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Samsung Galaxy Gear review

Is this the smartwatch to put the wind up Apple?

Our Verdict

While improved, the Galaxy Gear still has a long way to go before showing smartwatches are something you should seriously consider.

For

  • Quality design
  • Strong display

Against

  • Very expensive
  • Interface hard to customise

What makes a smartwatch these days? Is it something that simply sits on the wrist and buzzes when the phone does something in the pocket? A fully-fledged phone it itself? Or, like the Galaxy Gear, something in between?

We've got all kinds of devices pretending to be a smartwatch, and there's definitely an interest from consumers, if not a desire, for such a thing strapped to the wrist.

There was clamour for the LG GD510, the real 'Dick Tracy' smartwatch that was essentially a feature phone on a wrist, allowing you to make calls and send texts.

It was thoroughly rubbish as a phone replacement, yet sold out the world over.

And then there's the Pebble, a watch that's meant to sit neatly next to your smartphone and give notifications and extra information when needed - a huge hit on Kickstarter, it's been met with tepid reviews yet the makers still struggle to meet demand.

Galaxy Gear review

So when Samsung, the world's biggest supplier of smartphones, makes a device that supplements the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy S4 (thanks to the latest update) we should all sit up and take notice, right?

The Gear is certainly an attractive device, a clever mix of metal and rubber that gives it a really solid feel. It has to do that, as you'll be forking out £299 (although the price has dropped to around £250 if you shop around in the UK) or $299 (Around AUS$324) for the privilege of owning one.

And given it won't function without it, you'd be a fool to pick up a Gear without a companion Samsung device.

Some retailers have taken the Gear off sale it seems since its launch too - don't hold out a lot of hope for this being a device with a rich support history.

Despite also packing a 1.9MP camera, the Gear doesn't feel overly cumbersome on the wrist. It's a little on the large side to accommodate the 1.6-inch Super AMOLED 320 x 320 resolution screen, which means it will catch on most clothing, but it's not in the realms of sports watches that runners love to lug around on marathons.

Galaxy Gear review

The clasp is strong, so the fit is generally snug enough, although it can get a little tight over the course of the day - but that's an issue most watches struggle with. The problem there is that you can't change the strap on the Gear as it has the camera stuck inside - so best make sure it's a decent fit before purchase.

There's only one button on the outside, which is the power / function key. A tap of this will turn the device on, but a long press or double tap will also make the Gear perform other tasks, which you can choose yourself. These are a little limited, but we like that Samsung has tried to maximise the lack of tappable space on the screen in this way.

We were a little surprised by the method of charging: the Galaxy Gear comes with a plastic case which you strap the watch into and plug a standard microUSB cable into the back of. This means that you have to remember to bring the charging case with you at all times, and can't rely on anyone having a spare charger when caught short.

However, the addition of a port on the watch would have likely increased size too much, so we can get on board with this compromise, although it can still be incredibly frustrating.

The case also comes with NFC connectivity, so when pairing your Note 3 (or Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 in the coming weeks... the former's Android update is being particularly troublesome) you just tap the handset to the back of the case and the pairing is taken care of simply, which again reduces heft in the watch.

Galaxy Gear review

Do we like the design of the Galaxy Gear? It's a little chunky and the screws on the front of the watch look like they're trying a little too hard to make it look like an expensive wrist-watch... which we suppose it is.

But Samsung needs to give a premium air for something that costs so much to buy, so we'll say the design makes a lot of sense here.

Tech Specs

Product TypeWrist Watch
Watch FormatDigital
MovementQuartz
Band TypeStrap
Band ColorBlack
Brand NameSamsung
Watch DesignRectangle Face
Face1 Digital AMOLED
Wrist BandBlack Strap
Built-in ComponentsBluetooth, Pedometer
Height56.6 mm
Width36.8 mm
Depth11.1 mm
FeaturesStopwatch, Timer
ManufacturerSamsung
Product ModelSM-V700
Product NameGalaxy Gear
Manufacturer Part NumberSM-V7000ZKABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing InformationThis elegant wearable device gives a new meaning to the phrase "dressing smart". The Galaxy Gear connects wirelessly with your Note 3 and makes sure you have everything you need right there on your wrist and within reach. You can keep your Note 3 in your pocket or bag, and Gear will tell you when you receive a call or message. When you get a important notification on your Gear, Smart Relay brings up the full message when you open your phone. You'll have seamless communication from your Gear to your phone.

Experience new mobile communications freedoms
Samsung Galaxy Gear lets users live in the moment while staying connected to their Samsung Galaxy devices. It notifies users of incoming messages, such as calls, texts, emails and alerts, delivers a preview of those messages and creates the opportunity for users to accept or discreetly ignore those messages. When an incoming message requires more than a quick glance, users can simply pick up their Samsung Galaxy devices and the Smart Relay feature will instantly reveal the full content on the screen.

Voice operation
The built-in speaker allows users to conduct hands-free calls directly from the Gear, maintaining connections to their mobile communications without disrupting their daily routines. For example, a user leaving the grocery store, whose hands are full with shopping bags, could still make a call by speaking into the Galaxy Gear without touching the screen. Users can also draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather on the Galaxy Gear with S Voice.

Capture daily life from your wrist
In addition to enabling smart device controls, Samsung Galaxy Gear introduces several features that help users easily capture life's meaningful moments which otherwise might be missed. With the Memographer feature, a 1.9 Megapixel camera, users who are on the move or participating in physical activities can record both photos and video to create quick, visual records of important information or events from their daily lives, as well as share them on their social networks. Extending the quick-record concept, Voice Memo lets users capture important thoughts or conversations from their wrists and save those voice recordings into texts on their Samsung Galaxy devices.

A growing list of controls for favourite features
With the Galaxy Gear, users gain a wide range of favourite features that further increase the benefits of this new accessory. New security enhancement Auto Lock automatically secures the companion smartphone screen any time that Galaxy Gear is more than 1.5 meters away from the smartphone, and then unlocks the smartphone when the companion devices are near each other again. Find My Device helps users find the location of their smart devices when they have been misplaced by making them beep, illuminate and vibrate. With Samsung Galaxy Gear, users can also control the music played on their Samsung Galaxy devices. As with traditional music players, it helps users browse, play and pause songs even when their smart device is not within reach. Finally, the Galaxy Gear also works like a Pedometer to track physical activity via enhanced, built-in sensor technology. This feature systematically and automatically monitors users so they can track key personal data such as calories burned, steps taken and distance covered.

Weight (Approximate)73.8 g