Samsung steps into the smartwatch arena with the Galaxy Gear, a stylish gadget that works as an addition to the recently unveiled Galaxy Note 3, allowing the user to access the smartphone’s capabilities remotely. Can the Korean firm outsmart Sony and its recent Smartwatch 2, taking peripheral devices such as these in to the mainstream?
- 1.63-inch display
- 11.1m thick
- 800MH processor
- 1.9MP camera
- 315mAh battery
How it works
The Galaxy Gear’s raison d’etre is to support the Note 3, working as a way of remotely accessing the information and capabilities of the phablet. Contacts and calendar entries sync from the handset to the smartwatch, and notifications from the phone will appear on the Galaxy Gear’s display.
Messages can be read and responded to from the watch, with the handset mirroring some of these functions as you do them. For instance, opening an email from a notification on the Gear will see the email app also open on the Note 3, which makes it easy to follow any web links that might be in the message and won’t show on the Galaxy Gear.
Design and Build
The Galaxy Gear is bulky at 11.1mm but it isn’t unattractive and has a brutalist look to its metal frame that’s quite appealing. The plastic strap may not fare well after weeks or months of use and could pick up some damage, but overall Samsung has done an impressive job of squeezing so many bits and pieces into a frame small enough to wear on your wrist.
A 1.63-inch display is never going to have anything like the dazzling effect that the Note 3’s screen has, but it is by no means dull. Clear and crisp, the screen is vibrant without being too bright – we imagine that one of the main reasons for using the Gear is to avoid taking the handset out and drawing attention to yourself. In this respect, the display’s light is not so intrusive that it will distract anyone else around.
Under the Hood
In the same respect as the display, the Galaxy Gear’s 800MHz processor doesn’t set any new landmarks, but it does its job admirably. The gadget’s user interface is far less sophisticated than that seen on the Galaxy Note 3 so the chip has nowhere near as much to deal with. As a result we noticed no problems with its performance during the time we spent using it.
Sporting only a 315mAh battery, the Galaxy Gear may seem underpowered compared to its smartphone cousin, but when you consider its size, and in particular its small display, this seems to be more than enough to keep the Gear going for at least a day on regular use.
Annoyingly though, a battery meter doesn’t show on the main screen of the device, instead being buried way down in the settings menu. The fact that this is awkward to access opensup the possibility of inadvertently allowing the Galaxy Gear’s battery to run down without even realising.
Operating System and User Interface
Samsung has created a minimalist user interface that sits on top of the Android platform, making everything very easy to read off the small display. This UI is far less vibrant than those seen on the firm’s recent smartphones but is better tailored to the small display, showing that some real thought has gone into how the device will be used.
The UI is operated with swiping gestures, bringing up different menus and functions. For instance, a downwards swipe will open the camera app, while a swipe to the right from the homescreen brings up the contacts app.
The Galaxy Gear’s 1.9 megapixel camera is mounted on the device’s strap, making it easy to point forward whilst looking at the screen. Unfortunately a sensor of this size is never going to produce high-quality images, which leads us to wonder about its usefulness beyond novelty value.
Capturing shots with the Note 3 itself can be difficult due to its size, as it’s quite awkward to hold up and position, but the Gear’s camera is little substitute for it. However, it could prove useful for taking quick snaps, and the way in which every image appears in the handset’s gallery with only a short delay is impressive.
Performance and Verdict
Overall, the Galaxy Gear serves as a useful way of taking control of some functions of the Note 3 without having to remove the handset from your pocket. The gadget serves as an excellent way of reading notifications, quickly checking messages and calendar entries, and its functionality will be expanded when more third party apps become available for it.
It has its limitations and isn’t equipped to deal with heavier use such as searching online but it is a useful addition to the Note 3, offering a smaller, more convenient platform for simple smartphone tasks.