Samsung Galaxy Gear Australian Hands-On: The Maxwell Smart-Watch

Samsung has gone all in for this year's IFA tech fair in Berlin, Germany, releasing not one, but three great new mobile devices, including the long-awaited Galaxy Gear smartwatch. We've been hands (wrists?) on with the newest smartwatch on the wearable scene, and it's straight-up gorgeous. Calling all Maxwell Smart-wannabes!

Also: Samsung Unpacked IFA 2013 Live Blog: All The News As It Happened

The Galaxy Gear is a wristwatch that acts as a smart remote to your Samsung Android smartphone. It connects via Bluetooth and gives you access to some nifty remote features like the weather, a pedometer, Find My Phone proximity alarms, S-Voice compatibility and different clock faces.

The Gear runs an 800MHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory, a 1.9-megapixel camera with autofocus, all concealed underneath a 1.63-inch SuperAMOLED (320x320 pixel) face.


It also packs a bunch of remote features for your smartphone, like pushing notifications to your wrist from various apps and allowing you to start, stop and skip music tracks from your watch.

The remote features also work in tandem with your phone, so for example, if you're looking at a notification on your wrist, you can tap it or even just pull your phone out of your pocket and it will take you straight to the information you were looking at on the big screen so you don't have to go digging for it again.

These are all clever features, but the real power comes from the calling, camera and app functionality.


You can actually take calls on the Gear thanks to a few great innovations from Samsung. The Gear is dual-mic enabled for noise cancelling and the speaker is cleverly concealed in the clasp. For that reason, the band doesn't actually come apart, rather it's a magnetic arm-clip design.

Swiping down from the home face drops you into a cute little wrist-mounted dialler so you can start calling someone right from the watch and have a chat with them while your phone sits in your pocket.

The Gear also comes with a 1.9-megapixel camera mounted in the middle of the strap between the face and the buckle, designed for grabbing quick snaps when something happens that you don't have time to get your phone out for. It's a feature called Memographer, and feeds nicely into the Galaxy Note 3's ideology of taking quick snaps and grabbing information fast for access later.

Interestingly, images and videos aren't stored on the device for very long. It has a 4GB internal memory that isn't expandable, but to it's mainly designed for caching files before they're transferred in the background to your smartphone via Bluetooth.

And finally, the Gear also comes with an optimised Samsung Apps experience. Evernote, Path, Life360, Tripit and Glympse Maps are notable inclusions to the Galaxy Gear at launch. In total, Samsung has spent the last few months optimising 70 different apps for launch day, with more still to come. I don't know about you, but having Google Maps data on my wrist would be a freaking lifesaver.


The whole thing — apps, faces, notifications and the like — are all controlled from the Galaxy Gear dashboard app on your Galaxy phone. From there you can configure how the watch looks and what information it shows off. You can even adjust what double-tapping the single button on the right hand side of the watch does. By default, it activates S-Voice, but you can change that to be whatever you like.

Despite its decent heft, the Galaxy Gear isn't uncomfortable to wear, nor is it overly top-heavy despite the giant screen module. It's comfortable, unassuming and easy to wear. You might get a few sidewards-glances as you use the watch, but you won't look like a Power Ranger wearing it when the screen is off like some of the makeshift iPod Nano watches from a few years ago.

Samsung has laid out the Gear's interface to be that of a flattened-out cube: swiping left and right gives you different feature menus like Music, S-Voice, Contacts, Pedometer and Clock, while swiping up gets you the dialler and down gets you the camera. Swiping between menus was fast and smooth, and everything looks incredible on the bright, clear screen. I can see people feasibly using this as a flashlight in the dark it's so bright.

Also, despite Samsung's love of all things plastic, the Galaxy Gear has served to introduce a few more quality materials into the mix, including leather for the charging dock, a pleasant polyurethane/rubber-like material on the band and aluminium for the face edges and speaker clasp. It really feels like something you can wear all the time without being a cheap and tacky.


The colours are all fairly stylish too, with six different styles available: Jet Black, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, Wild Orange, Mocha Gray, Lime Green are what you have to choose from. Other than the Lime Green (which looks more like Lumia-yellow) and the Wild Orange, all the other colours look kind of same-ish. Especially the beige, gold, orange and gray colours.

The Galaxy Gear will only work with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 at launch, but whispers tell us that backwards functionality with devices like the Note II and Galaxy S4 will be coming soon.

