04
Sep
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The Galaxy Gear has been leaked, rumored, and talked about for months now, and it's finally here. Well, it exists and we've seen it, anyway. We got some quick hands-on time with Samsung's don't-call-it-a-watch smart watch, and have plenty to say.

First off, Samsung was very clear during our hands-on time that the Gear shouldn't be thought of as a watch. The question of whether non-watch-wearers will be willing to pick one up is moot to the manufacturer, as the experience and functionality provided by the watch should be enough to sway users toward adding the high-tech accessory to their wardrobe.

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Samsung also positions the Gear as a "companion" to the Note 3. The device will work with other Galaxy phones (sorry non-Samsung owners), but will likely be launching contemporaneous to the Note 3.

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So what does it do that makes its experience so special? After the brief hands-on video below, we'll get into the nitty gritty.

Note: The device's display, as explained below, is actually 320x320, not 130x130 as I incorrectly stated in the video.

The Specs

Before we get started, it's worth looking at the device's concrete specs.

  • Unspecified 800MHz processor
  • 1.63" Super AMOLED display at 320x320
  • 1.9MP camera
  • Accelerometer, Gyroscope
  • 4GB internal memory
  • 512MB RAM
  • 36.8x56.6x11.1mm body at 73.8g
  • 315mAh battery
  • Dual microphones for noise cancellation

What it Looks Like

First, the form factor. The Galaxy Gear isn't too much bigger dimensionally than a regular watch. It has a 1.63" square Super AMOLED display that's pretty clear, and definitely bright and vibrant. I could still pick out some individual pixels, but nothing jumped out to me as particularly jagged. The chassis is made of metal, and the screen is covered with sapphire glass.

The watch will also come in a variety of colors, including Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold (white strap plus rose gold colored face), Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, and Lime Green.

There's just one button on the Gear, which acts as both the home and power button, depending on where you are in the interface.

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The strap is adjustable and closes with a familiar watch-like clasp. What's unfamiliar about the strap, though, is the big camera bump protruding from one side. This houses the 1.9MP camera that can shoot stills or "short" videos from the watch's built-in camera app.

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Apps

Speaking of apps, Samsung gave us only tidbits of information about how apps will work on the Gear. So far, it's planned to launch with "between sixty and seventy" apps, including apps like Evernote, TripIt, Pocket, Life 360, Path, Runkeeper, Vivino, Glympse, and others.

To bring together a Gear-appropriate experience, Samsung is working individually with developers – there are no plans right now to open up an SDK, as Samsung plans to "see how things go" with the product before opening up.

The apps the Gear does have, though, seem well put together and should enhance the experience of the watch, which is otherwise reliant on Samsung-branded tools.

One such tool is "Find My Phone," which works two ways between your phone and Gear, to locate one or the other as long as it's within Bluetooth range. The Gear can also make use of S Voice and record voice memos.

Other apps will be distributed through Samsung's own app store, with no concrete plans to use the Play Store for Gear apps in the foreseeable future.

Interface

The interface on the Gear is unsurprisingly simple. For quick reference, I've sketched out a map of the whole interface:

gear

Swipe down from the home screen to get to the camera, swipe up to dial a number, swipe left or right to get to other stuff. There's also a two-finger-swipe-down gesture to change volume and brightness, and a two-finger tap gesture to show a quick peek at battery life (more on that later). Oh, and the Gear will automatically turn on when you bring it up as if to check the time.

Clock

The clock-based home screen is more interesting than it sounds, mainly because the Gear Manager app has a ton of clock faces to choose from, from analog faces to digital, weather, notifications, event reminders, and pedometer faces. These are all separate clock faces, and there's no sign of customizing one a la DashClock at the time of writing. Some faces have interactive features. The weather face, for instance, can be tapped to bring up a slightly more detailed weather reading.

Notifications

Notifications will, as you may predict, show you what notifications you've got on your phone. Most apps, at the time of writing, will simply show up as an icon to let you know something has happened with that app, be it Gmail, Messaging, Facebook, or Twitter.

Favorite/Apps

Favorite Apps and Apps are pretty predictable too. Favorite Apps is a list of your most frequently used Gear apps, and All Apps shows you … all your Gear apps. In a side-scrolling list.

Contacts/Logs

This is also just what it sounds like – a list of contacts and a simple call log.

Camera

The camera's interface is tricky. Since I can't provide an actual screenshot, I've diagramed what the interface looks like.

