The revolution will be televised on your wrist — or at the very least, that's what Google, Apple, Sony, Pebble, and even Qualcomm are betting, with an incoming flurry of bracelet-like gizmos called smartwatches.
After months of rumors and leaks, Samsung today revealed its first stab at such a watch, which the company hopes will become the first wearable technology to infiltrate the mainstream. It is called the Galaxy Gear.
The smartwatch boasts a 1.63-inch, 320 by 320 pixel touchscreen, surrounded by a stainless steel frame. The unit is anchored in place with a rubber watchband that comes in six different colors, including lime green and pale orange. It's important to note that the Gear isn't a standalone device, and requires a constant tether via Bluetooth to another Samsung Galaxy device, such as the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, or Galaxy S III.
What can you do with it? Users can swipe through simplified menus of sortable cards, which generate helpful, glanceable information like the time and weather. In addition to the small touchscreen, there is an "S Voice" button, located on the right side, that lets users issue vocal commands. You can even use its built-in microphone and speakers to make and receive phone calls, should you desire to talk into your wrist like a spy.
In terms of functionality, the Gear packs a number of unexpected features, including a 1.9-megapixel camera (the lens is embedded in the watchband) that allows users to snap photos from their wrist. Internal gyroscopes and sensors allow the watch to make smart assumptions based on your behavior. If an email or text is too long to read on a 1.63-inch screen, for example, a feature called "Smart Relay" will route the incoming message to your mother device's much larger display.
And apps! The Verge reports that the Gear will have more than 70 software options at launch, including recognizable names like Pocket, Path, Evernote, RunKeeper, eBay, and more. You will be able to house only about 10 of them in the smartwatch at any given time, however, thanks to the Gear's 4GB limit. Power-wise, the Gear will reportedly last users about 25 hours in between charges.
How did the Gear hold up after a brief hands-on? "We haven't been blown away by any smartwatch's performance, and that's much the case here," says Zach Honig at Engadget. "The Gear feels awfully sluggish, whether you're launching an app such as Evernote or Path, or swiping down from the home screen to activate the camera."
Vlad Savov at The Verge left with similarly deflated hopes: "Additionally, the speaker built into the buckle is too quiet and makes the old sci-fi action of conducting a phone call via your watch a possibility only in quiet areas; it also doesn't play back any music, it just controls output on your connected device."
If you want to try for yourself, the Gear begins shipping in early October. Its initial asking price: $299.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- The best online movies to watch this weekend
Subscribe to the Week