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Samsung Galaxy Gear: Meet the smartwatch that simply tries too hard

Jon Phillips | Oct. 2, 2013
Is Samsung making a serious run at the smartwatch market, or is the Gear just a clumsy experiment?

The ultimate creeper camera
 camera galaxy gear
IMAGE: MIKE HOMNICK. Once you're inside the camera interface, you can reliably use S Voice to capture an image by saying "cheese."

The Gear's camera offers the best user experience in the entire smartwatch package. Samsung describes its image capture as "memography," and it's an apt term, as I found the watch was a reliable tool for snapping quick visual notes of the world at large. Taking a photo is a simple matter of staring at the watch face to frame your shot, and then saying "cheese," "smile," "capture," or "shoot" to activate the digital shutter with S Voice. (S Voice didn't have any trouble interpreting these four commands.)

The Gear's camera lens is located on the band, where it blends in to the point of being invisible. When taking shots in public, you appear to others as a person staring at his watch, making the Gear a photo-creeping system that's even more subversive than Google Glass (a piece of hardware that announces its presence wherever you go). I appreciate the anonymity of memography, but encourage other Gear owners to use its powers for good, not evil.

Pics max out at 1392-by-1392, but that's more than sufficient for low-investment, moment-in-time image capture, and image quality is surprisingly noise-free and color-correct. A hokey Galaxy Gear watermark is turned on by default, but can be killed from an options menu. The camera can also shoot 15-second clips of 720p video, but you do so at the risk of consuming the watch's 4GB of storage at a heartbreaking pace.

Indeed, after shooting 50 photos, an onscreen message told me I had reached my maximum number of shots. To make room for more, you can transfer images to your phone over the Bluetooth connection—but that only drains battery life further.

Sadly, the Gear can't directly share an image via text message, email, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. You'll be doing all that fun stuff from your phone, which reminds us that the Gear is something of a dumb terminal, and also suffers a dearth of high-profile apps.

You say appy, I say crappy
 app on galaxy gear
IMAGE: JON PHILLIPS. The Tweet Quickview app has serious problems with data density. You can't see your friends' names, let alone their messages.

Samsung says the Gear is launching with more than 70 apps. That might sound like a really small number, but I'll argue it's far too many. With its teeny-tiny screen, it's difficult to display meaningful content on the Gear, let alone interface elements for navigation. Sure, you can use S Voice to maybe, hopefully enter text, but even reading text on the watch is a challenge.

 

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