Samsung yesterday did what many people knew they would do: unveiled a "smartwatch," the Galaxy Gear, which pairs with Samsung's Note and Galaxy S phones to show messages and certain notifications from select apps on your wrist.
The Gear also holds a camera and a speakerphone, for those who have always felt their phone calls too easy to understand, their pictures lacking a certain low-resolution grain. At $300, working only with select Samsung products, promising battery life of "a day," and reported to have noticeable lag in its interface it seems like something I would not buy, or recommend anybody else buy until Samsung gets a few revisions out.
I'm not against smartwatches on the whole. Bloomberg Businessweek, claims the Gear to be one of a series of smartwatches that are not smart. I have extensively used the Pebble watch, and have one on my wrist right now. I think watches like the Pebble are useful for people who have certain phone needs or hang-ups. People who:
- Really want to keep their phone stashed away, unless a message is particularly important
- Conversely, people who get many, many messages, and want to receive some of them in a more immediate fashion
- Want some kind of real-time distance and time tracking for running, biking, or other moving activities
- Really geek out on the idea of activating or seeing things from select Android apps, like Tasker.
They're definitely not for everyone. And I hear the people who wonder why we're trying to put computers in our pockets, on our wrists, and, with Google Glass, on our face. And if you want to look very stylish with your wristwatch, not a single one of these smartwatches to date are going to do it for you, unless you like the Casio-style look (ahem).
But it is a very young field, and Samsung is not the brightest hope, given the company's willingness to try out a rough product in every single market category. To loosely quote a tweet I saw yesterday (and cannot find now): the one thing you can say for certain about the Galaxy Gear is that Apple's connected watch will look nothing like it. Technology products always start out bulky, a bit confused, seemingly unnecessary, and with many key features missing.
But very low-power-demanding Bluetooth is hitting more phones, and the last-generation processors that power these smaller devices are getting better and better. And once we learn what people don't want to have their watch do, you will see products that are smarter about what they provide. Not the Gear, though; I would not buy that.