, and post status updates to Facebook and Twitter. There are other apps, too, that are specifically designed for the 1.63-inch display.

Galaxy Gear has a 1.9-megapixel camera that can capture both photos and videos, and it works very closely with other Samsung Galaxy services you're familiar with. For example, you can use S Voice to compose texts, make calendar appointments, set alarms and see the forecast hands-free. There's also something called Auto Lock that will lock your phone's screen every time your watch is more than about five feet away. It can also interact with foreign language signs and translate for you—translation has been something that Samsung's been really pushing.

There are some other neat-sounding but we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it features, like answering calls by just lifting your wrist to your ear when the phone rings. It's also supposed to push emails you're viewing right to the note screen when you look at a notification and then pick up the phone.

The interface interaction seems to all be done through swipes—no tapping here—which is actually pretty smart, since there will be a ton of accidental taps on your wrist.

One of the most fundamental parts with Galaxy Gear will be performance. How accurate is the touchscreen? Is it fluid? Is it fast? Much of the interface seems to be controlled by swiping rather than tapping, and we're not sure how smooth that will be. We'll let you know shortly in a hands on.

Battery life is claimed at a day of use (25+ hours apparently), but we're also skeptical of all battery life claims, so you'll have to wait until review time to look at that. You should note, though, it's already coming in at significantly less uptime than Sony's.

And yes, Samsung's smartwatch will work much like your Fitbit or FuelBand. It has a pedometer built in to track your steps as well as other features that monitor calories burned, distance covered, and so on.

The watch is lightweight, made of stainless steel, and will come in six different colours.

Galaxy Gear: Everything You Need to Know About Samsung's Smartwatch

Galaxy Gear will be available starting September 25.

 

Hands-on thoughts

We got some hands on time with the Galaxy Gear in Berlin, and it's pretty much as you'd expect. It's chunky for a watch, which is going to mean you're going to bash this thing off stuff loads when you first get it, so be warned -- it's not going to look all pretty, new and shiny for long.

The clasp is a combo of a traditional metal strap closer with a rubber strap, allowing you to adjust the size of the band pretty easily without removing links or something like that. It's pretty comfortable once on, but it's not particularly responsive. It'll light up if you move your wrist, and the swipes work as advertised, but it's not even close to being a fluid experience like we're used to on a top-of-the-line smartphone. The UI is simply sluggish and cumbersome, and that's a real shame. The camera, however, snaps pictures pretty quickly, but it's only 1.9MP and, honestly, I can't see a use for it unless you're a perve or something, trying to capture spy shots.

If you've got a massive phone like the Note 3, it might come in handy to not have to pull that thing out all the time, but like the Sony SmartWatch, it just seems to not do enough to justify your hard-earned cash. We'll be able to truly tell whether the Galaxy Gear is a let-down or not in use once we've had more time with it, but for now, colour us a little disappointed.

Our US brothers at Gizmodo US got some time with it too. Here's what they said:

"This is something you'll also have to acclimate to, because rather than your usual swiping and tapping that you've become used to with your smartphone, Galaxy Gear requires a series of vertical and horizontal swipes. On the home screen you see weather and time default (and no, you can't change it, it's fixed). Swipe left and right to see your different folders; there's one for settings, another for apps, another for your photos, one for the pedometer, and so on. From any folder, you can swipe down from the top to return to the home screen.

To move within folders you swipe up and down, which takes a little getting used to. It's something you'll figure out, but it just doesn't feel terribly intuitive.

On first use, Galaxy Gear seems pretty responsive. It swipes quickly and smoothly between apps. We weren't able to test out texting, but we started a call that popped right up on the screen of the Note 3, more speedily than anticipated.

Overall, Galaxy Gear feels kind of awkward both to wear (it's chunky) and to use (it's unnatural, although that's to be expected since it's a new type of input). All that could be worth it, though, the fitness apps (which we weren't able to test) are killer, and if moving between your Galaxy smartphone and your watch are as seamless as it seemed to be in our test.

Granted, Galaxy Gear was chained to a table, so we didn't get to use apps and other features like email and S Voice. Walking around with the thing could be a whole different ball game. I would love to give Galaxy Gear a try with say, RunKeeper, for example, which I use all the time on my smartphone. The smartwatch seems like it would actually be better than the fitness trackers on the market right now because it has a screen and you can simply do more with it. But $300 is a lot for a souped up fitness tracker, and as far as the basic smartphone functions Galaxy Gear is capable of, those feel a little strange and counterintuitive."

To get creative guides, app tips and the full lowdown on Samsung’s GALAXY S4, Note 8.0 and Note 3, check out Samsung’s Your Mobile Life over here.