Galaxy Gear – *UPDATE*

*As predicted, and as of 11/15/13, Samsung has updated its Galaxy Gear to display notifications for all apps, including Facebook and Gmail, whereas upon release, it only displayed notifications for Samsung apps.

Y’know, we shouldn’t judge the first few iterations of tomorrow’s technology too harshly, unless it’s utterly useless, like the Galaxy Gear. If its nickname isn’t already “Strongfail,” it should be.

This is a brief review of the Galaxy Gear as a product removed from any notion that it’s a “proof of concept” and that wearable tech is “the future.”

Aesthetics
When I first saw it displayed in stores, I thought it was one of the ugliest watches I had ever seen. It looked like the strap designers never shared a single word with the actual watch designers. However, its aesthetics do grow on you; it’s really quite nice.

Notifications
The Gear is designed to be an extension of the Galaxy Note 3 as a notification tool. Samsung is geared (hah!) to extend compatibility to the S4, S3, Note 2 and others in the near future. It makes the most sense with the larger Note phones as taking them in and out of your pocket whenever you get a notification is arguably a tedious experience, especially if you get several notifications per day. It’s quite nice to check your notifications on the Gear rather than pulling out a huge phone like the Note every time. But that’s all it is…nice, not essential.

However, it seems that non-Samsung apps, such as Gmail and Facebook, aren’t compatible with the Gear yet. Instead of telling me useful details when I get a Gmail or Facebook notification, I get: “For details, view this notification on your mobile device.” This defeats the point of the Gear entirely. I’m sure that Samsung will eventually give the Gear Gmail and Facebook support, but why give me (and others) the chance to notice this deficiency??

Might as well say "Hi! I just added a step to checking your email on your phone!"

Might as well say “Hi! I just added a step to checking your email on your phone!”

Calls, Video Calls, Texting
You can make calls using the Gear, and they sound quite good, but it’s basically a glorified speakerphone. If you want to make private calls with your phone still in your pocket, you’ll need a bluetooth headset.

There is no front facing camera, which means you can’t Skype or make video calls. I thought this would be a cool feature for a smart-watch, but Samsung didn’t seem to think so.

You can read texts, and you’re apparently able to reply using S Voice. However, this feature didn’t work on my Gear. I touch the microphone icon and all I get is a spinning circle representing that the Gear is “working.” After a couple minutes, it was clear that the Gear had no intention to reply to anyone’s texts.

Camera, Battery, Waterproof
The camera is a creeper’s delight. Take sneaky pictures of people without them knowing! Other than that, it has no real-life use. It’s 1.9 megapixel camera does take surprisingly decent pictures, though.

Wally taking a nap on his hammock, taken with the Galaxy Gear (a.k.a taken with great difficulty)

Wally taking a nap on his hammock, taken with the Galaxy Gear (a.k.a taken with great difficulty)

It has a battery life of 2 or 3 days, which isn’t so bad. You charge the Gear using its bulky, awkward “dock” with a micro-USB port. It’s just more clutter and wires, and taking it off and on for charging is tedious.

$300 doesn’t get you waterproofing either, which forces you to take the watch off and on even more! Showering, washing hands, doing dishes…anything that involves water will require you to take the Gear off. That in itself should be a sign to take it off, and leave it off. Unforgivable.

Time
If the Gear is going to replace the watch you currently wear (or don’t wear), at the utmost least, it should be a good watch. By no means, in any way whatsoever, should this replace your regular watch. I can safely say it is the worst watch I have ever used purely because the clock display won’t wake up unless you make a very obvious “looking-at-my-watch-to-check-the-time” motion. And there doesn’t appear to be a way to keep the clock display on, either. Absolutely awful.

Conclusion
So, $300 for a watch that barely tells you the time, serves as a speakerphone (which your phone already has) and barely notifies you of anything. And it’s not even waterproof. A price reduction wouldn’t improve things either as you can get a $5 watch that tells you the time in ANY way you look at it.

The Gear is a complete write-off; a rushed attempt by Samsung to make a smart watch before Apple. It doesn’t solve any problem whatsoever, unless you count taking your big phone out of your pocket as a problem, in which case Samsung is cleverly selling the solution to the giant phone problem they created themselves! If anything, it actually adds problems with its charging “station,” which sits awkwardly on your night-stand and adds more wires. It’s got a pedometer, but it’s not really a fitness device, either.

I can’t wait to take this thing off.

-4/5 (yes, MINUS four out of five)