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24 Hours With Samsung's Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

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Samsung has a whole Galaxy of gear to suit your mobile needs and now they've added wearable tech in the form of a watch. A smartwatch to be exact, but how smart is this watch and is it anything more than just an accessory? Let's take a look at the new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch and see if it's worth your time and $300.

If you'll remember, last month I wrote an article where I asked the question if Samsung is going about this smartwatch, wearable tech notion all wrong. Those thoughts were based on which features the Korean tech giant released when they did their big reveal last month in Berlin. Having had the watch on my wrist for the better part of 24 hours now, I don't think I'd change anything I wrote in the previous article. That isn't to say that the Galaxy Gear won't strike a chord with some eager to get their hands on one… the watch is a fun gadget to have! But for me, that puts it more into the "toy" or accessory category rather than it being a device which actually adds some significant value in my life, where I'd miss it if I didn't have it.

 

A Watch Lover's Look

Let's start off with what you do get out of Samsung's first generation smartwatch. Being a watch lover of sorts, I really appreciate the build and design aesthetic. I can see where the perceived bulk could be off putting for some, but I'm 6', 240lbs so the sturdy, industrial design of Samsung's Galaxy Gear is a winner for me. Though the Wild Orange/Silver version I was sent may not be my personal color choice, they also come in Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Rose Gold, Oatmeal Beige and Lime Green. I will say that the color is growing on me though. A little splash of the right day-glo does add a little fun to an outfit from time to time but I digress. The aluminum clasp feels sturdy and like it will withstand the great many snap and unsnapping that will occur with regular use. The  textured plastic band is fashionable and the sizing adjustment on the clasp works effortlessly and appears as though it should hold up well over time. Speaking of clasps, the speakerphone is built into the bottom of it. When you face your arm, palm-side-up you'll see two little slits at the bottom of the metal clasp. It performs well enough in moderately noisy environments but anything more than that and you'll have a hard time carrying on a conversation.

 

Using the Galaxy Gear

Not equipped with micro-USB, the Galaxy Gear comes with a charger that opens clamshell style so that you can place the watch inside and snap it shut to charge… which you'll be doing a lot of apparently. I haven't had enough time to really put it to the test, but after a day's use, it appears you'll need to charge the watch daily to be safe. This will be a hassle though as the cradle is required for charging. I know, #firstworldproblems, but  the less I have to carry the better. The charging cradle give the Gear NFC capabilities, which you'll need to sync with the Note 3. Simply power both devices on, tap the Note 3 to the cradle and you're on your way. The process was quick and straight-forward, though bluetooth alone wasn't enough to create a connection with the device. It has to be done through NFC.

While getting to know this new device, there were some things I really enjoyed, like playing with the Voice Memo functionality. You can record voice memos through the watch, which are then automatically transferred to your smartphone as well as transcribed on the watch itself. The transcription was… ahem, inaccurate but as Sammy's tech improves in this area it could be a good tool to have right there on your wrist. And, to quote teh interwebz, dat screen! It's a beautiful display with great looking icons and pretty easy to learn to navigate. One place I navigated to was Samsung's app store to download the Evernote app for the Gear. I only played around with it for a short time, but I thought it was pretty well done. Basically it's a scaled down version of the smartphone app, giving you just what you need to take pictures, open and view checklists, make audio notes and see recent notes made on the watch. I also used S Voice to reply to a text message I sent to myself from another phone. Nailed it! Granted, it was a somewhat simple message I sent and I was sitting in the comfort of my bedroom but it worked as it should. Further testing in different environments will show how robust the feature is.

 

 

How Smart Is It Really?

Robust is indeed the word that should be on people's minds. While some of the features are definitely fun to use, I have to ask how robust this watch really is. Sure it includes a pedometer, and other sensors and radios, but these only make it a novel accessory. A bluetooth earpiece on steroids. I still hold to my previous assessment that to move beyond being a toy, smartwatches must do more than be extensions of our smartphones… they must be aware. Measuring sleep patterns and not just steps taken. Connect cross-platform so that they are able to work with multiple devices to provide relevant data about ourselves and the environment around us. Authentication built-in so we don't need to remember passwords any longer. The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a fun first effort but what we need is a working wearable tech timepiece with a watch face that brings us the future, now. Samsung, you can built it, better, stronger, faster. You have the technology. Yes. I did just write that.

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