Final Thoughts

It's immediately apparent that there's a bit of panic around what happens as the smartphone/tablet markets mature. The incredible growth the leaders in those industries enjoyed over the past few years is addictive, and no one wants to be late to move onto the next thing. Wearables are an obvious target - the incredible amount of attention paid to Google Glass being proof that there is interest, should someone be able to get the formula right. 

We've seen many attempts at building smarter watches over the years. Adding functionality to something you already wear seems logical, plus there's historical precedent here (calculator watches from the 80s come to mind). As lofty as the upside is, there's an equally depressing downside however. The stylish, most adored watches aren't those that have a ton of extra functionality added onto them. That's not to say that the two goals are orthogonal, just that industrial design matters even more with a wearable than it does with a smartphone.

Samsung did relatively well with the Galaxy Gear in that department. I don't know that it speaks to me like a luxury timepiece, but it's well built and doesn't feel cheap at all. I think a truly successful smartwatch will have to look first and foremost like a great timepiece, and I don't know that any of the initial players (Samsung included) are really there yet. I'll admit I'm puzzled by the decision to go with a plastic charging cradle that closes over the Gear instead of some connector and a USB cable, so maybe that's the first thing that really needs changing.
 
Architecturally, Samsung took a different approach to the Galaxy Gear than we've seen from most of the recent attempts (e.g. Pebble, Toq). Rather than optimizing for always on operation, the Galaxy Gear instead is treated like more of a smartphone - designed to be used in bursts, and relying on idle time to extend battery life.
 
It's sort of insane to think that the Galaxy Gear puts an Exynos 4212 on my wrist. On the flipside, the Galaxy Gear delivers downright smartphone-like battery life at a little more than 5 hours of continuous use and that's without cellular connectivity. The lack of an always on watch face is a bit bothersome since you'd expect something you wear on your wrist to always be able to, you know, tell time. Samsung attempts to mitigate the Gear's lack of an always on mode by using the accelerometer and gyro to detect when you're flipping your wrist to look at your watch face. The unfortunate reality is the gesture doesn't work all of the time, again putting you in a situation where you're wearing something on your wrist that doesn't always behave like a watch at the bare minimum. 
 
It's also sort of crazy to think about Android 4.2, similarly, running on my wrist.
 
Truth be told, I don't know that either of these things are the right solution, at least today. An 800MHz Cortex A9 with some Mali-400 GPU configuration at 32nm and Android 4.2 are both too much for a watch-like device. In many ways Galaxy Gear feels a like tablet from the early 2000s. They used notebook hardware and notebook software, weren't fast enough, didn't last long enough on a single charge, and didn't have a great user experience. In the case of the Galaxy Gear, Samsung at least leveraged its experience in skinning Android to deliver an experience that felt mostly reasonable on a watch face. But the hardware needed to run the whole thing is excessive and as a result gives you very little battery life.
 
There are some nicely executed elements of the Galaxy Gear. The device is well built and doesn't feel heavy (although it is a bit bulky). Integration with the Galaxy Note 3 works well. The camera integrated into the wrist strap takes surprisingly decent photos as well. The calling-from-your-wrist experience isn't great though, and the device itself isn't waterproof (which is far more of an issue for something you wear on your wrist than something that lives in your pocket).
 
Ultimately the Galaxy Gear isn't the perfect solution to wearable computing, but rather a first attempt. It's more a proof of concept that you can own. If we look at Samsung's history in nearly every market we've followed it (SoCs, SSDs, smartphones), the company has a tendency to show up early with the wrong solution, but iterate aggressively to the point where it ends up with a very good solution. 
 
In terms of interim improvement - I'd love to see more/better watch faces, broader compatibility with Samsung phones and a persistent clock. Let's start there and see where it takes us.
Battery Life
POST A COMMENT

70 Comments

View All Comments

  • rituraj - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    Transparent display... a normal watch underneath...
    Notifications appear on top of the watch waking up the display when needed.. otherwise it remains a humble normal transparent glass..
    A stripped down OS suitable for wearable..
    How long? How difficult?
    Seriously though, can transparent displays be a reality?
    Reply
  • Origin64 - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    Just like when tablets appeared a few years ago: I have to stop and ask: for which use case is this thing in any way useful? Using voice recog is slower than typing, (especially in noisy conditions like anywhere outside your own house or car) it can't be comfortable reading anything from a device attached to your wrist, because you'd have to keep your arm up or your neck bent, and it'll be slower than the phones we spent years and billions making oh so blazing fast.

    This is to a smartphone what a tablet is to a laptop: smaller and more portable, but limited in functionality and speed. Sure, a tablet is easier to use on the go, but on a laptop you can get some work done.

    It must just be our neverending consumerism. Phone market becomes saturated, and all those billions of marketing budget are spent brainwashing people into thinking this is something they need.

    I'd seriously like to see one, just one, proper use case for this little machine. I cant think of a situation where pulling my phone out of my pocket wouldnt be faster and easier.
    Reply
  • meacupla - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    There's just one problem with your argument.

    Tablets kicked out e-readers and netbooks, because most people just wanted something that will do facetube, movies, light games, email and internet and cost less than $400.
    Some experienced users may want to use office, and that too has been covered quite well by both cheaper ARM devices and more expensive ultrabook convertibles.

    So, going by your argument, you are actually making a case for the watch, it's just that we're not quite sure what other products it's going to kick to the curb as of now, just like what happened when tablets first came out.

    The way I see it, the only thing this watch might kill is HUD and handset holders inside cars.
    Reply
  • Graag - Thursday, October 03, 2013 - link

    Tablets haven't kicked out e-readers, at all. E-readers are still better at reading most things than tablets.

    Netbooks, on the other hand, are worse at everything.
    Reply
  • Kathrine647 - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    like Gregory said I am alarmed that a stay at home mom able to earn $5886 in 1 month on the internet. visit their website............B u z z 5 5 . com open the link without spaces Reply
  • Maikal - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    Totaly agree Fergy. It seems the Apple trolls are out in force and must have received talking points about how applelish the watch looks. Not realizing that Apple has been stealing from others much longer than they've been alive! Apple has not met an inovation that they themselves have either stolen, borrowed or copied from!

    How are you apple trolls liking your IOS7 now! I hear and read how smoothly things are going...not...lol
    Reply
  • Maikal - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    Apple will claim anything is their innovation just to stall the other company from getting their goods to the public! Remember the lawsuits over color and shape of the iphone? Like no one would think of a square phone with buttons? Like they owned the pattent on shapes like a rectangle or circles? Please, from the beginings Apple and Microsoft were perfecting the ways of stealing from each other in order to later do the same to other companies. Reply
  • jefeweiss - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    You mention using the Pebble regularly in your review of this product, but I don't see that there was ever a review of the Pebble. I would be interested to see a review, especially to give this review some context. I just tried to search for "pebble", so it's possible that it just didn't come up in the search. Reply
  • ASEdouardD - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    I suppose Samsung made an effort design wise here, but it's still very ugly. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    So, how does it feel/look when worn properly, aka with the face on the flat part of your wrist (the bottom)? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now