Hands on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch

A quick play with Samsung's Galaxy Gear shows a fairly responsive device

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, Samsung, smartwatch

Pictures taken with the watch can be automatically transferred to a Bluetooth-paired smartphone. A simple image browser on the watch lets you see some of the pictures and those transferred from the phone.

Swiping sideways runs through a series of functions. There's a voice memo recorder, music player, call log, your phone book and also an icon that links to a page of apps.

Included in the Galaxy Gear that I tried out were apps for Evernote, My Fitness Pal, the Path social network, Glympse, the Line messaging service and Run Keeper among others.

The swiping takes a little bit of getting used to, but the watch felt fairly responsive. It wasn't quite as responsive as a modern smartphone, probably because it's running on a much less capable processor, but there was no noticeable lag.

And if you get lost navigating, the button on the side of the watch takes you back to the home screen.

It's worth noting that virtually all of the apps rely on the smartphone connection. The watch itself is pretty useless without a phone present, offering only limited functions like the clock, pedometer and camera.

A Gear manager on the smartphone will also provide an easy interface into many of the settings of the watch, such as the type of clock and clock face, what apps are shown when scrolling and what data is automatically synched or transferred between the two.

You can place or answer calls from the Galaxy Gear. There's an on-screen dialler, a speaker in the clasp of the wrist strap and two microphones with a noise-cancelling feature. I didn't get a chance to try this feature out.

Finally, perhaps one of the most useful apps is a find my phone/watch app. If you mislay either the watch or its paired phone, you can set one to make the other emit a sound. It works within Bluetooth range, so it might be useful for those times the watch falls under the sofa or the phone ends up in the laundry basket.

The phone is running a modified version of the Android operating system, so there will likely be a flood of apps once Samsung opens up the platform to all developers.

All in all, it's not a bad first entry into the new smartwatch market. Should consumers take a shine to wearable devices, I would expect future Galaxy Gear watches to be smaller and faster.

Probably my biggest criticism for the watch is in its lack of interaction with apps such as Gmail, Twitter and Facebook. While it will show details of emails received by the smartphone's Samsung message app, for others it will only provide a notification that a message has been received, forcing the user to pull out their phone for more. That's something that Samsung needs to fix.

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