Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch review roundup (Nobody likes it much)

The Samsung Galaxy Gear may be the highest profile smartwatch released to date. For $300, Samsung promises to deliver a wearable device that lets you interact with your phone to view notifications, make calls, monitor fitness stats, or perform other actions thanks to its custom Android operating system with support for apps.

It even has a camera built into the strap.

But is it worth $300?

The first reviews are in, and by and large the answer seems to be no.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Samsung’s smartwatch is supposed to get up to 25 hours of battery life, but many reviewers struggled to get half that much run time. The display isn’t always on, which means that you might have to wait a second to actually see the time… on your wristwatch. And operating the thing can be awkward.

The biggest problem is that the Galaxy Gear needs to be paired with a smartphone to actually do much of anything, and right now it only works with a single phone: The Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Soon it’ll also support the Galaxy S4 and other Samsung devices, but it’s not nearly as versatile a solution as some other smartwatches.

There are a lot of ways Samsung could improve its smartwatch, some of them involving software updates (which means that this device could get better after you buy it), but others would probably require new hardware — a low-power E Ink display could do a lot for the watch’s battery life and outdoor visibility, for instance.

Here are some highlights from recent reviews. Click the links for more details.

  • AnandTech – As usual, AnandTech has some of the most extensive coverage, complete with an under-the-microscope picture of the display and an audio clip to demonstrate call quality. It turns out you can side-load Android apps too. Reviewer Brian Klug considers this an interesting proof of concept rather than a truly great device.
  • Android Central  – It shows promise, and software updates could make it better. But this thing should really be waterproof.
  • BGR – The software is well designed, but using voice controls in public is embarrassing. This thing is just too geeky to use in public.
  • CNET – It looks nice and feels good, but it’s expensive and doesn’t do much.
  • Digital Spy – The build quality is nice, but you should probably wait for the next generation model, which Samsung has already said is coming soon.
  • Digital Trends – Notifications are probably the best feature, but aside from text and phone calls, the notifications aren’t all that useful.
  • EngadgetThe Galaxy Gear might be the most feature-packed smartwatch, but it doesnt’ work with enough devices and hands-free operation doesn’t work very well.
  • Gizmodo – The screen looks great… if you’re indoors.
  • Laptop – The screen turns off when you haven’t used the phone in a while, and it can be slow to wake. So much for seeing the time at a glance.
  • SlashGear – It’s cool, but the Galaxy Gear doesn’t really stand out from other smartwatches, and won’t work with most phones.
  • TechHive – There’s no keyboard, so you use voice commands… if the watch can hear you.
  • Wired – “In many ways, the smartwatch ends up being more of a nuisance than a convenience.”
  • The Verge – It’s an unhelpful companion for your smartphone with insufficient notifications, minimal music controls, and not enough apps or other functionality.
  • ZDNet – Matt Miller has a lot of experience with smartwatches, and considers the Galaxy Gear the best (disagreeing with most other reviewers). Take that with a grain of salt though… it could be a sign that this is a watch only a wearable computing enthusiast could love — and at least one of those enthusiasts *does* love it.

The Galaxy Gear has an 800 MHz processor, a 1.63 inch, 320 x 320 pixel AMOLED displays, a 1.9MP camera, 4GB of storage, and 512MB of RAM. It has 2 mics, for noise cancellation purposes, and a single speaker. It also has an accelerometer and gyroscope which, among other things, helps the device know when to turn on the display when you raise your arm to look at the watch.

  • gadgety

    Thank you for the summary – really great! The Gear has one thing going for it – and in the right direction for the smartwatches in general – the 320×320 display.

  • Leonard Bermea

    Seems like somebody is waiting for the apple watch!

  • pat

    25 hours of battery life stupid

  • Dude

    I won’t buy a Smartwatch because the screen is too small. 4 inches is barely big enough for me to read. Yes, size matters.

  • LowIQ_Human

    I have been using the Sony Liveview for years and works for me with my Galaxy Note2, it keeps me from pulling out the beast from my pocket!, most people look at me when I make my smartwatch do the work I would normally have to pull out my phone for, as more people use them, then more changes and innovation of the tech will occur.