As far as release date is concerned, the Galaxy Gear will hit the market on 25 September. We're still waiting on pricing...

Telstra has announced it will range the new Galaxy Gear when it comes to Australia. Pricing and availability will be confirmed at a later date.


Would you use the Galaxy Gear?

Disclosure: Luke Hopewell travelled to IFA 2013 in Berlin as a guest of Samsung


Comments

    Great blueT on 24-7, now Sammy phones won't last half a day

      New refinements to BT mean longer lasting Bluetooth for both accessories and phones.

      Though there is no mention on the web anywhere about it being waterproof.
      With a flat surface like that, I wonder how likely it is to get scratched.

      My S4 barely lasts a day already, that's no problem, the galaxy gear requires android 4.3 to connect with BT 4.0 properly :p you need a note 3 or new tab 10.1

    Looks grrst; what about battery life?

      They promised "more than a day" of battery life, which is cutting it a little close imho.

        A watch that doesn't last a day is a joke lol.

      Previous rumours had battery life at 10 hours+ which I think is horrible.
      But those rumour also mentioned on board wifi which this article doesn't confirm

      Last edited 05/09/13 10:06 am

      25 hours some sites have said.
      Thats pretty much standby, so if you make calls & use it, who knows.

    Don't you mean Dick Tracy?

      They must be coming out with a shoe phone too... :-)

      Then it would be a Dick Watch which has a whole range of other connotations.

      Actually, just one.

        Clearly Samsung should combine the Dick Tracy watch and Maxwell Smart watch design teams to make the Clever Dick watch. On a more serious note, this is the ugliest piece of tech I have ever seen, a yr 10 metalwork student could do better.

          Agreed. It is like a Lego man consumed Playdoh and shat out their version of the Predator's rectum.

    Samsung only? Lame.

      I like the idea of a smartwatch but so far nobody - including Samsung, has impressed me. The fact this is only compatible with Samsung devices is a definite minus in my book.

        But it's definitely smart marketing.
        If Apple doesn't plan to release an iWatch within the foreseeable future, this cool Sumsung device may start drawing business from their nearest competitor.
        I love my iPhone, but this is the first thing that's made me genuinely consider switching to the Galaxy.

          the reason I don't like apple is their whole closed eco- system "do things using our products the way we tell you to" thing. android was supposed to be open!

      I read the Samsung only, is just for the release, others will be compatible later:
      http://readwrite.com/2013/09/05/galaxy-gear-smartwatch-smartphone-compatible#awesm=~ohbnJtvgPnAaYX

    When I saw "Maxwell Smart Watch" in the title I thought Samsung had made a shoe phone.

    I like it. Won't buy one, but I like it. Maps on the wrist would be handy. Or wristy.

    My initial though was.. "wow, a great new watch to use while Im running". Then I realized that its essentially a brick without an accompanying Galaxy Note... which would be IMPOSSIBLE to run with.
    If they managed to let it play music independently of the phone, and had BT pairing with a headset, then it would be a huge win.

    alas, I still wait for a worthy Nano replacement.

      Yeah I'm having similar thoughts.
      If it had GPS functionality and the ability to put playlists on there I would be all over it.
      Although I think running with a Note III might not be too bad if you get a good armband. I did it briefly whilst my One X was being repaired. I used the armband I had for that which was not ideal obviously but it wasn't too bad.

        You make this product. You make this product right now.

        There is already something that seems to match what you're looking for.

        The Motorola MotoActv.

        It's a couple of years old now but still a decent product when compared to what else is out there. Given its Android base you also have the option of rooting it and flashing custom ROMs / putting your own launcher + apps on as well etc.

        GPS, music (8GB/16GB), WiFi + bluetooth (works great with a decent set of bluetooth headphones) and can also sync to Android phones for notifications etc.

        Worth a look at least.

        http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-MOTOACTV-Sports-Discontinued-Manufacturer/product-reviews/B007C1KKW8

        http://www.runnersworld.com/electronics/review-motoactv-motorola?page=single

          Sweet. Thanks for that!
          Annoying that it is discontinued but definitely interesting.
          I hope other manufacturers follow this path!

            You're welcome, I hadn't realised they were discontinued. I purchased mine as soon as they were available (via the US) and still use it. You may have luck on eBay.

