Channeling My Inner Dick Tracy With the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

I’ve been dreaming of a truly intuitive, connected watch for a long, long time. Since the days of my youth, actually; slouched in front of the TV watching detective Dick Tracy catching bad guys, all while communicating with people back and forth on his forward-thinking walkie-talkie watch.  It was the coolest thing in the world and created an obsession among tech nerds and comic book geeks for two decades to come: create/find the perfect, coolest, do-everything-for me connected watch.

Well, friends, that day is finally here. However, don’t get too excited just yet… there are still a few caveats to overcome.

First and foremost, Samsung is not by any means the first to market with a ‘connected watch’. Pebble has their watch of the same name, there’s the MetaWatch, Sony has their smart watch, there’s the “I’m Watch,” and, of course, Apple’s long-rumoured iOS-powered connected watch. But, there is a common feature missing among all the aforementioned watches that is my biggest selling point on the Galaxy Gear, something that, to most, is a bit ridiculous/over-the-top when they first encounter it: the ability to take calls on the watch.

So, before I go more into the pros and cons of why a connected watch is right for you, let’s get into a few back-end things.

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Specs from a glance:

– 1.63-inch super AMOLED screen (320×320 pixels)
– 800MHz single-core processor
– 512MB RAM
– 11.1-mm thick
– 315mAh battery (25 hours of usage claimed)
– Its own version of Android
– 1.9-MP camera

Further, I want to make it abundantly clear that this watch, in its current state, is for early adopters only. Why? The apps are sparse (very little in the Samsung AppMarket), as of writing this post it’s only compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and the battery, though not horrible per se, leaves a bit to be desired (I got less than a full day’s usage and only used it for notifications most days). The average consumer would be annoyed by most of the above and probably end up returning the watch rather than giving it some time and waiting it out.

The Pros:
The features that it does have work beautifully and, as expected, are very much so complemented by the gorgeous super AMOLED display. The camera is impressive and offers little lag when taking quick snaps for demonstrations’ sake (haven’t found a need for the camera otherwise).  Although it sounds a bit distant and echo-y, using the Gear as a Bluetooth headset is not only refreshing and cool, but somewhat of a head turn for passersby who appreciate the forward-thinking nostalgic factor that it offers. I was able to leave my Galaxy Note 3 charging or in another room of my condo and take calls effortlessly. Something that Samsung impressed me with was ability to fit a lot into a tiny 1.63-inch screen, and it’s noticeable; colors are sharp, vivid and on-point. Not once was I forced to squint or angle my wrist to accommodate ever-changing lighting conditions.

The Cons:
Of course, with all the positivity previously mentioned, there are bound to be some downsides to this sought-after watch. First and foremost, there are very little apps to choose from in its current state. Like, I mean less than 10 (if that) that are download-worthy. However, playing devil’s advocate, it did only just come out. Developers need time to develop, right? Further, Samsung omitted a feature that boggles my mind: a battery level meter – no, seriously. The only time you can easily tell what the battery life is at is when it’s plugged in and charged. As for the battery life, I expected a lot more from a device that really only needs battery to power the vibrant super AMOLED screen. I rarely took calls and wasn’t able to physically respond to texts from the watch itself, so I was shocked to find the watch dying very easily by dinner, which is about 6pm for me. (I took it off charge at around 6:30am, so the watch offered roughly 11.5 hours of battery life.) This is something that worries me. Should developers hop the connected bandwagon and start developing watch-ready apps, how will the watch ever make it through a few hours of heavy usage? It’s not like users can just plug the watch in on the go; it needs a specific carrying case to charge properly.

Overall:
After reading this review, it may seem like I harbour a bit of resentment towards the Galaxy Gear watch, but on the contrary, I adore it. It’s become the extension of my phone that I didn’t realize I needed until I became adjusted to having it on.

This led me to realize the following:

Connected watches to our mobile devices are becoming what shoelaces are to our shoes: a necessary addition to ensure the best experience possible. The difference is that the need for laces is apparent while the need for a connected watch is something that will be acquired through more consistent usage as popularity grows. 

The Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch can be purchased for $329.99 from BestBuy.ca.

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