Samsung is hoping its new Galaxy Gear smartwatch will make wearing a timepiece on your arm cool again — at least enough to allow the South Korean tech giant to lead the growing wearable device market that's expected to boom to a $10 billion industry by 2015.
The Galaxy Gear, unveiled in Berlin on Wednesday, allows wearers to access texts, e-mail, news, weather, and more from their Samsung smartphones, reports USA Today
The watch connects via Bluetooth to Samsung's Note 3 and the new Note 10.1, and will likely work with Samsung's GS4 once the device is updated to Google's Android 4.3. It also allows wearers to access much of what is on their smartphones, plus make calls, without having to access their phones.
But on the downside, Engadget notes
, the Gear will likely never be compatible with non-Samsung devices, which some critics say limits the watch's sales potential. It also won't work if Samsung phones aren't in close proximity. But it will help users find that smartphone if it gets stolen or left behind somewhere.
The Galaxy Gear, expected to go on sale in October for a $299, features a 1.63-inch touchscreen, and includes a speaker and pair of mics for recording and playing back video content. It has an 800 MHz processor and a sensor and autofocus lens in its wrist strap that allows wearers to take 1.9-megapixel still photos and 10-second video clips.
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It also features voice activation and a series of screens users can scroll through to check for updates, the time, and more. With only four gigabytes of space in the watch's memory, there is little room to upload Android apps onto the device, but it will come with several popular applications, including one that allows wearers to record their exercise workouts and keep track of them on the Note smartphone.
But while Samsung has high hopes for its new smartwatch, many of the device's functions are similar to the Pebble watch, which is compatable with both Apple and Android phones, and costs about half as much, reports Mashable
. The Pebble, however, is operated by using four buttons, not a touchscreen like the Galaxy Gear.
The smartwatch field will get even more crowded in the coming months. Sony is expected to release its own SmartWatch 2 this month and Apple and Google expect to follow with their own.
Futurist Paul Saffo, who teaches long-range forecasting at Stanford University, said the technology innovations will generate a whole new popularity for wristwatches.
"At the moment, the only people who wear things on their wrist are people old enough to have an AARP card," Saffo told USA Today. "Students look at wristwatches today the same way that their grandparents looked at pocket watches in the middle of the last century, as an unbelievably old-fashioned thing. . . A whole new generation is about to rediscover that a wrist is a useful place to put a device," he says.
Samsung research director Pranav Mistry hailed the watch as a reinvention of a centuries-old product that is now a "design statement, an engineering marvel and something that really redefines tomorrow."
Tech bloggers aren't so sure.
Many complimented the Gear's features, but its $299 price tag drew fire, as did the watch's sluggish performance with some apps. The fact that it has to be synced with a Galaxy phone or tablet to work also drew criticism.
"Overall, Galaxy Gear feels kind of awkward both to wear (it's chunky) and to use (it's unnatural, although that's to be expected since it's a new type of input)," writes Gizmodo's Leslie Horn
. "All that could be worth it, though, (if) the fitness apps (which we weren't able to test) are killer, and if moving between your Galaxy smartphone and your watch are as seamless as it seemed to be in our test."
Despite the drawbacks, Techcrunch's Matt Burns
said he's intrigued. Still, he cautioned consumers to wait for the watch's second generation in the hope that its current imperfections can be worked out.
"Should you buy the Galaxy Gear?" he wrote. "Nah, wait for the next one. Or Apple's smartwatch. That's what I'm going to do. A Pebble is good enough for me until then. But I still want this one. Well done, Samsung."
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