There is an opin­ion that the advent of smart watch­es marked the begin­ning of the era of portable elec­tron­ics. One of the devices com­mit­ted to this class was the Galaxy Gear smart watch from Sam­sung, which came to us for test­ing. Some time has already passed since the start of Galaxy Gear sales, and many con­flict­ing views on gad­gets have been pub­lished online — some con­sid­er Sam­sung smart­watch­es to be a failed exper­i­ment, while oth­ers con­sid­er them to be the future. Today we will try to fig­ure out which points of view are clos­er to the truth.

Key Features

  • Screen: 1.63-inch OLED with a res­o­lu­tion of 320x320 pix­els.
  • Proces­sor: sin­gle-core with a clock fre­quen­cy of 800 MHz.
  • RAM: 512 MB.
  • Inter­nal mem­o­ry: 4 GB.
  • Cam­era: 1.9 megapix­el BSI sen­sor.
  • Fea­tures: the abil­i­ty to work in con­junc­tion with a smart­phone via Blue­tooth, check calls and store exter­nal appli­ca­tions.

Equipment

The Sam­sung Galaxy Gear pack­age was sur­pris­ing­ly mod­est: in a card­board box you only buy the watch itself and spe­cial “keys” for charg­ing, not to men­tion a cou­ple of pieces of paper with brave and ref­er­ences — the set doesn’t even include a microUSB-USB cable, so the con­se­quences look non-stan­dard .

Appearance

We received a yel­low Galaxy Gear at the event (that’s why it seems alive; on the offi­cial web­site this col­or is labeled as green), but there are also oth­er col­ors on sale — black, white, gray, pink and orange.

At first glance, the Sam­sung Galaxy Gear is a rather weighty but reli­able device. The gad­get has a real­ly con­sid­er­able weight for a watch, 73.8 grams, and not least because of the use of met­al as a mate­r­i­al for attach­ing the mech­a­nism and a mas­sive frame around the screen, which pro­tects the case and inter­nal con­tents from mechan­i­cal dam­age. The dimen­sions of the device are 56.6 x 36.8 x 11.1 mm.

The low­er part of the “dial” itself is made of sim­ple plas­tic, and the strap is made of soft rub­ber.

The design of the watch could be called strict if we received a mod­el with a black strap, but a col­or like yel­low makes the gad­get a bright and eye-catch­ing acces­so­ry. Some peo­ple will like it, some won’t.

The most con­tro­ver­sial ele­ment of the Galaxy Gear’s appear­ance is the cam­era on the strap, which ris­es about 4 mil­lime­ters above its sur­face. It doesn’t look very nice and stands out from the gen­er­al style, but the man­u­fac­tur­er most like­ly did not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to refer to a dif­fer­ent view.

The watch has only one phys­i­cal but­ton, which is respon­si­ble for turn­ing on the device or unlock­ing it — it is locat­ed on the right side of the screen. Two micro­phones were found on the Galaxy Gear at once — on the left and right sides of the dial, and on its back side there were five flat con­tacts for charg­ing and data exchange with the com­put­er.

Final­ly, the unusu­al loca­tion was occu­pied by the speak­er, which was hid­den inside the mech­a­nism mount in its thick­est part.

Screen

The Sam­sung Galaxy Gear uses a 1.6‑inch AMOLED dis­play with a res­o­lu­tion of 320x320 pix­els, cov­ered with a pro­tec­tive glass with what appears to be an oleo­pho­bic coat­ing — fin­ger­prints are prac­ti­cal­ly invis­i­ble on it. Look­ing ahead a lit­tle, we note that it was not in vain that Sam­sung decid­ed to use black as the main col­or in the watch shell — this allows us to fur­ther reduce the pow­er con­sump­tion of the screen, which is one of the advan­tages of OLED tech­nol­o­gy.

The pro­tec­tive touch glass turned out to be very thick and does not rep­re­sent a like-mind­ed dis­play, as is done in all mod­ern top-end smart­phones. On the one hand, this source addi­tion­al­ly pro­tects the matrix, but on the oth­er hand, this caused the appear­ance of addi­tion­al col­or ren­der­ings on the screen, which are already not at their best. How­ev­er, no one will look at the Galaxy Gear, and when using the device as a com­pan­ion for a smart­phone, this is not at all notice­able.