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There's a camera icon in the top left, but it doesn't do what you think it does. Instead of capturing the scene, that button switches to video mode. Actually capturing something is much easier – just touch anywhere to focus and snap automatically.

Presumably the camera will integrate with S Health for food tracking, but it can also be used to practice your secret agent photography skills.

Dialer

The dialer is just like a regular phone dialer, allowing you to place speakerphone calls directly from the Gear. From what I heard in a test run, the sound quality is not great, but definitely passable for a speakerphone attached to your wrist. That said, the Gear does have two mics for noise cancelation, so you'll presumably sound great to whoever's on the other end of the call, though there was no way for us to test that on site.

Compatibility

Compatibility with the Gear seems to be something of a gray area right now. When I asked about broader compatibility with other Android handsets, I was told that theoretically non-Samsung exclusive features would work with other phones, but it seems that the device can only be paired using Gear Manager, which is only available for Samsung phones, with no plans to release it to, say, the Play Store. So for now, it looks like the Gear will only be for Galaxy users.

Update: The Gear will be compatible with the Note 3 and the new Galaxy Note 10.1 as well as the S3, S4, and the Note II after firmware updates.

My overall feeling here is that Samsung is being very careful with the Gear, limiting both the number of people who can use it and which developers can develop for it, so the experience can be curated and consistent, allowing for a more accurate pulse on user reactions to the device. Considering Samsung's current standing in the mobile world, their sample size will almost certainly be significant enough to draw some conclusions about how to proceed.

Battery/Charging

This is a point of interest for a lot of potential buyers out there (whoever you are). Battery life was quoted to us as "about a day" on a single charge of the 315mAh pack.

All I can say for sure is that every unit I used during the hands on demos (about three or four units) was at 25% battery life or less after several other members of the press had their turns with it. Samsung told us the battery tests "are still being run," so battery life will be something to watch at release time.

Samsung obviously isn't ignoring the battery concern, though. Like Glass, the Gear's screen is off most of the time, only turning on when something happens (like a phone call), when you bring your arm up to check the time, or when you manually press the power button.

As for charging, that's a very interesting story. Instead of a micro USB port, or a wireless charging coil, or pogo pins, Samsung has gone for a combination of pogo pins and micro USB. Included with the device is a charging shell/case/thing. It snaps onto the device, aligning with pogo pins around back.

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Once snapped on, the shell plugs in via micro USB. This is a pretty cumbersome way to charge something every single day.

The shell is also used for initial NFC pairing with Gear Manager.

Final Thoughts

The Galaxy Gear is … interesting. Does it fulfill my wildest smartwatch dreams? Not by a long shot. Could I see it being a useful second (or third, or fourth) screen for notifications, step tracking, and remote control of some phone apps? Sure, if you've got a Galaxy phone and some spare cash. It won't be replacing my watch any time soon, though.

Samsung says the Galaxy Gear is going to be available in 140 countries on September 25th and globally in October.

Update: The Gear will cost $299 in the U.S.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Andrew

    Only for Samsung phones? Pass.

    • valapsp

      No Wifi? 512 RAM? ugly? PASS!

      • ProductFRED

        It's a watch...It relies on your phone's Bluetooth connection. Why the hell would it need WiFi or more than 512 MB of RAM?

      • hot_spare

        What?

        I want the batterylife to be more, but you complaining about 512MB RAM on a watch??

        • gierso

          it needs to have 2gb ram, obviously... xD

          • Paul

            I demand my watch have a 2" display with 1080p resolution, a minimum of 2gb RAM, a quad core processor and 16gb onboard storage. 802.11n is fine, 802.11ac would be better. Oh and it must have a 3 day battery life! :-) lol.

          • Paul

            I joke now but I'll bet a watch like that comes out in the next 3 or 4 years, lol.

          • Davis Hernandez

            also a gtx 670 incuded xD

  • atlouiedog

    It'll work with other Samsung phones, but please think of it as a companion to the Note 3. It seems much smaller when you do that.

  • Danny365

    That camera couldn't be any more pointless.

    • Matthew Fry

      That's where you're wrong. It could be on the inside of the band.

    • Paul

      Good for a quick shot when you can't get to your phone in your pocket fast enough. It's just a quick shot thing. 1.9mp isn't too bad, good for in the moment. I've seen my son do something funny or crazy and by the time I got my phone out and the camera app launched, he's done. Still, it's not necessary and I'd sacrifice the camera if it meant better battery life or something else. For $200 I'd consider this watch, not $300 though.

  • whereisit

    where's the sd card slot and removable battery? what the hell samsung, you're conforming to the rest of the industry!