        The MOTOACTV had this 2 years ago. I had and loved one. Hooked up to heart rate monitors, a cadence sensor, showed notifications and lasted around 5 days.
        Shame it died. Waiting for someone to make something similar to the MOTOACTV that actually looks good and i'll be all over it.
        My interim device will be the Leikr (http://leikr.com/) but not much use as it does not have music and is only good if you use Endomondo.
        Another Kickstarter project you should check out is the omate. Might have potential
        http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/omate/omate-truesmart-water-resistant-standalone-smartwa

      Galaxy Note... which would be IMPOSSIBLE to run with

      Go drink a cup of cement...

    This is hideous. I like the concept, but the execution is horrid.

    Total "shock" that Samsung completely underwhelm with this watch. So desperate to beat Apple with a watch they forgot there own golden rule. "Wait for Apple to create the market, as they school Samsung in marketing, and then launch their product."

    Good luck to anyone who buys this p.o.s

      Yes because Samsung is totally competing against something that doesn't exist with this.
      "This new technology is only going to be good when apple "invents" it!"
      Wow you apple fanboys are deluded.

      Apple hasn't invented a market for years. What the hell are you talking about

        @labrys Read the post fandroid, I said until Apple makes a market for it, not until they make a superior product

        @pepee63 Yeah because the tablet market was in full swing before Apple came out with the iPad...oh wait

        Read some of the initial reviews. People didn't even know what category to put it- "Why do I need this extra device that's not a full-fledged laptop? " - http://gizmodo.com/5506824/first-ipad-reviews-are-in

        When Samsung don't have a rival Apple product to put in their ad, they end up with this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y3XuhMJQ28

          Sorry... The smart watch... Thats what this is about... Not as hilarious as the SSD add... Still pretty funny though... A watch that you have to recharge every day... WOOHOO! The concept is great it might just be that batteries are letting it down at this stage!

          So now companies shouldn't be releasing products if Apple hasn't got one in the market yet? Wow.

            @dman I didn't say companies shouldn't release products if Apple hasn't got one in the market. I said Samsung needs Apple to help create the Market for this product.

            These types of watches are by no way a new idea, yet how commonplace are they in mainstream society in comparison to say a GS4 or iPhone?

            There were rumours Apple was developing an 'iWatch' in 2011, not surprising SS wanted to beat them to the punch this time.

            Say what you will about Apple, but they are masters at marketing. If they do end up releasing a watch, are you saying their direct competitors won't benefit from the hype they will create for that type of product?

            Last edited 05/09/13 2:17 pm

          It looks like a rehashed s9110 watch phone!

          Was that a real Samsung ad?

          Seriously. Was it??

      If you think this watch underwhelmed, go look at the new iPhone 5S and see the definition of "underwhelmed". At least the Galaxy Gear is something different to everything else they've released in the mobile computing space.

    Is it waterproof?

      Yep, as long as you don't get it wet.

      Its liquid protection is also rated at level 5, which protects against moderate jets of water, but does not protect against submersion in liquid with pressure significantly above 1 atm. This means that it will protect against general incidental contacts with water, such as washing hands, but will not protect against complete immersion in water at any depth below the surface. It is inferior, in terms of liquid protection, to the Sony Smartwatch 2 [12]'s rating of IP-57, which survives prolonged submersion to the depth of 1 meter. So the Galaxy gear protects against most forms of liquid damage, but cannot be used in aquatic sports such as swimming.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung_Galaxy_Gear

    Who cares on the battery life, as long as there is a 10hr last, just recharge the thing. What do you want from a cool gadget like this, to last for a month? if you want it to last a week, get a Casio calculator watch and stop complaining.

      Who cares? People who have actually used a Smartwatch on a day-to-day basis.

      My Pebble lasts a week no probs. Only lasting 10 hours would suck teh wang.

      So it does the things my phone can already do for the trade off that it lasts 10 hours opposed to over one year in battery life. When it lasts at least a few days and comes out as a nexus, call me.

      *out at night*
      "Hey, what's the time?"
      "Dunno, my watch only lasts through the work day"

    I'll wait to see the full specs before i make my mind up (like what sensors it has), and I think the price will be a major do or die point.
    Right now I'm super happy with the pebble, and the open source functionality means you can make it do whatever you want, music, maps, weather etc... Sure the screen is worse but I don't need to carry round two phones.

    Personally I don't see wrist calling as a good features, unless you're in some specific situation where it would help.... like a battlefield.
    And a camera on the wrist seems like the "hey lets put a camera on everything" mentality.

