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Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch has letdown written all over it
Bulky touchscreen + camera-boasting strap = Profits? I don't think so.
This is the Kickstarter-funded Pebble. Can Samsung do better?
This is the Kickstarter-funded Pebble. Can Samsung do better? CC BY: artgoeshere
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amsung's wonderfully named Galaxy Gear smartwatch is set for a Sept. 4 launch party to be held at simultaneous events in Berlin and New York, Bloomberg recently reported. And now, Om Malik at GigaOm has a few more details about what the device is said to look like.

Per Malik's sources, the watch won't have a long, flexible touchscreen like Apple's rumored "slap bracelet" iWatch. Instead, the Galaxy Gear will have a square touchscreen measuring 2.5 inches diagonally, which works out to 3 inches total including the bezel.

Inside will be a dual core processor that, according to Malik, "should have pretty decent battery life." The watch will have built-in NFC to "bump" information with other contacts, and Bluetooth 4.0 LE to connect with your smartphone.

The watch has a few nifty features that seem to live up to its "smart" moniker. Inside it'll have all the accelerometers and gyroscopes we've come to appreciate in fitness trackers like NikeFuelband or the Fitbit Flex. When you bring your wrist to your face to glance at the Gear for, say, the weather, the smartwatch's screen will flicker back to life automatically. This should help the Gear conserve battery life, at least in theory.

But other reported features are pretty confounding. Galaxy Gear will have a camera integrated into the strap, which is redundant if you already carry around a smartphone (which you'll presumably need to maximize the Gear's potential). And Gear-tailored apps won't be available for purchase through the Google Play store — you'll reportedly have to get them specifically from the Samsung App Store. Key point from Malik here (emphasis added):

I think if this is indeed true then Samsung is starting to slowly [get] developers to publish through its own platform and become independent of Google.

That likely means if you want a Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, you'll need a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet. Perhaps Samsung is copying too much from Apple of late and is creating a walled-garden approach of its own; something that Android fans aren't likely going to be keen on. [GigaOm]

You can read about the rest of the Galaxy Gear's features at GigaOm.

This watch does not sounds like a hit. A few final thoughts:

  • Bloomberg reports that "the global watch industry will generate more than $60 billion in sales this year, and the first companies to sell devices that multitask could lock customers into their platform." I'm not sure there is much overlap between the "global watch industry" and techies who want a fancy computer for their wrist. The market potential for such devices — whether they're made by Samsung, Apple, or someone else — is likely not nearly as large as Bloomberg seems to be suggesting.

  • 2.5 inches is incredibly tiny for a touchscreen, and arguably too bulky for a watchface. Perhaps that's why reviews for the Pebble have been so-so. With no mention of other input methods (voice commands, perhaps?) I'm not so sure users — especially those with big hands — will want to do much poking or swiping around.

  • I don't know why I would buy one. It sounds clunky. Its functionality is limited. And there are better, more practical, and existing ways to tackle just about every problem the Galaxy Gear purports to solve. Need a take-anywhere fitness bracelet to quantify your workouts? The subtle and affordable Fitbit Flex is only $99, and is compatible with Android and iOS. Like listening to music while you're out for a run? An armband for your phone — or, I don't know, a pocket? — should do just fine. And while NFC could be handy for, say, quick transactions, the technology still hasn't quite caught on (and I'm not sure it ever will).

What do you think, especially if you already own a Samsung phone? Does anything about the Galaxy Gear interest you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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