    • Fatty Bunter

      Just how much room do you think is in a watch? An SD card slot probably translates to like 1/4 of the overall battery capacity

      • Mike

        I don't think you understand sarcasm.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I demand 3200mAh in this!

  • TY

    >Super AMOLED display at 320x320
    >315mAh battery
    Unless the UI is almost all-black, I can imagine the battery life is most likely... terrible.
    IMO they should have gone with transflective LCD.

  • xHabeasCorpusx

    I think the pebble is far better. Samsung's watch tries to do too much. A day's charge is quite annoying, the pebble can go for about a week (or more). The charging system I thought was a little annoying on the pebble due to the fact they want to keep it water proof (which after a trip to the beach the other day, THANK YOU), but the Samsung phone's charging system is ridiculous ESPECIALLY since you have to do it everyday. The watch looks bulky and the touch screen unnecessary. The AMOLED screen still doesn't hold a candle to eInk, I'm sure the AMOLED will be a little bit harder to see in the day light. A camera? WTF is that for? Perving? Why do you need it on your watch? They went about it all wrong.The only useful thing about the watch is the ability to dial from the wrist but my blutooth can do that from my voice.

  • melhiore

    Fail :D

  • Dan

    Contender for biggest disappointment of the year
    abysmal battery life, pointless camera and a tiny list of compatible devices at launch?
    Is this the year tech companies all decided to go crazy?

  • http://www.youtube.com/crisr82 Kristian Ivanov

    Feel free to call me an idiot, but am I the only one that doesn't see any point in a smart watch? I mean I have a pretty damn expensive watch to begin with and ever since I started carrying a smartphone I don't even wear it (more space for bracelets yey =D )...a watch with a bunch of greatly inferior things on it compared to the smartphone I have in my pocket...I don't know, just seems weird...

    P.S. while I'll call it out right now - the camera will be absolute BS, just for the lolz I want to put one on my hand and take a photo like secret agents do in lame hollywood movies XD

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      I see plenty of point in a smartwatch. I have a Pebble. This isn't a smartwatch. It's a mini-phone without the phone for your phone so you can phone without phoning. It's absurdly overpriced, over-specced, under-powered, and niche.

      • mgamerz
      • hot_spare

        over-specced and under-powered at same time??

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          Yes. Battery. Literally under-powered.

    • Matthew Fry

      You're an idiot. I didn't actually read the rest of your comment- you just told me to feel free.

      • http://www.youtube.com/crisr82 Kristian Ivanov

        [old_man] you damn kids and your fancy watches, listening to them drubsteps and watching them videos on the youstubs *shakefist* [/old_man]

        ...I don't know why, but that just seemed very appropriate o.o

    • spydie

      In case you've missed the 21st century entirely, a watch that you can read your texts on, or see who is calling without taking your phone out of your *ss, is damned handy. Feel the watch buzz, look at the screen. Is it important, no? go back to what you were doing. Yes? take your phone out and answer it. It's just a lot easier to get information than taking your phone out... but I'll feel free to call you an idiot anyway.

  • PhillipCun

    if it worked on other phones, i still wouldn't buy it. it doesn't solve any significant user problems

  • JPB

    Ew. No straight woman is ever going to wear this.

    • Matthew Fry

      Why would sexual orientation have anything to do with whether or not they'd wear it?

  • WHO?

    So............... He said "wear at the beach" in his speech. So is this not waterproof?

  • Steve Freeman

    I'm still confused as to who (and what) smart watches are really for, and why they're such a necessity that everyone and their mothers are coming out with them. Am I the only one?

    • Thomas’

      Even the question if a smartwatch should be just a "dumb" companion or a full version of Android is not answered yet. We'll have to wait till one major OS developer will release one.

    • dobbsy

      I'm with you. One of the best features of a cell phone is the ability to no longer wear a watch. WTH, people?

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    Well, Samsung, thanks for becoming Apple. I guess I can move on from you.

    • Jaime

      Every time I see your picture I imagine Kyle Rainer, the Green Lantern lol

  • iandouglas

    Wow. Just ... wow. So much fail for such a little devi-- oh, wait, not so little, that thing is HUGE. Thicker than my Nexus 4 ... and will be even thicker when you clasp on the charger-wrapper. What a waste of resources and money. I bet they charge $300+ for it.

  • Szondikapitány 2.0

    Sony Smartwatch 2 (even 1 lol) > this

  • Miah

    Price $300, Battery: 1 day, Design: ugly. = Overall Shit!

