On Wednesday Sept. 4, at its Unpacked 2013 event in Berlin, Samsung revealed several new products including a new smartwatch called the Galaxy Gear. A handful of other smartwatches already exist, including offerings from Sony and Motorola, but the Galaxy Gear will be Samsung’s first foray into the world of computerized accessories.
Smartwatches are designed to offer ease of access to smartphones as well as the cloud. The watches connect to their user’s phone via Bluetooth. Updates, messages, and other bits of important information are displayed on the watch’s face, enabling users to remain informed and connected without constantly having to glance at their phones.
In addition to providing notifications, the Galaxy Gear also boasts some impressive technical specifications that will give it far greater functionality than the average smartwatch. The strap contains a 1.9 megapixel camera as well as a speaker and microphone. As well as being photo-capable, the camera can also be used to translate foreign languages on signs. The watch’s software contains Samsung’s S Voice virtual assistant; users can make a Bluetooth-connected phone call simply by speaking to the watch, or connect directly to their phones in order to create notes, text messages, and other entries. The speaker can be used as a speakerphone during calls. The watch even contains an accelerometer and gyroscope for use in personal fitness routines.
The Galaxy Gear’s hardware boasts 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage, and an 800 MHz processor. The watch’s screen is a flat 1.63 inch AMOLED display, incorporating a recently designed technology that uses a special type of electroluminescent thin film to create a picture. The large screen size will allow users to more easily view notifications and updates. Despite the Galaxy Gear’s bulk and flat screen, Samsung’s Pranav Mistry described the watch as “wearable” and “comfortable.” There are rumors that a curved screen may be under development for future release, and an upcoming smartwatch from Apple is also rumored to contain a curved glass screen.
The Galaxy Gear’s integration with its user’s smartphone enables messages first viewed on the watch’s screen to instantaneously appear on the phone’s screen as well when accessed.
When it launches, the Galaxy Gear will be compatible only with Samsung’s other newly announced offerings, the Galaxy Note 3 tablet phone and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Future upgrades to the smartwatch are expected to add support for some of Samsung’s other devices, such as the Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy S4. However, support for non-Samsung products, even those that use Android, is not being implemented at this time.
The Galaxy Gear will cost $299, which is more expensive than many smartphones as well as several of the smartwatches currently on the market. Since other existing smartwatches can integrate with multiple phone types, the watch’s limited compatibility may be a major con for Samsung when winning over consumers looking for this type of accessory. In addition, the Galaxy Gear will only last about a day on a full charge, which lowers its ability to sustain extended use. It will be interesting to see how Samsung responds to these significant hurdles as it moves forward with the launch of the Galaxy Gear.