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!
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