But what I real­ly want to praise for the Kore­an company’s smart­watch is the pen­dant light, which has a den­si­ty of 278 pix­els per inch. Of course, from the point of view of smart­phones, this fig­ure does not look impres­sive, but the pix­els on the Galaxy Gear, if vis­i­ble, are only when close­ly exam­ined close to the eyes — in the end, things are much worse.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in the last days of Novem­ber the world weath­er did not please us with sun­shine, so it was not pos­si­ble to test the anti-glare prop­er­ties of the watch under the con­di­tions of the object, but when turned on arti­fi­cial­ly, the infor­ma­tion on the dis­play remains read­able even with min­i­mal back­light­ing.

Ergonomics

The smart­watch strap has enough free­dom to fit a com­fort­able size to your wrist, but since the device weighs almost 74 grams, the watch feels heavy when worn. In addi­tion, due to their con­sid­er­able thick­ness, they can inter­fere with putting on clothes, espe­cial­ly in the win­ter, when you can­not leave the room with­out a jack­et.

Despite this, in gen­er­al the device is quite con­ve­nient to use. The func­tion of auto­mat­i­cal­ly turn­ing on the watch, announced by Sam­sung, works cor­rect­ly: just bring the gad­get to your face to imme­di­ate­ly turn on the back­light — this allows you to avoid using the phys­i­cal pow­er but­ton at all. In addi­tion, thanks to a well-thought-out and sim­ple inter­face, which we described in detail a lit­tle lat­er, most actions do not take much time, so you can hold your hand for a long time with­out con­se­quences.

an unex­pect­ed every­day action that turned out to be extreme­ly incon­ve­nient to per­form dur­ing work­ing hours at the com­put­er. When typ­ing or using mice (the lat­ter is rel­e­vant for left-hand­ed peo­ple who wear the watch on their right hand and also use a com­put­er “rodent”), the Galaxy Gear puts quite a lot of pres­sure on the hand with the thick part of the mount in which the speak­er is locat­ed. There­fore, in order to write a more or less short text, the smart watch still takes off.

Initial setup and Gear Manager

As it turned out, the first set­up of the smart­watch caus­es prob­lems for some users — the Sam­sung Galaxy Note III smart­phone, with which the Sam­sung Galaxy Gear was test­ed, par­tial­ly refused to rec­og­nize the NFC tag, which is built into the dock­ing sta­tion for charg­ing the watch. Accord­ing to the man­u­fac­tur­er, it would be enough to attach the tag to the smart­phone so that it would auto­mat­i­cal­ly set up a con­nec­tion with the smart watch, but in this case you would have to do it man­u­al­ly by down­load­ing the Gear Man­ag­er appli­ca­tion from the Sam­sung Apps app store and fol­low­ing the instruc­tions in it. An impor­tant note is that at the moment the Galaxy Gear only works with Sam­sung devices run­ning Android ver­sion 4.3 or high­er Jel­ly Bean with sup­port for Blue­tooth 4.0 LE, that is, in fact, only with dif­fer­ent gad­gets: Galaxy Note III and Galaxy S IV smart­phones, as well as Galaxy Note 10.1 sec­ond gen­er­a­tion tablet. How­ev­er, if you believe the man­u­fac­tur­er’s promis­es, the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II should receive sup­port in the future, as well as oth­er smart­phones that include a sys­tem update to Android 4.3.

After this con­nec­tion, the con­nec­tion was final­ly estab­lished, and the smart­phone imme­di­ate­ly offered to update the watch firmware to the lat­est ver­sion, which promised increased auton­o­my and oth­er “good­ies.” The firmware is con­fig­ured via OTA — first it is down­loaded to the smart­phone, and then via Blue­tooth on the watch.

Despite the fact that some of the actions asso­ci­at­ed with set­ting up a smart­watch can be per­formed direct­ly on the device itself, con­fig­ured to do this with a smart­phone using the pro­gram men­tioned above. With it, you can save and delete watch apps, make changes to them (for exam­ple, change the appear­ance of the watch), and even search for your watch (the Galaxy Gear emits a loud beep when you turn this fea­ture on).

Here you can set up noti­fi­ca­tions that will arrive to the watch, and also enable the use­ful func­tion of auto-lock­ing your smart­phone: if it can­not indi­cate the time, then a pat­tern is used to unlock the device, but as soon as the Galaxy Gear is con­nect­ed to the gad­get, you can unlock the smart­phone. Sim­ply I swiped in any direc­tion on the screen lock — a kind of pro­tec­tion against theft.

