Pranav Mistry talks about the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. John MacDougall, AFP/Getty Images
By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - It feels like we've been on Samsung smartwatch watch for
some time now (just as we've been watching to see what Apple does in the
emerging category). And now that Samsung has done its part by
officially revealing the Galaxy Gear at an event simulcast from Berlin,
the watchful eyes will turn to Cupertino, Calif., where Apple is staging
its own media event on Sept. 10.
Samsung's watch starts to hit
stores on Sept. 25 globally, but Samsung has not officially announced
pricing or precise U.S. availability just yet (beyond saying October),
though $299 has been widely reported.
But the watch will
launch with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. In fact, the Note 3 is required to
even use Galaxy Gear. That's a major hurdle for anyone not the least bit
interested in a 5.7-inch "phablet," nice as it appears to be.
Samsung reps at a New York media event weren't saying when, or even if,
Galaxy Gear might work with other Samsung smartphones or tablets, but
I'm betting it will, lest Samsung severely limit its market.
When you sync Galaxy Gear up with Note 3 (via low energy Bluetooth),
you can make or answer calls, and glance at texts, emails and other
alerts from your wrist. Through a Smart Relay feature you can pick up
your phone to dig deeper into those messages - the Note will have
already opened the appropriate app.
The square-ish watch face is a
1.63-inch Amoled display with a resolution of 320 by 320. The watch
isn't bad looking - it comes in six colors - and it felt pretty
comfortable the moment I put it on. The band is adjustable but still
might not be an ideal fit on the thickest wrists. Galaxy Gear weighs
around 2.6 ounces.
You can move from watch face (customizable
through the Note 3) to notifications to the various apps on the phone by
swiping and tapping, which doesn't take long to get used to.
1.9-megapixel autofocus camera sits on the watchband and can be used to
capture stills or video. Pointing the band at the subject of your photo
felt a little weird to me but then again so does taking pictures with
something like Google Glass. Welcome to the age of wearable computing.
Photos can be saved to the Note 3 or the watch itself, which has 4GB of
memory and an 800 MHZ processor. You can also leave voice reminders on
Samsung says there will be 70 apps at launch and will include
include Banjo, Evernote, Glympse, Path and TripIt. An app on the watch
called Vivino lets you take a picture of a bottle of wine and discover
whether it's worth drinking. You manage your watch apps through the
Among other features is a pedometer, stopwatch, timer and
the ability to play music. You can also use the watch to help you find a
missing Note 3, or for that matter the Note to find the watch - devices
will beep, light up or vibrate.
If you're wearing the watch and
walk far away from the companion Note, the phone screen will
automatically lock. It will unlock when you come closer. And in case of
an emergency, you can press a power button 3 times continuously, to send
your location information and a message to a designated contact on the
The watch uses a standard lithium ion battery.
potential here. But I haven't been wowed by any of the smartwatches
I've tried so far, and I'd have to live with Galaxy Gear for awhile and
see what it costs before recommending it to anybody. At $299 it would
strike me as pricey, especially since anyone considering the watch is
going to have to cozy up to the Note 3 too. That invites the
possibility, it seems to me, of bundled marketing deals.
seems certain: Smartwatches have clocked in and aren't going away.
Qualcomm announced its own smartwatch today, joining new entries from
Sony. And a host of startups led by Kickstarter darling Pebble, also
compete in the space.