Samsung Electronics unveiled its highly anticipated digital wristwatch that can snap photos, track workouts and use an array of apps – gadgetry that the company hopes will catapult it into a market of smart portable devices that leave cellphones in users’ pockets.
Samsung will start shipping the $299 Gear smartwatch in September, ahead of a similar product expected from Apple. I had a chance to play with a pre-production unit for about 10 minutes and briefly with the version that Samsung announced Wednesday in Berlin on the eve of the annual IFA consumer electronics show.
- 512 MB of RAM
- Internal memory of 4 GB
- 800-megahertz, single-core CPU
- Weighs 2.6 ounces
- Available colors include lime green, oatmeal beige, wild orange, mocha gray, jet black and rose gold.
- The Gear supports apps such as Facebook and lets the wearer answer incoming calls or check email without picking up the smartphone that’s paired with it.
- The Gear’s design flair and ease of use are its sweetest attributes. It is sleek, with a thin metallic bezel surrounding the display. The strap comes in six different colors – black, gray, orange, beige, gold and green.
- It is easy to activate the camera and quick to shoot a photo. It left both hands free while placing and answering calls. The full message can also be read. Samsung says replies are possible through voice dictation.
- Easy navigation of the touch screen is one of the device’s biggest pluses.
- Samsung has dispensed with buttons on the screen, so there’s no home or back button.
- One tap anywhere on the screen takes and saves a photo in the Gear and the smartphone that’s paired with it.
- The first generation of the Gear seems to be cool but not compelling enough.
- Gear is not an independent device. For useful functionality, the Gear needs to be linked with a specific Samsung smartphone or tablet computer. The pairing is done wirelessly over a Bluetooth connection built in to both sides.
- The Galaxy Gear may have an intuitive interface, but it is not an independent device, instead a slave which can be used only when it is paired to a smartphone.
- The big disappointment for Samsung gadget owners is that the Gear does not work with most of its phones and tablets. For now the Galaxy Gear can only be paired with the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet PC.
- It is priced at about twice the price of the Sony SmartWatch and the Pebble.
- Its 1.9 megapixel camera is said to be of poorer quality than a typical smartphone camera.
- One downside is that the Gear doesn’t support a wireless earpiece, so both sides of any conversation can be overheard.