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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

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a device that's setting a trend. It's one of the world's biggest electronics firms making a statement and letting the world know that it's ready to embrace wearable technology in a way that others haven't so far.

There's a lot to question here, be it the heft, the price or the overall point of the device, but Samsung has certainly put the effort in to make sure that it's at least made a big splash.

We liked

The Galaxy Gear looks the part as a serious piece of technology, and kind of feels like it justifies the price tag. The screws on the front of the device are a nice touch, the operation is fairly intuitive and the camera being there for when you want it is nice.

A lot of what Samsung has done in terms of its own apps work well in the right conditions - being able to tell your wrist to set up a meeting and for it to happen is pretty neat.

Voice memos are fun, the slick operation between phone and Gear is impressive and even the range of colours is pleasing too.

The update to messaging notifications has turned a frown upside down, bringing a lot more functionality to an otherwise relatively pointless novelty.

We disliked

Sadly for Samsung, it's tried to be a little too Apple here. We bemoan that brand for being overly expensive without delivering enough, and that's what Samsung has done here.

The price is just too high. There's no two ways about it. Sure, you got a discount when you get it with the Note 3, but that doesn't happen with the S4, or for those with a Galaxy S3 or Note 2, so you can't justify spending all that money on a unit like this.

It's weird to be so against recommending a product when it doesn't have any serious operational flaws - it's just not good enough for the price. We can't see the necessity for half the stuff on board; and most of the third party apps do nothing to enhance the premium feel.

The layout of the interface is too locked down for our tastes, and the way the Gear responds to the finger is too inaccurate and far too clunky to be considered intuitive.

We're used to Samsung being brilliant at just this, but with a smaller screen to work with, it really hasn't managed to repeat the trick.

Verdict

We're pretty disappointed with the Gear, as the first couple of hours that we spent with it were full of quiet gadget joy. The slick design, the vivid display, the amount of power that seemed to be strapped to the wrist was entrancing.

But we can't help but think that anyone who might have gone for a cheaper holiday or foresaken food for a while to afford one of these wouldn't feel like the sacrifice had been worth it.

The Galaxy Gear doesn't do anything terribly, it just fails to impress at nearly every turn. We're not sure what Samsung is up to here, as it's basically given Apple an open goal to aim at with the iWatch.

The Gear could have looked this good, stripped out the camera, speaker and call functionality, made a bit more effort on the apps at launch and sold it for a third of the cost, and it would have certainly have had a hit on its hands.

The smartwatch is an attractive option, and the changes to the notification problems are really welcome - with that in mind we're happy to upgrade the score somewhat, although it's still nowhere near a product we'd recommend.

We applaud Samsung for trying to be innovative in the space once again, but the Galaxy Gear needs a Galaxy Gear Mini as soon as possible, with a lower price tag to really make it an attractive proposition.

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