This week, Samsung debuts its Galaxy Gear smartwatch––a wrist-mounted mini computer running an Android OS and packing a small camera and Wi-Fi, 4G, Bluetooth, and NFC antennas. The Galaxy Gear comes in a range of colors, and will sell stateside for $299. Of course, to take full advantage of the device, you'll need to own a Galaxy Note 3 phablet, the only device that really syncs up with the Gear.
Is it worth it? Let's go to the reviews.
"I thought there was no way in the world I would spend $300 for a Samsung watch that connected just to Samsung smartphones," writes Matthew Miller of ZDNet. "Then I tried the Note 3 and love what Samsung is doing in pushing Android further, especially with their S Pen improvements. After then testing the Galaxy Gear and how well it works with the Note 3 I never hesitated in ordering one for myself."
The design, part one
"Samsung’s track record on [design] has never been very good and the Gear keeps regrettably in line with that trend," complains Vlad Savov of The Verge. "Its design tries to have something for everyone – a chunky steel clasp and exposed screws for fans of oversized men’s watches, yet also Rose Gold and Oatmeal Beige colors for a feminine audience – and ends up pleasing no one in particular. It’s too bulky to ever be considered elegant, but too polished to be a proper macho watch."
The design, part 2
"Samsung clearly designed the Gear a give off the waft of high-end design, with appointments like longitudinal ribbing along the band and metallic hardware accents," writes Christina Bonnington of Wired. "One of the first things I noticed looking at the watch, however, was how out of place the four screws along the perimeter of the face seemed — particularly for a smartwatch so clearly devoted to sleek minimalism."
"Phone calls placed through [the Gear] 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," writes Jeremy A. Kaplan of Fox News. "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."
"Setting up the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is remarkably simple," writes Zach Epstein of BGR. "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."
"Indoors, the screen is terrific," notes Brent Rose of Gizmodo. "Seeing something that sharp attached to your wrist is almost jarring at first, but in a good way. Once you get outdoors, though, things get a little dicier. AMOLED screens often struggle in bright sunlight, and this one is no exception. That's problematic when the entire point of your device is convenience; a Galaxy Gear doesn't save you much time when you have to squint and shade to read it. That said, it was fine in all but direct sunlight, which is still better than a lot of phones out there."
"The Gear is capable of getting notifications from your phone," writes Aloysius Low of CNET, "but unlike the Pebble, you won't be able to actually read them on the Gear's sharp screen, Instead, when attempting to view your notifications, the watch will actually turn on your phone instead. In my opinion, Samsung should have made full use of the display to show the messages. We had no issues with text messages, though you can't use the watch to send replies."
"From our experience of using the Samsung Galaxy Gear over the past few days, we found no major performance issues or bugs," writes Lee Bell of the Inquirer. "This is probably because, despite its compact size, it is powered by an 800MHz processor an has 512MB of RAM. It also runs Google's latest Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system."
The final word
"Whether or not the Gear will ultimately be a success remains to be seen, but I’m thoroughly convinced that wearable technology is here to stay," writes Ben Woods of The Next Web. "For all its failings, I was disappointed every time I had to take the Galaxy Gear off, so having that level of convenience is clearly something you can get used to."