Samsung Galaxy Gear Reviewby Brian Klug on October 1, 2013 9:00 AM EST
Gear’s designers went in a direction that completely defies most of the norm we’ve seen in this latest crop of smartwatches. Rather than the low power Cortex M3 route that seems to be popular, Samsung went with a dual core SoC (Exynos 4212), disabled a core, and set the CPU frequency to a maximum of 800 MHz. On top of the whole thing runs Android 4.2.2 and the Gear software, making the watch more like a small smartphone. The combination of aggressive display timeout (with a maximum of 5 minutes) and the activation gesture for waking the watch up signals to me that battery life probably was a challenge on the Gear.
I don’t really know what the best way is to battery life test a watch yet, and I struggled with that while trying to review Pebble. I settled on just timing how long I got through a battery charge there, which ended up being almost exactly a week (7.02 days was my average), which is basically my only context for what smartwatch battery life should be. The Gear obviously has a considerably more powerful platform, display, and capabilities, so it isn’t a shocker that battery life overall is less.
It’s easy to get around the display timeout limitations and just keep the display on Gear turned on forever, displaying the watchface. I ran a rundown test with the watchface set to brightness level 4 (there are levels 1–5 and outdoor brightness) while connected over Bluetooth to the Note 3. Gear managed 5.117 hours of total screen-on time showing the watch face (clock plus weather) connected to Note 3.
Of course the way that Gear is setup which prevents display from being on all the time, battery life during actual use will be longer. I’d say somewhere just over a day would be on the short side, maybe two or three days is possible if you try to stretch it a lot. I placed a few calls and played with Gear a lot one day and almost didn’t make it through, another day I felt like Gear would’ve lasted two had I let the use pattern continue.
The positive side is that thanks to its smaller battery, Gear can charge from completely drained to 100 percent in just under an hour, the simultaneous downside is that you need the charging cradle to do it. If you’re comfortable charging the Gear daily, it’s survivable, the question is whether consumers are willing to adopt the daily charge requirements of another device. I’ve gotten in the habit of plugging Pebble in every night, so this isn’t a big deal for me, but I also enjoy having a week of battery life when I go travel. I suspect that’s a use pattern that others can empathize with when considering Gear, which guarantees a little over a day of use realistically, and a bit more if you’re careful.