Surely the worst kept secret leading up IFA was the launch of Samsung’s smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear. Everyone knew it was coming, but what exactly would it look like, and how many features would they pack in? Well, these questions and more have now been answered. The Gear, available in Europe from the end of this month (September 25th) is designed to work with the new Galaxy Note 3 and an update will be available later in the year make it compatible with previous versions of the Note.
The Gear is available in six colours, has a stainless steel bevelled face with a shape reminiscent of the beloved 1980s Casio and features a 1.9MP camera on the outward facing strap, which can also record video at 720p HD. All of this makes you feel rather like James Bond, being able to take relatively covert pictures with a simple swipe and tap of the screen via the device’s “Memographer feature”. It is aimed at taking quick visual memos – the sort of shots that are gone by the time you’ve taken your smartphone out of your pocket.
Another feature of the Gear’s camera was its ability to take advantage of augmented reality applications, presumably aimed to rival the Google Glass, but unfortunately this wasn’t something the company expanded on or demonstrated during the launch event. Instead they cited an example where you might take a picture of a wine bottle and then discover more about the vineyard, grape type and price. It could also be used when abroad to help quickly translate signs, menus etc.
The Gear has a built in speakerphone which means to answer calls you just raise your wrist as if you were answering a hand held phone (or scratching your ear!). This appears to be a nice, instinctive movement, but we did wonder how well it would work if you were in the middle of a task, such as driving. Users can also draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather, all via S Voice functionality.
Other software features include the ability to browse, play and pause music (stored on your Galaxy devices) via the watch. The Gear also comes with Find My Device which helps users find the location of their smart devices by making them beep, illuminate and vibrate. Another application is the pedometer which uses a built-in sensor to monitor users so they can track key personal data such as calories burned, steps taken and distance covered.
Something that we don’t recall being mentioned during the company’s Unpacked Event is that in case of emergency, you can press the power button 3 times continuously and then your location information is sent to a nominated contact with a message.
In terms of technical specs, the Gear uses a 800 MHz processor with 512MB RAM and 4GB of internal memory. The display is a 1.63 inch Super AMOLED with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels. The watch is powered by a 315mAh Li-on battery which provides up to 25 hours battery life. This revelation certainly caused quite a murmur from the packed audience. It has also been suggested elsewhere that ‘heavy users’ of the Gear’s features may need to end up charging their watch more than once a day.
The Galaxy Gear is touted by Samsung as the first in the new market of ‘wearables’. With the launch of Sony’s Smartwatch 2 earlier in the day, it appears that we’re going to enter a period where a lot of ideas and concepts are thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Assuming that ‘wearables’ are indeed the future, the next question is whether consumers will want to wear their tech on their wrist or on their face.