Samsung just announced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch and we’ve already had a chance to check it out first hand. First things first: Samsung told us that this device is supposed to complement the Galaxy Note 3 and that, right now, support is only going to be limited to that handset. It’s kind of shocking and a hard pill to swallow, but so it goes.
As for specs, the Galaxy Gear sports a 1.6-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 320 x 320-pixel resolution. For those counting, that’s 278-pixels-per-inch. It has a 1.9-megapixel camera capable of snapping photos and 10-second video clips (though it’s positioned in a weird spot), an 800MHz Samsung Exynos processor, weighs 14 grams, sports two noise cancelling microphones and has a sapphire glass display. We found that it felt heavy on our wrist, but heavy in the way that a nice Movado or designer watch does, which is a good thing. It’s definitely some quality hardware. Oh, and under the hood there’s also a watered-down version of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
You interact with the watch through a single hardware button on the side that acts as the home key. The user experience reminds us of an old Zelda dungeon, which is to say there’s a lot of movement to the top, bottom, left and right to get to what you want. Swipe a different direction and the watch will do something different, for example, like bring up the camera, the settings, notifications, a phone dialer and more. A dialer, you ask? Yes, you can speak into your watch and, through a Bluetooth connection with your Note 3, place a phone call. This is some real Dick Tracey stuff.
You can also tap the screen with two fingers to access the status – you’ll see a quick indicator of the battery life and more. Speaking of that, Samsung tells us it should get about a day of use, but heavy users won’t even get that much. Be prepared to use the charger, which uses pins and a clasp-like mechanism, to charge your phone frequently. Samsung says it will take about 60 to 90 minutes to charge the 315mAh battery fully.
S Voice also takes advantage of the microphone, though during our tests it wasn’t able to recognize that we were asking it to visit TechnoBuffalo’s home page. Maybe the room was too loud, but maybe the software isn’t quite there yet. Oh, another cool feature: you can access your Galaxy Note 3 photo gallery on the watch, if you want to show off pictures on the tiny screen. It also has a feature called Smart Relay which basically navigates your Note 3 to whatever is on your watch: like your text message inbox or email, for example. An AutoLock feature will keep your Note 3 unlocked as long as it’s within a specified distance from your watch, and if you move away it will automatically lock the phone. There are a few apps available now, including Pocket, RunKeeper and EverNote, among others, and we expect more are coming down the road.
The device pairs with your Note 3 using an NFC and Bluetooth connection, but NFC is only built into the charger itself. Tap your Note 3 to the charger and it knows you’re trying to connect to the watch and does everything else for you, like downloading the required management application, in the background.
The Galaxy Gear will launch in six colors, including oatmeal beige, rose gold, jet black, gray, wild orange and lime green. We really like the color options, all look great, but prefer the rose gold one for its premium looks. Samsung didn’t detail pricing or a launch date, but said that it will launch with a Galaxy Note 3 bundle in some locations.