The device, which is an accessory for the Galaxy Note 3, is made mostly from plastic, but has a metallic face and comes in six different colors. The shades include black, beige, gray, green, orange and gold. The face measures 1.63 inches diagonally and has 320 by 320 pixels. It has an 800-MHz processor with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage for photos and other content. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to connect to smartphones and also includes an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Samsung says the 315-mAh battery provides enough juice to last a full 24 hours with use.
Some of the surprising features include a 1.9-megapixel camera baked into the band that can also record 720p HD video and a speakerphone. The camera might not offer the best quality in the world, but it's a last resort for those can't-miss opportunities that sneak up every now and again. The speakerphone is just loud enough to make using the Gear for phone calls a worthwhile endeavor, but don't expect it to replace your conference room's Polycom unit any time soon.
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The Galaxy Gear does not have Wi-Fi, nor an independent connection to the Internet. Similar to Sony's SmartWatch, it relies on a nearby smartphone for most of its functionality. This is perhaps its greatest strength and greatest limitation. For starters, the Gear will only work with the Note 3 smartphone. Samsung said it hopes to offer connectivity with other Galaxy smartphones later this year. Though the Gear has plenty of its own apps, it can't be used as a stand-alone music player. In fact, if you want to listen to music, you'll have to do so with Bluetooth headphones, as the Gear doesn't have a headphone jack.
The Gear runs on Google's Android operating system, but you wouldn't know it to look at it. The interface has been stripped down so it can easily be used with one finger by those on the go. It offers a handful of clock faces that also show the weather, and uses swiping gestures to get from screen to screen and app to app. There's a single button that will take users back to the home screen if they get lost or want to exit out of an app.
Speaking of apps, the Gear runs plenty of them. It includes a handful of simple tools, such as a stopwatch, music player controls and pedometer, as well as more advanced functions. The Gear has rich notifications that automatically interact with the Note 3 smartphone, and it can be used to dial phone calls directly rather than using the Note 3. It interacts with S Voice, Samsung's voice-command and search tool, and can also be used to find a lost Note 3 smartphone (and vice versa with the companion smartphone app). In addition to these apps, it comes with a handful of third-party apps from Evernote, eBay, MyFitnessPal, Path, RunKeeper and Tripit. Samsung says more apps are on the way.
The Galaxy Gear is a capable device and sets the bar for what smartwatches can do. The camera and speakerphone are nice surprises that amplify the expected feature set of notifications, music player and exercise controls. Samsung hasn't said exactly when the Gear smartwatch will go on sale or how much it will cost. The company did say that it will be available in the U.S. before the end of the year.