Samsung Announces Galaxy Gear Smartwatch
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Samsung today revealed their smartwatch, the first of a new generation from one of the world’s tech giants. Analysts have been predicting a market for these devices for years, one that they believe could be worth millions of dollars by the end of 2013. The Galaxy Gear was unveiled today during the IFA consumer tech show in Berlin along with the new, even larger Galaxy Note 3. It connects via Bluetooth, relays text messages and emails, and can mirror what’s seen on the 5.7-inch display of the Note 3 on its 1.63-inch, 320 by 320 AMOLED touchscreen.
The watch also acts as a remote and plays music stored on the Note 3 or Galaxy Tab 10.1 through the larger device’s speakers. Apple, Google and Microsoft are all rumored to want a piece of the new wearable computing market. Qualcomm also showed off a smartwatch today called the Toq. They expect to make tens of thousands of their branded smartwatches.
The Galaxy Gear is an Android-based device that will launch with more than 70 tiny screen-ready apps, including Evernote, Glympse and Path. Wearers will only be able to load ten apps at a time, however. The small form factor doesn’t leave much room for storage, so the first generation Galaxy Gear will only ship with a 4GB option. The rubber watchbands — available in a number of colors including orange, silver and white — have a small, 1.9 megapixel camera built into them. To protect the privacy of others, however, the camera makes an audible shutter sound whenever a picture is taken.
Users can make notes on their Galaxy Note 3 or Galaxy 10.1 tablet and have them relayed to their watch. In a slide during the presentation, the watch displayed a reminder that read: “Don’t forget to mention Android.”
During their Galaxy S4 circus sideshow of an unveiling, Samsung never once mentioned Google’s operating system, a move that was tirelessly pointed out and pondered by the tech press for many weeks afterwards.
The Galaxy Gear is packed with an 800 MHz processor and a 315mAh battery, which Samsung claims will last for an entire day on a single charge. The Korean company has also positioned this device as an accessory for healthy living, and as such the Gear is packed with a pedometer and a BSI sensor. Samsung also mentioned working with fitness-forward third-party apps such as RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal.
One of the biggest challenges discussed with these small wrist computers is navigation and user interface (UI). Samsung has opted for a gesture and tap based navigation system. The UI is laid out as a series of cards and users must swipe either left or right to move to the next card, such as camera, music or pedometer. A single tap will drill down into the menu, while a swipe down from the top bezel goes back one step.
A single hardware button on the side of the device acts as a home button, and double tapping this button brings up S-Voice, Samsung’s version of Apple’s Siri. Accidentally tapping this button three times will activate the “safety assistance” feature and will send a selected person in your contact list your location info and an emergency alert.
As it stands, the Gear only works with the newly announced Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Tab 10.1, but future devices that get upgraded to Android 4.3 will also be able to pair with Samsung’s new watch.
The Galaxy Gear will launch at $299 when it starts shipping and American customers will be able to get their wrists underneath one around October.