Smartwatches

First impressions: Samsung Galaxy Gear and Galaxy Note 3

First impressions: Samsung Gal...
Gizmag goes hands on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch (Photo: Gizmag)
Gizmag goes hands on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Galaxy Note 3's screen-sharing functionality (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Galaxy Note 3's screen-sharing functionality (Photo: Gizmag)
The Galaxy Note 3's screen-sharing functionality (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Galaxy Note 3's screen-sharing functionality (Photo: Gizmag)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
The Galaxy Note 3 is only 8.3 mm thick (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Galaxy Note 3 is only 8.3 mm thick (Photo: Gizmag)
The Galaxy Note 3's "serrated" edge (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Galaxy Note 3's "serrated" edge (Photo: Gizmag)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
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The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
The leathery rear case lends the device a businessy feel (Photo: Gizmag)
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The leathery rear case lends the device a businessy feel (Photo: Gizmag)
...but it looks a little odd around the headphone jack (Photo: Gizmag)
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...but it looks a little odd around the headphone jack (Photo: Gizmag)
The "dot" command brings up a command menu (Photo: Gizmag)
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The "dot" command brings up a command menu (Photo: Gizmag)
A circle gesture can be used to cut content to the device's scrapbook (Photo: Gizmag)
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A circle gesture can be used to cut content to the device's scrapbook (Photo: Gizmag)
And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
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And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
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And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
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And a square gesture summons mini apps within apps (Photo: Gizmag)
Gizmag goes hands on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch (Photo: Gizmag)
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Gizmag goes hands on with Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch (Photo: Gizmag)
It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
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It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
If the watch is in any way beautiful, it's down, in no small part, to the simple white-on-black iconography that indicate each of the watch's functions and the elegant sans serif fonts which tell the time (Photo: Gizmag)
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If the watch is in any way beautiful, it's down, in no small part, to the simple white-on-black iconography that indicate each of the watch's functions and the elegant sans serif fonts which tell the time (Photo: Gizmag)
the mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
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the mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
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It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
If the watch is in any way beautiful, it's down, in no small part, to the simple white-on-black iconography that indicate each of the watch's functions and the elegant sans serif fonts which tell the time (Photo: Gizmag)
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If the watch is in any way beautiful, it's down, in no small part, to the simple white-on-black iconography that indicate each of the watch's functions and the elegant sans serif fonts which tell the time (Photo: Gizmag)
Somehow inserting a camera lens into the strap lends a techy feel without looking too ostentatious (Photo: Gizmag)
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Somehow inserting a camera lens into the strap lends a techy feel without looking too ostentatious (Photo: Gizmag)
It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
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It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist (Photo: Gizmag)
The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
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The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
Hands on with a black-strapped version (Photo: Gizmag)
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Hands on with a black-strapped version (Photo: Gizmag)
Hands on with a black-strapped version (Photo: Gizmag)
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Hands on with a black-strapped version (Photo: Gizmag)
Placing a call (Photo: Gizmag)
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Placing a call (Photo: Gizmag)
Trying out the Gear's camera (Photo: Gizmag)
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Trying out the Gear's camera (Photo: Gizmag)
Trying out the Gear's camera (Photo: Gizmag)
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Trying out the Gear's camera (Photo: Gizmag)
The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch
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The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch
Somehow inserting a camera lens into the strap lends a techy feel without looking too ostentatious (Photo: Gizmag)
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Somehow inserting a camera lens into the strap lends a techy feel without looking too ostentatious (Photo: Gizmag)
The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
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The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
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The mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
View gallery - 32 images

IFA! After a packed-to-the-rafters Samsung Unpacked event, Gizmag wasted no time (or as little time as was reasonable given the free bar) in trying out both Samsung's new Galaxy Gear Smartwatch and the Galaxy Note 3. Read on to find out our first impressions of the new hardware.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

the mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)
the mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (Photo: Gizmag)

As you'll no doubt have realized if you've read our coverage of the Galaxy Gear announcement, Samsung's inaugural smartwatch packs a lot of functionality into a device to be worn on the wrist. It's impressive, then, that though the Galaxy Gear is by no means a small watch, it doesn't feel all that chunky wrapped around your wrist.

