Tech Reviews

Galaxy Gear Review: A week with Samsung’s leading Smartwatch

 
The smartwatch market is still relatively new, and only a handful of companies have released any ‘top-tier’ products for consumers to choose from. I am fascinated with the idea of the smartwatch, both at a consumer level and from a marketing standpoint. Reading through online reviews and after spending a week with the new Galaxy smart watch myself (this one named the Galaxy Gear,) I think the word that I’ve read the most is ‘Potential’. So for a few weeks I’ve paired my Galaxy Gear with my Samsung Note 3, running on Verizon’s 4G LTE network here in NYC, and tested out the premium smartwatch on my regular schedule.
 
Just like Samsung’s many other mobile devices, the Galaxy Gear offers customers a wide-array of features out of the box. The AMOLED display is bright and crisp, it has a built-in camera, and the S Voice functionality is easily mastered and quite useful. For my weeklong debut with the device I’ve paired the Galaxy Gear with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. This was remarkably easy, the synch process uses NFC and it was as easy as tapping the phone against the Galaxy Gear’s charger-base, and entering in a four digit code, to get started. It was one of the fastest, and easiest setups that I’ve ever experienced, and I have to hand it to Samsung for creating such a user-friendly dynamic for pairing two devices.
 
The foremost function of a smartwatch will be the notification system, it’s one of the primary functions that customers will look to when choosing a smartwatch for themselves. At the top of the list in this category are your basic functions (email, texts, phone calls). When you receive one of these notifications, the Galaxy Gear vibrates (or chimes if you would like) and you will have the option to respond, answer the call, or even delete an email if you prefer. All of this worked amazing well, and it was nice to screen my notifications from my smartwatch, without having to pullout my phone every time there was new activity on my smartphone just to see if it was important or not.
 

 
Being one of the first companies to spearhead a new technology comes with one truly difficult hurdle to manage, (consumer expectations vs. reality). I think what people assumed a smartwatch could do, has greatly overshadowed, what the smarwatch market can actually put forth at the moment. I’m referring to a few online reviews that I’ve read in the past, criticizing the Galaxy Gear and other leading smartwatches for a limited notification system when it comes to social-media. The Galaxy Gear does offer a simple to implement, easy to use notification system for Facebook, Twitter or even Tumblr for example. There are a few limitations to this system however, one being that you can’t read exactly what the notification is. At this point the Galaxy Gear simply alerts you to activity on that social-media, if you want to know exactly what that activity is, you will have to jump to your phone. This is a large area that could use improvement, but it’s also the standard right now in the smartwatch category. Saying that it is a major failing for the device wouldn’t be fair, as right now it is still one of the best systems being offered. You couldn’t blame the model-T for not having cruise control, and I think the industry deserves some time to improve itself. Third-party developers are working feverishly to bring all notifications to the Galaxy Gear and I don’t think Samsung itself will be too far behind.
 
Some apps were custom engineered right out of the box to work beautifully with the Galaxy Gear, and no other app has been as brilliantly integrated as Evernote. If you are a frequent Evernote user, then you should be happy to know that the Galaxy Gear will bring with it a free 12-month trial of Evernote Premium. After easily synching your Evernote account to your phone then Gear, there are a few terrific functions that customers can take advantage of right away. Using the S Voice integration customers can leave voice memos that Evernote will quickly translate into text, using the built-in camera you can upload pictures or manage them into a gallery.
 
Samsung-Galaxy-Gear-InsertThe camera brings us back to other basic functions that the watch offers, like the ability to make or accept phone calls. The camera sits at 1.9 megapixels and works really well, you can also capture video with the device in 720p. Using the handsfree calling works best in quiet, enclosed spaces (like a car) in these situations I truly enjoyed the system. It wouldn’t work that well outside, or in a noisy situation, but that’s why you have your phone and the ability to excuse yourself.
 
You can also use your Gear to find your phone, customers can use the device to activate sounds or vibrations so you can find your lost smartphone when it falls behind the couch, or falls off the nightstand. One feature that I loved was the ‘auto-lock’ function. If you move more than five-feet aways from your phone, the Gear will lock your smartphone for you. When you come back the Gear tells your phone that your nearby and you are free to use it again (optional feature) and it really stopped the needless unlocking hassle that I’ve hated about phone security. I don’t need my phone to be on ultra-security mode when it’s in my pocket, or when it’s 3 feet away on my desk. Of course if you walk away from that desk and forget your phone, it will lock for you.
 
The styling of the watch I felt was superb, its rubber wristband was comfortable and the stainless steel and glass casing that made up the watch was age appropriate and could easily go from business Mondays, to casual Sundays. The screen stays dark to conserve battery, you can set it to auto-illuminate with the classic ‘time-checking’ gestures (bringing your wrist up to your eyes) or by clicking on one of the buttons. You can change the default face as well, but I loved the standard face with time and weather brilliantly displayed.
 
Although the standard model comes in black and stainless steel, you have a few terrific options to choose from (Lime Green, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, Mocha Gray and of course the Jet Black). The Galaxy Gear is a companion to the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1, and it works seamlessly throughout the whole day on a full charge.
 
Overall the notification system for social networks is the only stumbling block, and I think that this system is something that will be overcome quite easily, like I said progress has already been made by third-party developers at this point. At $299 the device might come off as expensive, but I know standard watches that cost more than that. It’s not for everyone, but it’s functional, lightweight and a terrific companion to the Galaxy Note 3.
 
more info: samsung