The Galaxy Gear smartwatch is a device that even Samsung admitted lacks that special something. In the Korean company’s haste to bring the Gear to market, it forgot one hugely important consideration: user experience. It’s there in occasional spurts, sure. But the overall package shows there’s a clear lack of focus in the Samsung camp—in no way does the device warrant a $300 price tag. This is an experiment that demonstrates the frontier of killer wearable technology is still a very distant future. When
When Samsung introduced the Gear in September, we hoped it would feature something new, something that would stand out in a weary field that lacks a forward-looking vision. We dared Samsung to dazzle us. What we got was an uninspired companion device that offers only a few minor conveniences. Samsung basically took the idea of a smartwatch, beefed it up with a watered-down version of Android and early entry-level smartphone specs, and Samsung’d it as much as possible. At least it looks nice. Assuming you own a Galaxy Note 3 (which is also $300 with two-year contract), the Gear essentially acts as a direct link to your messages and phone calls.
By pairing through Bluetooth 4.0 Smart, users can more conveniently check notifications, take calls and surreptitiously snap pictures. The idea is exciting and neat on paper, and it largely works as advertised. But the Pebble does (mostly) the same stuff, and for half the cost. And, boy can the Gear be slow. Sometimes even to the point where you’re better off using your phone. And forget about using he Gear’s camera—that shouldn’t even be a consideration.
The thing about smartwatches, as they exist now, is that they’re not for everybody. For someone that sits at a desk all day, in constant connection with the Internet and notifications via a computer, it makes absolutely zero sense to spend $300 on something that performs a few functions that your smartphone is designed to do. If you’re always on the go and always have notifications streaming in, maybe—that’s a big maybe—a smartwatch can be useful in some isolated incidents, in the sense that glancing at a message on your wrist can be nice.
But that’s about it. The true potential of the smartwatch market hasn’t yet been fulfilled—the Galaxy Gear merely files in with the pack, which is disappointing. For a company with such a huge worldwide presence, we expected something much more. The design is mostly great, sure. But that, too, comes with sacrifices, with the battery (which actually charges really fast) only lasting about a day.
Consider this a beta product. If you’re buying the Gear to satisfy your curiosity (and because you don’t like money), it’ll only mildly please. But until companies can figure out how to really push the smartwatch market forward, I’d steer clear until the next one or two iterations come out. If that.