    If it's got a few extra sensors (like a heart monitor) it could have some positive points, but otherwise it seems like a bit of unnecessary overkill.

    BTW, i really like the concept of a smartwatch - i have a pebble, but this doesn't really fit any of my needs.

    Looking at the pictures, it looks like an unfinished prototype.
    Seems to have more 'cool' factor than actual practical use?

    whoever designed the camera location on this one has not worn watches for too long... camera lens desk diving anyone?

    This is a pretty awesome step in tech. I'm really hoping they bring something out like this that hold the sim card. Then I don't even have to carry the phone!

    Still looks tacky as hell compared to a nice Swiss or Japanese watch.

      Yeah as much as I love the idea of smartwatch's I am really hanging to buy a Nomos or Xetum watch.

      This. Plus my last battery on my Swiss lasted 6 years.

    whats with people saying - Samsung only, woah is me
    ummm, its made by samsung for samsung - i thought that was obvious and logical business sense.

    im just waiting for Apple to come out now like the spoiled little shit they are and start stamping there feet with 'that was my idea, give us money you thieves'.

      I have Samsung stuff and I think that's bad. If it was a universal device that'd be great but limiting it not only to Samsung devices, but only the newest ones is pretty sucky.

        dont get me wrong, i would never own a smart watch.

        for me, its a waste of time and money.

        i actually have to agree with @dman. i would much prefer an actual nice looking mechanical watch for my wrist.

        but if there is a market for it and people want it, go for it.

          Unfortunately my nice mechanicals haven't seen much of the outside since the Pebble turned up!

          I wear an old mechanical watch from the '70s. It looks more current and fashionable than most watch designs now and it works as well as the day it was made. So I agree with you there.
          I would like something that notified me of messages and stuff... but I doubt any smartwatch will last as long as my current one, still look as good and never need any external power.

            Hmm... maybe if it was more like a bracelet than a watch. Or something you can wear that will compliment a mechanical watch. On the other wrist of course. Or even something that could wrap around part of your forearm, what with flexible oleds now. Could even get away with a wider screen that way.

              Flexible OLEDs would be perfect for that application, better than phones.

            might want to check these watches out Ozone, http://www.martianwatches.com/products/tech-specs/

              Uh... that is pretty awesome. Never knew that something like that existed, thanks for that!

                no worries mate, I'm thinking of ordering one on pay day, they do look sweet....

                Last edited 06/09/13 2:42 pm

      Exactly. I wouldn't expect Apple to come out with a watch that would work with Android. If you want a universal smartwatch there are plenty to choose from Pebble, Agent, Kreyos, HOT, Omate etc. Although if you want a smartwatch that is actually good looking then I'm afraid you'll have to wait (the Galaxy Gear doesn't fit the bill IMO).

      Apple paved the way for what the smart phone market is today. Not sure how they're spoiled little shits. Anyone using a touch screen smart phone in today's market should appreciate what Apple have done for us all, so don't be hating just because you have your knickers in a twist for some ignorant reason or another.

        paved the way? I call bullshit. I've been using smartphones since 06 and its been a continual natural progression. when iPhone came out it was a minimalistic cut down version of the alternatives. the only thing I've seen apple do, and influence is visual stylings. everything else they've done someone else had already tried to do. they just dumb it down enough that the idiots called the general public can understand and use it. and as someone using custom ROMs this simplification process isn't something that appeals to me.

    I agree with Mr Gruber: "overpriced, ugly, laggy UI, terrible battery life, dubious utility"

    http://daringfireball.net/linked/2013/09/04/galaxy-gear

    I was worried for a moment as I've only just received my Pebble. Very happy now to have my Pebble. And and iPhone.

    It looks like something I'd be ashamed to wear in public

    This thing is ugly! Visible screws? Gross! all other reviews (that the reporter hasn't been paid to fly to the conference) have said that it is laggy as hell and that it is clearly a first generation devive.

    (Not saying Gizmodo's trip was paid by Samsung) #justsaying

    I want to see if the Sony version can really run for 3 - 4 days as advertised

    http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/sony-smartwatch-2-hands-on-review-20130905-2t5wu.html

    That watch is huge. No way it would fit on my girly wrist. Could maybe wear it around my ankle!?!

    That is shit. No way that looks as good as my g-shock.

    So instead of people walking around with bluetooth headsets looking like they are talking to themselves, they'll be walking around looking like they are talking the their wrists.

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