While Samsung hasn’t equipped the new Galaxy Gear with a grappling hook or other Bond-esque gadgets, the Gear is a frontrunner for a new generation of wristwatches that blur the line between smartphone and wristwatch. The Gear, a “smartwatch,” is designed to be an extension of a wearer’s smartphone, piggybacking off the larger machine in a similar fashion to a Bluetooth headset, albeit with a far wider range of utility and applications.
With its 1.6 inch touch screen and embedded 1.9 megapixel camera, the Gear’s touchscreen can be used to send and receive phone calls, email, and text messages, browse the internet, and access or improve the functionality of applications installed on its linked smartphone.
Apple and Sony have also shown or fueled speculation about their own entries into the smartwatch business. Sony has already released the aptly named Smartwatch 2, designed to connect to Android applications, while Apple has trademarked the phrase “iWatch,” a device expected to link with other iOS devices, notes Jungah Lee of Bloomberg Business.
Neil Mawston, an Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, a business and technology consulting firm, states that while he believes that Samsung’s Gear is a marked improvement over the current smartwatches on the market, Mawston’s opinion is that Apple’s integrated strategy will allow the iWatch to dominate the market when it arrives in stores by appealing to the same large group of consumers who already own various Apple devices.
However, until the iWatch is revealed, the Galaxy Gear competes primarily with Sony’s Smartwatches. At over double the weight, and nearly half an inch wider than the Smartwatch 2, the Gear is a larger, heavier wristwatch than Sony’s product. However, a 320x320 pixel count compared to Sony’s 220x176, and can perform all of the same applications of the Smartwatch.
Additionally, the Gear’s integrated microphone, speaker, and camera increase the Gear’s versatility beyond the Smartwatch 2 by removing the need to have a phone in hand.
For the fashion conscious, the Galaxy Gear also comes in numerous colors, while the Smartwatch comes in black with white lowlighting.
A feature that is of interest particularly to the busy-minded is the ability to use the Gear’s linked Android to find the watch if it’s misplaced—or use the watch to find the phone. Despite these apparent advantages, the Gear is not without criticisms.
Vlad Savov, a technology journalist at The Verge, remarks that like other current smartwatches, the Gear relies primarily on a parent smartphone for much of its power and utility, and a limited battery life means that charging the Gear on a daily basis along with the phone is a necessary inconvenience.
Whether or not smartwatches will be a fad, a return of the wristwatch, or even an eventual replacement for smartphone as it integrates the power of a smartphone with the accessibility of a watch, remains to be seen, but the integration of computer technology into ubiquitous devices like wristwatches or, in the case of Google Glass, glasses, projects an image of a science fiction future becoming more and more feasible.
The Samsung Gear will be released in October, with an MSRP of $299, and the Sony Smartwatch 2 is currently available in stores for $225.