It’s been almost an year since Apple was rumored to come out with a smartwatch, but it was Samsung who took the plunge with their own smartwatch at IFA 2013 in Berlin, named Galaxy Gear. Luckily, the Galaxy Gear is not as big and as bad as one of those leaked prototypes. In fact it looks pretty decent and the size of the screen is optimal for a watch. We got to play around with it at the IFA, and here are our first impressions.
The Galaxy Gear smartwatch is built on Android Jelly Bean and is capable of running apps, as well as take pictures. The watch screen is a 1.67-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen display with a resolution of 320×320 pixels. It looks extremely bright and vibrant for a watch with very good font-rendering. The faux steel and plastic combination gives the watch a nice look from the distance, but less-than-ordinary feel when worn on the hands. The watch feels big and chunky when worn, and it’s almost like the watch is telling you “Hey! I’m here, you look at me!”
The addition of a 1.9MP camera should excite a lot of people (specially stalkers) and can creep out others. A simple swipe down from the top activates the camera app and it wirelessly transfers the image to the phone. The connection is via Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and for now only a couple of phones (Note 3 and new Note 10.1) are supported. The UI is simple and straight-forward. Swiping across the screen brings up settings, music player controls, camera shortcut and other apps, and the navigation is pretty smooth and fast. There are quite a few built-in watchfaces with an option for developers to add more designs.
It comes with an accelerometer and a gyroscope built-in and can act like a standalone pedometer. It has integrated speakers and mic which can be very useful. Ability to receive calls on the watch should appeal some people. Almost 70 apps made specifically for Galaxy Gear are available at launch.
We had a weird issue while testing the Galaxy Gear. Ideally, the smartwatch should be showing the time, unless it receives a notification. But the demo unit kept switching off randomly and we just couldn’t understand why that’s happening. You can see that in our hands-on video above. The Samsung personnel didn’t know much why’s that happening and blamed it on the Settings instead. The issue repeated on other demo units as well. It’s possible that Samsung is switching off the display when idle and switches it back on when it detects a movement. This is nice for battery conservation, but the implementation looks wrong and extremely irritating.
Galaxy Gear comes with a 315mAh of battery which is expected to keep the watch up and running for about 25 hours, and that is under normal usage. Heavy usage would bring down the battery life even further. In our opinion, this is the biggest downside. No matter how good the screen is, how many apps it can run, how many features it has, the thought of having yet another gadget which needs to be charged every night puts us off a great deal.