Samsung's Galaxy Gear is a good smartwatch, not a Great one…yet
The Galaxy Gear. Samsung's first smart watch. But not the first smart watch. Samsung stood on stage in Berlin on September 4th at their Unpacked 2013: Episode 2 event where they announced the Galaxy Gear alongside the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It is their first smart watch, and for a first try it's not bad. Now I've read many reviews from other journalists like myselves and not a single one of them have been satisfied with it either. I wonder why? Could it be that we expect a lot more from Samsung since they are the "big dogs" now? I know it's their first smart watch, So I'm not expecting something crazy awesome. But I do expect it to be able to handle all or none of my notifications. Not some. I also expect it to be able to reply to emails, or even read my emails. There are plenty of things I wish it could do but, this isn't my wishlist for the next generation Galaxy Gear, this is my review of the first generation Galaxy Gear. So let's get it started.
To setup the Galaxy Gear, it's a little tricky. Luckily, I was nice enough to put together a nice video showing you how to set it up. You take the craddle that comes with the Galaxy Gear and tap it on the back of the Galaxy Note 3 or Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It will then connect and download Gear Manager, then connect to your Gear. Your Gear is going to want a Bluetooth connection all day, unfortunately. Which can use a bit of battery, but more than likely, you'll be using your Note 3 less since you've got the Gear on your wrist. Otherwise, using the Gear is pretty straight forward.
We've given Samsung a lot of grief over the past year or so for using the glossy plastic on their devices. Well the Galaxy Gear is not plastic. Now I can't really compare it to other smart watches out there since I haven't used them. But I really like the look and feel of this one. It looks really nice in my opinion. I do kind of wish the bezel was a bit thinner, but I'm sure that will come in the next generation or the one after that. Samsung is working on one to show off at CES in January anyways.
Now the Galaxy Gear doesn't have a Snapdragon 800 in there like the Galaxy Note 3. It's got a 800MHz processor along with 512MB of RAM. Which is plenty for a watch. It's not like you'll be playing Angry Birds on it, or will you? The Galaxy Gear connects to the Galaxy Note 3 via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy or BLE. As far as the sensors go it's got a Sensor Hub, Gyro and Accelerometer. There's also 2 microphones and a speaker. I haven't noticed any stuttering or lags while using the Galaxy Gear either.
The Gear is running Android 4.3, although you won't find that anywhere. It's Touchwiz, but it's not Touchwiz. Basically the OS on the Gear looks nothing like Touchwiz, but obviously they had to optimize the OS to work on a smaller 1.63-inch display. There's not much there as far as software goes, but it is just a smart watch and not a full phone or tablet. So I wouldn't expect a hundred features packed inside.
At the unveiling. Samsung said there would be about 70 apps or more available for the Gear. So far there aren't that many. I'd say about 30 or so and some of them were not built that well. I didn't check out all of the apps, but I did check out a few. The only ones that are still on my Gear are Evernote, Pocket, and Path. It's kinda cool to watch a video you saved to Pocket on the Gear. Although it's super small, still cool. There is a Foursquare app, but it's not an official Foursquare app, so it really doesn't work well. I think that this could be a great thing for Foursquare. Being able to check in without pulling out your phone could bring them a lot more active users.
Other apps available right now include Snapchat, Kakaotalk, Chaton, FBQuickview, TwitterQuickview, Line, Path, Banjo, Runkeeper and much more. I'm really hoping to see more, better apps available for the Gear soon. Or Samsung may not need to make another one.
Like I said in the opening, Notifications are the thing I hate the most about Gear. If you check out the video above, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. There I use Gmail as an example. But basically you can't open many notifications on Gear, without having to use the Note 3 or Note 10.1 2014 Edition. Which is a major downfall in my opinion. If I get a Gmail on my Gear, I'd like to be able to read the email on the Gear. Even if I can't reply, I'd like to be able to either see the subject and sender of just read the entire email. Is that really that hard? It's the same for most other apps. But if you use the stock Email app, you can read your email on Gear. That's probably why I'm making such a big deal out of this.
While Samsung said that this would only make it through about a day of use. They were wrong. As I'm writing this review right now, I've been using it for about 12 hours and have 89% left. Unfortunately, there's no way to show battery stats from the watch. So you'll just have to take my word for it. I can usually get through about 2 days on a cycle. Depending on what I've done with the watch. You know, downloading apps, showing it off, etc.
There is a 1.9MP camera on this smart watch. It's actually not a bad camera. I've got a few camera samples down below that you can check out. What's interesting about the Galaxy Gear's camera is that you can't turn off the shutter. Which I'm sure there's a good reason for that, stalkers, etc.Otherwise the UI is very simple and clean and I like that. Just tap to take a picture and you're good to go.
To put this all into a nutshell. It's a good watch, just not great…yet. The Galaxy Gear is a good first generation product. And as we all know, first generation products all have it's flaws, and so does the Galaxy Gear. I'm not going to sugar coat this, but I feel like only super tech nerds or geeks like ourselves would buy this. I personally wouldn't buy this. It has nothing to do with the fact it's made from Samsung (it's well known that I'm not the biggest Samsung fan). But because I really don't see a use for it in my life. That's why I've never used the Pebble, Sony's smart watch or any of the others. I just don't see a need for myself to have one.
Having said that, I'm excited to see the next version of the Galaxy Gear. When the Galaxy Note first hit, it wasn't all that amazing. Many people criticized it for being so big. Then the Note 2 came, and sold like gangbusters. Now the Note 3 is here, and so far it's the most talked about phone on our site. So I have a feeling it'll be the same for the Galaxy Gear, and I can't wait for that.