The smartwatch, called Galaxy Gear is naturally Android-based and is compatible with the Galaxy Note 3, which is what I’ve been using it with, and more recently became compatible with the Galaxy S4 in South Africa.
Upon launch it was announced that it will be compatible with Galaxy mobile devices that run Android 4.3, but thus far in SA, it works the Note 3 and S4.
For the purpose of the review I will focus more on the Galaxy Gear than the Note 3. But first, the Note 3 is a 5.7-inch ‘phablet’ that succeeds the Galaxy Note 2. The device is slim, has a leather-like finish with an S-Pen slotted into the back, weighs 168g, and has a full HD Super Amoled screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The screen is amazing, colours appear vibrant and it’s great for watching TV series or movies.
The device is powered by a 1.9GHz quad-core processor + 1.3GHz quad-core processor; 3GB of RAM; with 32GB of storage. It has 3G HSPA, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS and NFC capabilities. The main camera is 13-megapixels and the front-facing is 2-megapixels – great for selfies. It has a massive 3,200mAh capacity battery.
Before you use the Galaxy Gear and the Note 3, you have to pair the devices. The Gear comes with an NFC plate that needs to be on to do this. The plate also serves as a charging port. You switch NFC on on the Note and touch the two devices. The Note 3 had the Galaxy Gear app already installed, which took me straight to it to complete setup.
The Galaxy Gear is is very masculine in design, and while it does come in a range of funky coloured bands, it may not appeal to some. The strap is adjustable if you have small wrists like me but you can feel the extra part of the strap on the inside. It has a fairly large face for my wrist at 1.6-inches, with a 320×320 resolution. The display is also Amoled and has an outdoor mode. To the outside edges of the touch display sits 4 screws that hold the face to the band, with the only button – a power button – sitting on the top to the right. Unfortunately for the Gear, it has a disappointing 315mAh battery life. But a bigger battery would mean a heavier watch.
A single-core 800MHz processor is housed on the inside, with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. Sitting on the strap of the smartwatch is a protruding 1.9-megapixel camera with 720p HD recording capabilities. Since the Gear cannot be used without an accompanying Galaxy device, the camera shouldn’t really matter because if you’re going to take pics, you’re definitely not going to walk around awkwardly holding the watch at the right angle for it. Unless you want to stalk someone sitting nearby but that would be creepy.
To navigate on the watch, you can swipe left to right or right to left between the main menu, which gives you the following options: call logs, contacts, clock, notifications, S voice, voice memo, gallery, media controller, pedometer, settings and apps. You tap the option you want to go into.
If you go into Settings you can adjust the clock display, sounds/vibrations, motions, privacy, Bluetooth, etc – it’s quite comprehensive. Once you go into sub menus, you can go back to the menu by swiping from the top edge down. You can also view your phone keypad from the watch to make phone calls.
Notifications have been recently given an update on the Gear. You can now choose which apps you want to display notifications on the Gear, which includes 3rd party apps like Gmail, unlike before where you had to use the official Samsung client for notifications.
If you’ve never worn a watch in more than a decade (since your first cellphone) it may be an adjustment to start again, and then too, dealing with notifications every time something goes off on your handset. It’s great if you’re mostly busy in meetings and to have the watch to reference to and see what’s urgent or not, but if you’re using it all the time, what’s stopping you from just checking your phone? If you get a notification, to click into it to reply, you will need your handset. And be prepared to charge it every day.
The Galaxy Gear is available at a recommended retail price of R4 600 but you have to have an accompanying device, like the Note 3 which costs R9 000 to make use of it. Quite a steep price to pay for the novelty of getting notifications on your wrist.