Samsung (almost) nailed it with the Galaxy Gear smartwatchAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
Today was full of exciting things from both Samsung and Sony, two of the most universally recognized brand names in the world. We saw the announcements of two much-awaited devices, the Galaxy Note 3 from Samsung and the Xperia Z1 from Sony, both large Android devices that cater to two different types of people. Aside from the arrival of the two highly anticipated devices, we also got some extra goodies. From Sony we saw the announcement for their "lens-style" camera attachments, the QX10 and the QX100, and Samsung announced their Galaxy Gear smartwatch. While pretty much everything from Sony was just as we expected, I was a little more than surprised to see what Samsung had to say for today, for both the Note 3, and more importantly for this article the Galaxy Gear.
I have to admit that I was a little jaded waiting for the second Unpacked event of the year. The first one was entertaining and flashy, but I wasn't exactly impressed with what I saw coming out of the event itself with the reveal of the Galaxy S4. However, as the event progressed I found myself becoming more excited than I thought I would be on this particular Wednesday at noon. If you read my article earlier in the day about the Galaxy Note 3, you'll know that this go-around was all but the same experience as the one that I had earlier this year in March. Yes, I am a fan of the Galaxy Note 3 (even if not for its size), but I'm also happy to say that I am now pretty darn excited for the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch as well, despite my skepticism I displayed not all that long ago.
You see, when it comes to smartwatches I'm all for them. Well, I'm mostly for them. There a few things that I really wanted to see when it came to the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, and the most recent leaks made it seem like some of the most important elements that I think should be in a smartwatch weren't going to be present. But the nice thing about leaks and rumors is that they're not official, and are likely subject to change before their official release. Such is the case with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, and while I would have personally toned it down to not include as many features, it did manage to include the important ones I wanted, and because of that I'm ecstatic.
My main concern with the Galaxy Gear was that it would end up like Pebble or Sony's smartwatches; while they were great for notifying a user of incoming calls or messages, most of the legwork to reply still had to be done through your smartphone. For text messages and e-mails, that's understandable - a lot of people would rather have a keyboard to deal with such communications, but in regards to voice calls I felt like being able to answer your calls right from the smartwatch itself should at least be an option. Even the most recent rumors said that the Galaxy Gear would only be able to answer or reject phone calls, or command the device to make calls from your smartwatch but carry the actual conversation on with your phone.
As phones get larger, especially coming from Samsung (Galaxy Notes, Galaxy Megas) it gets harder for some people who want the larger screen for data to use these phones with one hand for voice calls. Fortunately, Samsung did make this a non-issue by allowing just that - you can indeed make, receive and carry on a conversation all through your Galaxy Gear. They even designed it in a way that I once described as being my ideal method for answering phone calls; you simply raise your wrist to your ear, with your palm facing your head, and use the speaker and microphone that are on the metal clasp. Smooth move, Samsung.
I'm glad they ended up toning down the rumored 4-megapixel camera to a 1.9, because I would be lying if I said it didn't make me a little sad that a smartwatch might have been using the same amount of megapixels in their camera as my own phone technically does; however, there is more to the story that makes the HTC One's camera a pleasure to use, so I'll leave that alone. But similar to the speaker placement for voice calls, Samsung did a good job by placing the camera on the band of the watch so it's always facing outward while you can watch the screen to monitor the pictures or videos.
The inclusion of S-Voice also seems useful, and I would probably use something like it more often in a smartwatch than I currently do on a smartphone. The social media and sharing features are also useful for sharing photos taken on the device, rather than having to hook them up to a computer. Really the only thing that Samsung didn't get right is the one measly day of battery life. While we are used to charging our smartphones at this point, it might be a hassle to have to remember to charge yet another product every night in order to get a good daily use out of it.
Other than the battery life, I'm very pleased with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Although I probably won't be purchasing one for myself at this point in time, it is something that I think Samsung, and really the industry as a whole, will be able to perfect over time as these watches (presumably) pick up traction in our ever-evolving mobile world. The price isn't even that bad, as it's said to be starting out at $299.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the Galaxy Gear? Is it better than you expected? Is the day-long battery life something of concern to you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!