When you think smartwatch, you think Galaxy Gear. It’s one of the most popular and recognizable devices on the market today thanks to Samsung's insane amount of marketing. The Galaxy Gear was first made available in September of 2013 and by the end of November, Samsung said that over 800,000 units had been sold.
One of the biggest downsides to the Galaxy Gear right now is that currently it only works with a handful of Android devices - notably the Note 3 and other Galaxy devices. Regardless it's still been a big hit, but Samsung may soon have a new version on the way.
The Galaxy Gear has an integrated, non-removable strap that should fit most wrist sizes. It did take a bit of trial and error to nail down the right size for my wrist as it was a cross between too tight and too loose most times. The band itself it a bit stiffer than I’d like and I did find at times that it irritated my wrist a bit during normal wear. I do like the look of the band (I opted for orange, there are a few other colors available as well) and it flows all the way through the Galaxy Gear and doesn’t just stop at the face. At 74 grams it’s not terribly heavy so it should be a good weight for most users.
I didn’t mind the size or weight of the Galaxy Gear as much as the band and clasp
I didn’t mind the size or weight of the Galaxy Gear as much as the band and clasp. I found the clasp a bit bulky for my liking and the band isn’t the most comfortable for me. It’s a harder plastic that at times dug into my wrist making for an uncomfortable experience. I couldn't wear the Gear for more than a few hours at a time without it irritating my wrist to the point where I had to take it off. This may not be an issue for some since everyone is different, but for me it was a big issue. On the flip side, everyone is different so just because this was an issue for me, doesn't mean it will be for others.
The estimated battery life of the Gear is around 25 hours. I was able to squeak out a full days use most days, sometimes even two. Of course it all depends on how much you use the watch as to how much battery you’ll be able to get. I hate to have my watch die mid-day so after the initial review period I charged daily just to be safe. For me it’s just one more thing I have to worry about charging though — other watches I know I could get three days or more before feeling the need to charge.
I’m also not a huge fan of the charging cradle and would prefer to just plug in directly to the watch to make things easier. I do love that it is microUSB however and not yet another proprietary charger. It’s interesting what Samsung has done with the cradle (dock) but I personally don’t see the need — this just adds to the already big stash of charging accessories that are including with the likes of the Qualcomm Toq and MetaWatch, not to mention the proprietary charger on the Pebble.
The watch itself is very solid. From the face to the ends of the band it all flows together, essentially one big piece. As I said before the strap isn’t removable, and while that does add a nice fluid design to the Gear it does create an issue for anyone who’s not a fan of the strap. The Galaxy Gear looks great though — it's stylish and fun and works well with nearly any fashion style.
The 320x320 AMOLED display of the Galaxy Gear looks great as it sits at 278ppi. It’s certainly not the most high-res screen you’ll find, but for it’s size, it gets the job done. The home screen and notifications look bold and clear and I had no issue reading anything at all. Even the camera preview was good for the most part. It’s obviously not the greatest display ever, but even just a plain watch face looks great. I especially like the clock and weather combo on the Gear.
The Galaxy Gear uses the Gear Manager app on your phone to control notifications and other settings. Using the app you can choose what notifications you want displayed on the watch, load up additional apps, update the Gear's software and more. It's basically the hub for getting your watch the way you want it. There are still some settings left on the watch itself that aren't within the Gear Manager app, but it's still a much easier task to tackle all of these on your phone rather than the watch.
The Galaxy Gear has notifications for some default apps built in, but you can also download extra ones as you see fit. The notification still needs some work though. There’s a lot of "double tapping” to view your notifications. An email comes in and you need to tap the notification to see the email, then scroll to read through it — it’s doesn’t just display off the bat — which is the case with a lot of smartwatches. For me it feels like extra work. I do like that I can access all of my previous notifications like Gmail and Facebook right on the Gear through the various apps.
There's also access to thing like S-Voice and camera, and you can make and receive voice calls from the Gear which is an awesome feature as well. I had some mixed results when actually doing so, but overall it worked very well.
You can seek out additional apps for the Gear for big names like Evernote, eBay, Path, Tripit and Pocket as well. There are plenty of top names to fill up your Gear so you can maximize use on your wrist.
I do like the Galaxy Gear, but it certainly could stand for some improvements. Obviously it needs to support more Android devices (AKA all of them) which I'm sure it will in due time. I also really don’t care for the band — i found it very uncomfortable for extended use and wish there were other options there. There are plenty of customization options that help to tweak the user experience of the Gear as well which is definitely a good thing.
Overall it's a good device though - not great. It has enough battery life to make it through most heavy days, a good screen and ample notifications. Add in a camera (albeit a low-res one), voice calls and quick access to phone functions and you have a nice accessory in a small package. If you realllly want one and you're willing to cough up $300 for a watch — AND you own a compatible device — the Gear is a good way to go. Just keep in mind that an updated version isn't too far off and there will also be plenty of alternative options on the table very soon.