The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch is available for pre-order along with the Galaxy Note 3. The reviews are in for this revolutionary device but reception has been tepid. Here are the top ten reviews you need to read.
Nobody will buy this watch, and nobody should. But there’s something here under all the rubble. Sometimes the Gear can be liberating; sometimes it makes possible tasks that you can’t do while you’re holding a smartphone. We just need somebody to find the right balance of labor between the watch and its companion device — to figure out what a smartwatch should and shouldn’t be.
Gear wants to be much more. Running a version of Android on an 800 MHz processor, it’s packed with tech, including a 1.9-megapixel camera, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer. It also uses Bluetooth LE to interface with the Galaxy Note 3, currently its only compatible smartphone counterpart. All that hardware means Gear can do far more than relay messages and Twitter notifications: You can dictate notes and commands, check the weather, track your daily activity, and set calendar appointments, for starters.
But Gear, a first-generation device, doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s an admirable push in mobile technology for sure, but the execution — both on the hardware and software side — isn’t enough to justify the $300 price tag. And in many ways, the smartwatch ends up being more of a nuisance than a convenience.
Overall, the Gear feels sturdy and reliable. It’s water resistant, as you’d expect of a wrist-worn device, and seems particularly impervious to scratches or other cosmetic damage. You might think of it as a tank for your wrist — it’s bulky, durable, and awkward enough to merit that title.
Setting up the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is remarkably simple. The device itself does not include integrated NFC but the charging cradle that comes with it does, and the watch is paired with the cradle out of the box. So to set up the Gear with your Galaxy Note 3, start by simply tapping the charging cradle to the back of your phone.
And yes, by the way, the Galaxy Gear only works with Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3 phablet for the time being. If you’re hoping to get a Gear later this week and actually use it, prepare to spend $600 — $300 for the Gear and $300 for a new Note 3 on contract.
If you purchase a Galaxy Gear and don’t have a compatible device, congratulations — you just bought yourself a brick. It’s not going to do a single bit of good for you until you find a friend who happens to use a Note 3, and even then, it would only work as an actual watch with very limited capabilities (which we suppose is better than nothing, but we doubt you’ll want to fork out $300 for it). One of the Gear’s most frustrating and limiting traits is that it supports only two devices at launch: the Note 3 and the new Note 10.1 (i.e., the so-called 2014 edition). More TouchWiz phones, such as the Galaxy S III, GS4 and Note 2, will get updated with compatibility in the near future. Still, Samsung hasn’t confirmed a date, so until that happens, the Gear will be aimed at a painfully limited demographic; the company’s betting big that a significant number of Note 3 buyers will also spring for the accompanying watch.
One frustrating aspect is actually displaying the time. To conserve battery life, the Galaxy Gear’s display is not always on. Unfortunately, the accelerometer basically requires that you bring the watch up to your face to turn on. The sensor isn’t very accurate and it didn’t work more often than it did, requiring a press of a side button. That’s a shame, as a quick flick of the wrist to turn on would be useful.
The voice recognition on the watch, like the phone, is fairly good, even with unusual contact names. That’s a necessity for the watch, because the Gear’s screen real estate simply doesn’t allow for an on-screen keyboard. Even the dial pad on the watch, for outgoing calls, can be difficult to hit accurately. In most cases, users are better off using their voices, even for dialing.
The camera is a feature that the Samsung Galaxy Gear has over its rivals but it’s more of a gimmick than a winning feature. At 1.9 megapixels, don’t expect great shots, they’re comparable to front-facing cameras on most smartphones.
We also experienced some lag between tapping the screen to take a picture and the snap being taken and the angle at which you have to take them means it’s not very easy to get a good shot. Also, don’t expect to be able to grab any (mildly creepy) covert images as the shutter sound is the loudest we’ve heard on a mobile device and there’s no way to turn it off. Also, there’s no flash, so it’s not great in low light.
Despite the oversize albatross that is the Note 3 (the screen is 5.7 inches), the Gear has a lot going for it. Phone calls placed through it were surprisingly clear on both ends and easy to place, although holding your watch to your ear to speak feels as silly as it sounds. The 1.9-megapixel camera built into the watchband is perfectly reasonable for the pictures you’d expect to take from your wrist: It’s no substitute for a digital camera or smartphone, but great for capturing life wherever you happen to be.
Navigating the Gear is done via the 1.63-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen display. Swiping left or right moves you between menu items, while swiping down from the top of the screen always takes you back one step. Swiping down from the top of the screen from the clock display launches the camera and, similarly, swiping up from the bottom at the clock display launches the phone dialer, though these default actions can be managed via the Galaxy Gear app on your smartphone.