    • David Margolin

      Correction... Samshit

  • srikanth003

    299..hmmm.. DoA

  • DeciduousSprue

    Looks good. Bit dubious about the recharging system.
    Will wait and see how it turns out. Interesting that a lot of the negative arguments (and ok, there are a lot of them... :P ), are the same kind of arguments that were used in the transition from dumb to smartphones. Why would you need a camera in a phone? I already have a diary! Why do I need one on my phone?
    The race for the wrist-mounted smart device is truly underway.

  • Charlie Brown
    • Matthew Fry

      Well Omate's claim to be the first watch with sapphire glass might be a bit premature as this one is already complete.

      • Charlie Brown

        Gear won't be for sale in the US till October so Omate can still be the first out lol

    • Thomas Gladdines

      This one atleast runs a full OS instead of a small gadget software os that's limited to samsung devices :D

    • Ricardo Kummel

      And it's $100 cheaper, and it has the option of 1gb ram (for a measly $20 pledge increase but meaning less battery life btw), and runs full android 4.2.2 and is a "full" phone. The only thing that might matter is that the screen is smaller.

      Edit: and it's IP67..

    • Mario

      Kickstarters are here today and gone tomorrow. If I'm going to purchase something like a smart watch I'd rather do it from a company with a little history under their belt.

      • Charlie Brown

        I see what you mean but you should do research and dont just go with what has a history but let us know how you like the geat if you get it

  • Christopher Robert

    If its waterproof i'm in otherwise its a pass

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      According to Samsung, you can wash your hands with it on, but don't go swimming. So for all intents and purposes no, it isn't.

  • http://www.innews.dk/ Erroneus

    And Pebble is still the best smart-WATCH on the market, because they got it right, trying to make a smart-WATCH and not a freaking mini-phone with useless battery-life, cumbersome navigation and a bulky camera in the wristband >_<

  • Escenze

    This watch makes the exact opposite opinion that I have of their phones. I like the design of the watch, but the rest is crap really. iWatch please!

  • hot_spare

    Nice article guys. You did a nice job to actually show us the interface and working. Not like those typical idiots from verge!

  • Cory Crew

    1 day....for a watch? Hmmm nope!

  • gierso

    for charging it should have wireless charging.. but here is the twist!!!

    they should sell the samsung galaxy blanket qi charger, so you charge when you sleep :)

  • Eric B

    I would wager a fair amount of money it won't be compatible with my Sprint Galaxy Nexus.... why the hell does it need wifi,, fellow commenters? It's bluetooth, why the hell would it need wifi? This seems like a great option, I've been waiting for a watch that is more than a notification center

  • Simon Belmont

    Only Galaxy phones, eh? Hurrr, will it work on my Galaxy Nexus?

    Just kidding. I know they meant TouchWiz phones. I'll continue to wait for the Nexus smartwatch. Cheers.

  • Eion

    $300 and only lasts maybe a day? no ty.

  • damn

    Can you guys not use such low f point when taking pictures? The focus is so shallow that cannot see any details.

  • LjHe80

    Well I am ready to buy a smartwatch. I love Samsung, but I am glad this thing is what it is because my budget can't fit it in right now.

  • Michael W.

    No wifi, specs are meh, not waterproof, limited to Samsung devices only, $299, cannot change watchband, screen not always on, 1 lousy day of battery life, stupid charger....pass

  • spydie

    So far, the Pebble is the only smartwatch that's really feasible with a one-week battery and it being "on" all the time. The only thing it lacks is being able to answer calls on it and talk to the watch instead of getting the phone out during calls, but the Kryos (available next year) should solve that if they can keep up the battery life and have it "on" all the time. The problem I see with the Gear is it turns on when you raise your hand to look at the time. Imagine how many times a day the gyro is going to turn on the display when you don't want to look at the time! I'll stick with "on all the time" watches with long battery life. There's only one right now. (and it costs half as much)

  • OldDogeyes

    $300? Lol... $99 maybe...

  • Amer Khaznadar

    Hypothetically speaking, what would be AP's stance if someone started taking bets on how much time it would take before someone (probably on XDA) has a method to make this watch work with any Android device? :p

  • GigiAUT

    I already spend days speculating over whether laying down 300 big ones for a handset is necessary, what more an accessory to use with one. Wtf Samsung?

  • RaptorOO7

    So what, did you expect Samsung to support Non-Samsung phones. I don't see Apple lining up to make their crap compatible with other OS's so why should Samsung cross market for other OEM's.