On Wednesday, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Gear, its first smartwatch and a new entry into the broader category of "wearable technology" such as the current conversational centerpiece, Google Glass. The Galaxy Gear uses a Bluetooth connection to pair with a variety of the manufacturer's Android smartphones (an essential requirement), and includes a variety of nifty features—maybe more than you might need in a wristwatch—although it does not include a James Bond-style laser.
Revealed amidst the announcement of the Galaxy Gear is that it will launch with a variety of software—more than 70 apps according to Samsung. It features a pedometer for tracking exercise with apps like RunKeeper, a speaker for listening to music (or other things; save-for-later service Pocket announced it would use Android's text-to-speech functionality with the watch), and a 1.9 megapixel camera. For those who with fear of being covertly photographed, Samsung said that it did not include the ability to turn off the cheesy shutter sound when taking a picture. It also has a pair of microphones for recording low-resolution video.
The smartwatch market has been pretty underwhelming so far, and one of its most talked-about iterations, the Pebble, funded by Kickstarter, has not exactly received rave reviews. Gadget advice site The Wirecutter succinctly quipped, "Never buy a pebble watch."
In its hands-on, Engadget found the Galaxy Gear to be fairly mediocre, which didn't surprise them given that the hardware is only a first iteration.
The Gear feels awfully sluggish, whether you're launching an app such as Evernote or Path, or swiping down from the home screen to activate the camera. Watch faces, which you can upload from the Gear's Android companion app, performed well, as did the Music card, which simply serves as a remote for any music app (native or third-party) currently active on a connected device.
The device's reliance on a Samsung smartphone as well as the $299 price tag also tempered the enthusiasm of The Verge's Vlad Savov, who reported:
Most of all, however, I find it hard to justify spending the $299 asking price on an accessory like the Galaxy Gear. It's too dependent on its parent device for functionality — which will cost you a fair amount too — and, like all other smartwatches, fails to truly live up to the "smart" part of its name.
The crushing diction here is in the definition of the Galaxy Gear as an accessory rather than as a worthwhile standalone product.
Over at The New York Times, Nick Bilton briefly chronicled the rise of the smartwatch. Samsung already has competition from Sony in the smartwatch market and Apple is also almost definitely entering the race soon. In addition, wearable fitness trackers such as the Nike Fuelband serve similar purposes of tracking fitness and pairing with a mobile app. Among younger audiences, watches have been almost entirely usurped by cell phones, and Bilton remains validly skeptical of the market's development.