With the release of its revolutionary Galaxy Gear at an event in Berlin last Wednesday, Samsung Electronics Co. effectively began the race to conquer the evolving “smart watch” market. Though the innovative design is one of the first of its kind, Galaxy Gear has a long way to go in terms of functionality and practicality.
The introduction of Galaxy Gear creates opportunities for the development of the market for wearable technology. The gadget, which wraps around users’ wrists in a typical wristwatch fashion, makes it easier than ever to stay connected while on the go and suggests that people will one day never be separated from mobile technology.
Similar to a smartphone, the Gear features a 1.63-inch touch screen interface with features such as a 1.9-megapixel camera, a built-in speaker and two microphones, allowing users to capture pictures and shoot short movies with a click of a button. The device can make phone calls and surf the web by syncing with tablets and smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android software.
According to Samsung, Galaxy Gear comes in a wide range of colors and is complete with a 4-gigabyte internal memory and 512 megabytes of RAM. The device features a fitness tracker and supposedly works with about 70 different applications, making it the “smartest” watch ever created in the opinion of many Samsung enthusiasts.
“Today, Samsung reinvents a centuries-old product,” Samsung research director Pranav Mistry said at the launch event in Berlin. “I can proudly say Galaxy Gear is a design statement, an engineering marvel and something that really redefines tomorrow.”
Despite Mistry’s confidence in Samsung’s newest creation, however, the Gear is ultimately flawed and falls very short of a smartphone replacement. For one thing, a Galaxy Gear user must own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone in order for the watch to connect to the internet via Bluetooth. Not only must a user own Samsung’s smartphone, but he must also have the smartphone with him at all times for the Gear to function properly. This dependence on a parent device limits the smart watch to existing only as a smartphone accessory, rather than a smartphone replacement.
The accompanying prices of the devices are another hindrance to the Gear’s success: The Samsung Galaxy smartphone currently markets at around $199, with the gear costing a hundred bucks more, so that’s a whopping $500 to shell out for the setup if users do not already own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. This could certainly eliminate a large portion of Samsung’s target market if users are not willing to give up their iPhones or other smartphones in exchange for purchasing a Samsung phone.
Additionally, the design of the watch makes it rather difficult to utilize. The Gear lacks a headphone jack, forcing users to awkwardly hold the Gear to their ears when making calls and making it impossible to have a private conversation or make calls in noisy areas. Users must also charge the gadget every single day or else risk carrying around a battery-dead watch.
Samsung’s groundbreaking innovation certainly paves the way for other types of wearable mobile products, but Galaxy Gear is only the first addition to this unexplored product category. For example, Apple is rumored to be working on a similar product titled the “iWatch.” Apple’s device could have a higher degree of functionality due to its ability to seamlessly connect to other iOS devices that many potential users undoubtedly already own.
Samsung Galaxy Gear will go on sale in late September in most of the world and in the United States and Japan in October. But interested buyers should hold off on purchasing the Gear for now, until Apple and other mobile product developers release their versions of the device and prove that much more can be accomplished with the smart watch.
Cecilia Callas is a junior majoring print and digital journalism. Her column “Tech Talk” runs Wednesdays.