Gear Man­ag­er also has a whole sec­tion for appli­ca­tion com­po­nents. There may be too many of them, but they are quite enough to pro­vide the pro­gres­sive func­tion­al­i­ty of stan­dard smart­watch­es. For exam­ple, you can replace the stan­dard watch face with the Ever­note app to quick­ly save pho­tos and audio record­ings as notes, and view your to-do list and recent notes.

We have described the offi­cial method of installing appli­ca­tions, but expe­ri­enced users and devel­op­ers can take advan­tage of undoc­u­ment­ed instal­la­tion options through any ADB appli­ca­tion — from launch­ers to games. Of course, in most cas­es, the lim­i­ta­tions come down to a small screen, lack of net­work and but­tons, but noth­ing pre­vents, for exam­ple, installing a metro map or a sim­i­lar small pro­gram.

Interface and operating device

Navigation

In order to turn on the clock on the screen, you just need to bring it to your face or press the phys­i­cal but­ton on the side. The front light always dis­plays a clock that can also dis­play oth­er use­ful infor­ma­tion such as the weath­er, time in a dif­fer­ent time zone or upcom­ing events. You can move between screens, which are short­cuts to var­i­ous appli­ca­tions, by swip­ing left and right. If any pro­gram is open, you can close it by swip­ing down. On the main screen, swip­ing down opens the cam­era, and swip­ing up opens the dialer.

Anoth­er ges­ture — dou­ble tap­ping with two fin­gers on any screen of the Galaxy Gear — opens the set­tings pan­el for sound and bright­ness lev­els (unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no auto­mat­ic adjust­ment sen­sor), which also dis­plays the bat­tery charge lev­el in per­cent­age and Blue­tooth oper­at­ing modes.

Well, now let’s briefly go through the pre­set clock pro­grams to under­stand what this device can offer the user.

Schedule for today

The app is a sim­ple list of today’s upcom­ing events and events that syncs with Google cal­en­dars. It dis­plays the name, loca­tion and time of the meet­ing, and also has a col­or cal­en­dar dis­play, but you can­not view events on some days.

Notifications

One of the basic func­tions that a smart­watch needs to per­form is the view­ing method with the base device, and here the Galaxy Gear is a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed: you can actu­al­ly read incom­ing SMS from the gad­get, but as far as all mea­sures are con­cerned, the most that the Galaxy Gear can do is show appli­ca­tion that sent this), and I sug­gest look­ing at the details on your smart­phone.

Gallery

This pro­gram, as you might guess, allows you to view pho­tos tak­en on the smart­watch cam­era or images down­loaded to the inter­nal mem­o­ry of the device. Inter­nal mem­o­ry is 4 giga­bytes.

Magazines and contacts

Hav­ing opened the list of recent calls or all con­tacts of this appli­ca­tion, you can call the select­ed per­son using or send a mes­sage by writ­ing it using voice dial­ing, to do this you need to swipe right or left on the watch on the desired item in the list.

Music

This pro­gram con­sists of just one screen and allows you to con­trol the basic func­tions of the play­er on your smart­phone — switch tracks and change the vol­ume. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is not pos­si­ble to select an indi­vid­ual song or playlist, or per­form oth­er actions.

Pedometer

When you first launch the Pedome­ter, the user will be asked to indi­cate gen­der, height and weight, after which the pro­gram will auto­mat­i­cal­ly select the load lev­el, which, how­ev­er, can be saved; a cer­tain num­ber of steps tak­en will be auto­mat­i­cal­ly syn­chro­nized with the S Health appli­ca­tion on the smart­phone.

Stopwatch and timer

These pro­grams pro­vide time mea­sure­ment (inter­me­di­ate val­ues ​​are sup­port­ed) and count­down (up to 100 min­utes).

Find my device

If you for­got where you sud­den­ly turned on your smart­phone, this func­tion will help you find it — after press­ing the “start” but­ton, the device makes a loud sound, even if it is in silent mode. You can can­cel action func­tions both from the Galaxy Gear and from the smart­phone itself.

Weather

The last appli­ca­tion in ques­tion may change to its cur­rent posi­tion today and in recent days.

Calls

Per­haps the most unusu­al mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Galaxy Gear is the abil­i­ty to cre­ate calls. You can select a num­ber in var­i­ous ways: man­u­al­ly enter the dialer, which opens by swip­ing up, through the “Jour­nal” or “Con­tacts” appli­ca­tions, as well as when view­ing SMS mes­sages. For con­ver­sa­tion, Sam­sung sug­gests bring­ing your cupped hand to your face so that the sound can be reflect­ed and fall on your ear. You can real­ly hear your inter­locu­tor quite well, but besides you, every­one around you will hear him. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the two noise-can­cel­ing micro­phones is not suf­fi­cient for the oth­er par­ty to hear clear speech.

Thus, Sam­sung has intro­duced a func­tion into smart watch­es, the use of which is quite con­tro­ver­sial, and which does not always work as it should (you can talk through the watch with­out any prob­lems if you are in an emp­ty, qui­et room). We can only hope that Galaxy Gear will elim­i­nate all the short­com­ings in the next ver­sion.

Camera

The Galaxy Gear smart watch has reduced pho­to and video shoot­ing, for which a mod­ule with a 1.9‑megapixel BSI sen­sor and aut­o­fo­cus is installed on the strap. To launch the appli­ca­tion, just swipe down on the main screen.

The appli­ca­tion inter­face con­sists of two func­tions. First, the cam­era or video cam­era icon at the bot­tom of the top remote dis­plays the cur­rent mode, and the knob on it switch­es the cor­re­spond­ing modes. The sec­ond menu but­ton in the low­er right cor­ner allows you to make basic set­tings — select­ing the frame res­o­lu­tion (1392x1392 pix­els for pho­tos in 1:1 for­mat and 1280x960 pix­els for 4:3 images), focus mode and cap­tion. The role of the shut­ter but­ton on the Galaxy Gear repli­cates the entire screen.

As expect­ed, the qual­i­ty of the frames obtained over sev­er­al hours turned out to be very mediocre: low detail, high noise lev­els, fre­quent blur­ring of hand move­ments — all this was quite accept­able. There­fore, it is not entire­ly clear how exact­ly the cam­era should be turned on — “spy­ing” with it will also not be pos­si­ble due to the loud shut­ter sound, which does not turn off, even if the watch is in silent mode.

The smart­watch can also record 15-sec­ond videos. You can eval­u­ate the qual­i­ty of the result­ing videos your­self, as shown below.

Autonomous operation

In the first days after the release of the Sam­sung Galaxy Gear, many reviews about smart watch­es appeared online, one of the main dis­ad­van­tages of which was the short bat­tery life — in some cas­es less than a day. For­tu­nate­ly, dur­ing our test­ing this turned out not to be the case: the gad­get can last 3–4 days when con­nect­ed to a smart­phone via Blue­tooth, depend­ing on the mode of use, with the watch con­stant­ly turned off at night. Per­haps, in order to improve bat­tery life com­pared to when the Galaxy Gear first appeared, an update was released that Sam­sung released not long ago.

Results

Sam­sung has come up with a rather con­tro­ver­sial device. On the one hand, it can act as a portable assis­tant, espe­cial­ly if a smart­phone or tablet is used as the main one. On the Galaxy Gear, you can quick­ly view today’s cal­en­dar events, the weath­er, or your shop­ping list in Ever­note. On the oth­er hand, func­tions like the abil­i­ty to make calls or take pho­tos have no real use in life, but the con­stant cost of the gad­get, which is already small — 150 $.

At the moment, we can say that the Galaxy Gear rep­re­sents a kind of “break­through” for Sam­sung. But we are con­fi­dent that in the next ver­sion of the smart­watch (and no one doubts that it will appear), all the short­com­ings will be tak­en into account, and in gen­er­al the device will turn out to be more bal­anced.

Pros:

  • gad­get “for geeks”;
  • Abil­i­ty to quick­ly iden­ti­fy var­i­ous actions with­out deliv­er­ing a smart­phone;
  • smart­phone con­trol func­tions;
  • Use with bulky devices such as smart­phones or tablets.

Minuses:

  • The posi­tion­ing and imple­men­ta­tion of the pho­tog­ra­phy and con­ver­sa­tion func­tions are not very clear;
  • short bat­tery life (although not as short as the first reviews fright­ened;
  • rel­a­tive­ly high cost.