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Wrists, Meet Samsung
Wrists, Meet Samsung's Galaxy Gear Smart Watch

By Barry Levine
September 4, 2013 12:08PM

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Samsung is one of the first major manufacturers out the door with a smart watch, but in the coming weeks, Microsoft and Apple are expected to release their initial products in this category, and Sony just announced an upgraded version of its entry. Qualcomm has announced a limited release of its own smart watch, and Google is rumored to be interested in a device of its own.
 



The fall season of the smart watch has begun. On Wednesday, Samsung unveiled its much-awaited Galaxy Gear smart watch.

The watch was shown at an event in Berlin, on the eve of the big IFA trade show. It's a 1.6-inch companion device to the newly unveiled giant Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. The Galaxy Gear has a 320x320 color OLED screen and its functions include texting, e-mails and alerts that signal incoming phone calls.

The device automatically locks if it is beyond 1.5 meters from its smartphone buddy. A key function of the smart watch, of course, is to "find my phone," and the Note can also find the watch. Samsung has said it expects to expand the range of companion devices beyond the Note 3, possibly later this year.

The Gear can also receive commands by voice, utilizing Samsung's S Voice technology and its onboard microphone. There's also a speaker, a 1.9-megapixel camera for taking still photos or 720p high-definition video, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an unspecified microprocessor running at 800 MHz, 512 MB of memory and 4 GB of internal storage. Connectivity to the Note 3 is via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and the company said the 315 mAh battery can last up to 24 hours.

A Piece of Jewelry

In other words, the Gear has many of the functions of a smartphone, except smaller and without the cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. However, it also doesn't have a headphone jack, so headphone listening would need to be done via Bluetooth.

Samsung is also trying to position the device as a piece of jewelry that can "go well with any outfit." The Gear, made in plastic and with a metallic face, comes in such colors as Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green. Initial reactions from some observers, however, have characterized the design as clunky or blocky.

Users can employ a swiping motion to move between apps and between screens, and the interface has been designed to accommodate one-finger navigation. The device even tells time, in any of several clock faces that also include weather. A physical button returns the user to the home screen.

Companionship, Connectivity

Other apps include a stopwatch, music player controls, pedometer, phone call dialing, as well as several included third-party apps -- Evernote, eBay, MyFitnessPal, Path, and Tripit, with more on the way.

Samsung is one of the first major manufacturers out the door with a smart watch, but in the coming weeks, Microsoft and Apple are expected to release their initial products in this category. Google has similarly been rumored to be interested in this kind of product.

One major competitive disadvantage the Gear will face is that it is currently limited to working with a Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, while Sony's coming SmartWatch 2, among others, is expected to work with any Android 4.0+ device. Another possible disadvantage is the Gear's need to rely on the smartphone for connectivity. There are reports that a start-up company called Omate will be releasing a smart watch next month that has 3G connectivity and doesn't need the smartphone to make calls or surf the Net.

Samsung has not yet announced pricing, although there are reports the Gear will cost about $300. It is set for release on Sept. 25.
 

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