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