Samsung has positioned its Galaxy Gear watch as a device from the year 2025; unfortunately, its first smartwatch is stuck in 2007.
As many other reviewers have noted (see here for our rundown), the Galaxy Gear lacks many of the functions you would expect from a true “smart watch” in 2013: It can, at this time, only connect to a Galaxy Note 3, and nothing else (other phones are coming soon, Samsung says). It cannot be charged without a special plastic cradle. When you get a notification for a new message from Gmail, or Google Hangouts, or Facebook, or Twitter, or other non-Samsung-approved apps on your phone, you cannot view the content of that notification on the watch itself; you have to open up the app on the phone itself.
In sum — by my estimation, and the estimation of many esteemed colleagues — the Galaxy Gear falls far short of its potential.
And yet! Samsung’s first try at wrist-based technology does carry some promise. Here are the tasks and functions that Samsung nailed, the reasons for hope for the Galaxy Gear 2.
THE ULNAR CAMERA
The Galaxy Gear comes with a tiny camera that faces outward from your pinky and allows you to snap really quick, sneaky photos by pointing your wrist at something. Once you get over the creep factor, it’s really quite impressive (both the photo quality, and the fact that it exists), and fun to show off to friends. Snapping a quick pic from your wrist is faster than pulling your phone out and launching the camera app; transferring photos from watch to smartphone is refreshingly simple. This is one of the real joys of the Galaxy Gear, and, hopefully, a glimpse at the promising future of smartwatches.
DIALING IT IN
If you often make phone calls through a headset or earphones, the dialer app on the Galaxy Gear — a basic number pad, which can access your Note’s telephone — saves you the (admittedly minor) hassle of taking your phone out of your pocket.
This is generally where the Gear thrives: Where it can remove the need for you to actually look at
your smartphone. Speaking of which…
Riding my bike through Manhattan, it was much easier to stop at red lights and look at notifications on my wrist than it was to jimmy my phone loose from my jeans, unlock and swipe around. For those of you who live in cities where it isn’t prohibitively expensive to own cars, I would imagine this ease would hold true for driving, as well.
Unlike other reviewers, I got two days on average in my tests and was quite satisfied with the battery life. I suppose all you really need is the assurance that it will last an entire day, no longer how long your day is: The Gear breezed over this low bar.
IT’S NOT THAT UGLY
That sounds backhanded, but it really isn’t: Samsung did an admirable job making its first smartwatch look sleek. It isn’t too bulky (except on the underside, which makes typing difficult); the metal face is polished, and chrome-clean; the software design is fairly modern. In short: This isn’t the dorky, clunky monstrosity it could have been. It’s chic, for a computer/camera on your wrist.
All in all, there’s hope for the Galaxy Gear 2, as my colleague Daniel Bean writes. Now if only Samsung could make a smartwatch as awesome as its smartwatch advertisements: