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9/5/2013
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Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons

Samsung's smartwatch impresses in many respects, but it's by no means perfect. Here are the best and worst facets of the new tech toy.

Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Samsung was not first to the market with a smartwatch, but its Galaxy Gear device is significant for truly ushering in the smartwatch era. Smartwatches have been around for years, and Samsung's take on what a smartwatch can and should do will reverberate for the foreseeable future.

The smartwatch space is hardly crowded, but it is growing quickly. Sony's second-generation smartwatch reaches the market later this month and it follows the Pebble, which launched earlier this year. Qualcomm announced its own wearable, the Toq, this week, and Apple is expected to announce an iWatch device in the months ahead.

There's a lot the Samsung Galaxy Gear can do, and a lot it cannot. Here are its best and worst features.

[ Wearable tech is hot, but is it secure? See Can You Hack A Heartbeat? ]

Pros

-- Camera: A camera on your watch? Sure, why not. The Gear's 1.9-megapixel camera also shoots 720p HD video for up to 10 minutes. It may be clunky to use, but it might serve as an absolute last resort when there's no camera or smartphone nearby.

-- Display: The Gear's screen may measure a scant 1.63 inches, but the 320 x 320-pixel resolution ALOMED display is gorgeous. It is bright, colorful and offers sharp details. It presents menus and onscreen elements vividly and crisply.

-- Speakerphone: Adding a speakerphone to a watch is what we all want, right? That's the Dick Tracy promise, after all, being able to speak to our watches and hold a conversation with some far-off person. Throw in support for Samsung's S Voice command system and you have a watch you can talk to all day long.

-- Find My Phone: Lose your smartphone? If it's within range (about 30 feet), the Gear can be used to set off an alarm to find the misplaced phone. The alarm will sound even if the device is set to silent.

-- Color Selection: Offering the Gear in six different colors may seem trite, but it will make consumers happy. Customization tools have become a key differentiator in a market full of me-too products. Just look at the Motorola Moto X and its custom design options. Though Samsung's choice of green over red or blue may seem questionable to some, at least there are several options from which to pick.

Cons

-- Smartphone Dependent: Many of the Gear's best features rely on a having a smartphone nearby. For example, no smartphone equals no rich notifications or missed call alerts. You need to be within 30 feet of your smartphone to get those. Worse, it will only work with the new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone at first. No Note 3, no Gear.

-- No Wi-Fi: The Gear does not have an independent connection to the Internet. Again, it relies on having a smartphone nearby. That means you can't browse the Web or even stream music from/to another source.

-- Cumbersome Charger: The charger for the device snaps on like a protective shell. It protects the Gear while it is charging, but renders much of the device useless because it obstructs the Gear's only button. It's surprising that Samsung made such an obvious mistake in designing the charger. It would be better if the device plugged directly into a microUSB cable.

-- Price Point: The Gear costs $299. That's probably more than the Note 3 will cost with a new contract. It's a hefty price tag for an accessory that works only with a single smartphone. None of the U.S. carriers have announced combo packs of the Gear and Note 3 together, but hopefully they will -- with a slightly reduced price.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is, for better or worse, going to put the smartwatch category into high gear. It will be interesting to watch (pun intended) the category unfold and see how different hardware makers put their own spin on the smartwatch.

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jupiter
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jupiter,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/23/2013 | 7:44:44 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
As a photographer, it would be very useful for me to be able to access a "calculator" that computes data I need for what is known as hyperfocal distance technique and do it so that my hands are free so that I can operate the camera readily each time I decide to change the lens setting. This is where I can see how the smart part of the smartwatch can be very handy. Each time I decide to change lens setting, I can quickly use the smartwatch to compute a new focal point for my camera. Being able to do this quickly, without fumbling with a smartphone, can be very useful when lighting conditions can change quickly (e.g, during sunrise or sunset). Of course, the app needs to be designed for quick data entry within the smartwatch form factor. Also, when I hike to a remote photo location with camera gear and accessories, having one less relatively bulky item to carry in a pocket or bag (so that I can use that precious space for something else) can sometimes be very convenient. Plus, if the smartwatch has GPS capability, it can double (or triple or quadruple or whatever, depending on what else you use it for) as a navigation aid during the hike.
I'm pretty sure there are other activities where other people may find a smartwatch more convenient than a smartphone. But I have to say though that I don't think a smartwatch will completely replace a smartphone. So a smartwatch needs to be able to function both with and without a smartphone. Heck, if it has WiFi, then in certain situations, you should even be able to receive and send calls without a smartphone. Due to these reasons, I think Samsung really stumbled with their smartwatch.
BTW, Omate recently completed Kickstarter funding on their version of the smartwatch (which reportedly will also have IP67 waterproofed case and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal) that has all the desired capabilities I mentioned above. It remains to be seen as to how well they execute and produce their product.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
9/9/2013 | 2:26:32 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
I think it's pretty obvious why Samsung came out with this, not very useful, according to reports, watch. It's the same reason they came out with a Tv using voice. They're obviously getting gassy from the accusations of copying Apple.

So they come out with a Tv using voice that doesn't work well, according to reviews, so that they can be first. Then they come out with a watch so they can be first.

We know that SJ said that he cracked it, when asked about a Tv, and the assumption is that it will use voice control, with Siri. We know that they are working on a watch, as they have trademarked the name iWatch.

it doesn't matter that neither Samsung devices work well. What matters is just that they are first. So when Apple comes out with their much better ones, Samsung can claim that Apple copied them for a change. Then, their second generation models will look and work a lot like Apple's. Same old same old.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 2:00:09 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
I agree with other commenters that a smartwatch needs to be an independent entity to be appealing. Give this thing Wi-Fi and even cellular connectivity and lower the price ($300??) and I would be interested. I like traditional watches, but they're boring. This is a chance to digitally disrupt a staid industry if done right.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
9/5/2013 | 10:13:32 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
I have started wearing a watch again while traveling since I got one for father's day that does nothing but tell time. The upside: I can know the time and continue IGNORING my phone and all the messages on it.
W_Albany
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W_Albany,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/5/2013 | 9:54:20 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
What's with the ALOMED display? You must mean AMOLED.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/5/2013 | 8:49:24 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
I agree about the lack of WiFi support. It's absence makes this a non-starter for me (even if I were inclined to drop $300 for a device I don't need).
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/5/2013 | 4:35:40 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
I think the lack of WiFi capability and the dependence on a nearby smartphone virtually erases all appeal the smartwatch might have. What's the point of having a smartwatch if it can't independently connect to the Internet for a variety of services? For that matter, I will just continue to carry my smartphone, which has all of the capabilities of the smartwatch and then some.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/5/2013 | 1:41:32 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch: Pros And Cons
Con: You have to be a geek who wants to be preoccupied and fidgeting with a watch all day long. I know people who gave up on wrist watches because they always have a phone on hand to tell them what time it is. If this watch is dependent on having a smart phone nearby, why not just use the much more powerful and easy-to-use phone?
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