Opinions in the room varied on the comfort of the strap, some observers we spoke to saying it could have had a little more give, Gizmag found it perfectly comfortable (for the few minutes we got to wear it).

And though Samsung may be among the first of the major players to unveil smartphone-interfacing wrist-wear, the company may just have stolen a march on the competition so far as the UI is concerned. Though I was concerned that the finger-swipes to choose between the watch's various functions looked a little unwieldy when Samsung's Pranav Mistry showed them off on stage, in practice they were just as you'd hope, requiring only minimal flicks to move between apps.

If the watch is in any way beautiful, it's down, in no small part, to the simple white-on-black iconography that indicate each of the watch's functions and the elegant sans serif fonts which tell the time. (It doesn't have to be a black background. It can also be set to match the colour of the strap.) Somehow inserting a camera lens into the strap lends a techy feel without looking too ostentatious, while the mic built into the buckle is positively Buck Rogers (and I mean that in a good way.)

I want one, and yet I don't want one. From first impressions there's little to fault, though time will tell if day to day use alongside a Samsung smartphone exposes any niggles in the usability, or how severe they turn out to be. But my niggling doubts are more to do with the idea of a smartwatch itself, a device on your wrist that makes your phone even harder to ignore. And, even accepting the 25-hour battery life, this is yet another gadget that tech companies are expecting us to remember to charge. (Convenient charging technology really needs to catch up.) For many, though, the hassle of one extra device will doubtless be compensated by a reduced need to fish in your pocket for your smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Photo: Gizmag)

During the unveil presentation, much was made of the holy trinity behind the new UI: the dot, circle, box gestures that form the foundation of how users execute commands, cut content to be stored in a scrapbook, and launch simple apps which can be laid over other apps without having to navigate away from the screen.

Naturally, then, this was the first thing Gizmag tried when we got our hands on the Galaxy Note 3. The dot, effectively a single click of the S Pen's button to bring up a pop-up radial menu is simple enough, though the commands contained therein may take some learning, particularly to those new to Samsung phones.

From there you can select the command to draw a circle around any content you wish to store in the phone's scrapbook (which handily preserves a hyperlink back to the source). This works excellently, except there's the nagging question of why you have to execute a command before you can do it. If you could draw a circle around content to copy at any time, that would really be something.

Likewise the box gesture, which can be used to launch simple handy apps without having to navigate out of the main app you're in, requires that intermediate dot command to activate. As a long-time Apple user, there's just the nagging feeling that the powers that be at Cupertino wouldn't entertain such fiddliness. And though it's a very useful feature, the suggestion that the launched app compresses to fit the box you've drawn is only really true if you happen to draw an app-sized box.

Probably the other most notable feature is the leather-like backing material. This is a bold move from Samsung, and sets the device apart from the competition. It certainly gives the device an air of the besuited professional person, but it does look a little odd where it bends and even creases out of shape around the headphone jack.

That'll do for now. We'll have more from Samsung at IFA throughout the rest of the week.

View gallery - 32 images
15 comments
NickHeidl
And what is it like in direct sunlight? As poor as many of the smartphones that have screens ideal for use under the bed covers?
LilQTBrain
Galaxy Gear looks pretty neat and chic! It looks close to a regular watch. It's not like "Hey y'all, look how I'm carrying all the latest technology on my wrist!"
As to Note 3 on the other hand, I'm not so sure about the leather backing. I wish it was offered as optional. Such leathers tend to look worn or dirty after use for a while. I don't know why Samsung is so much criticized for plastic. I never thought it looked cheap. Also, you can just use a case if you don't like that glossy look.
Jens Kristianson
Seriously why would anyone like a Smart watch? Is this to replace the phones? I doubt this will take off - glad Apple has not come out with something so silly yet. :-).
Riaanh
The smart watches which I have seen so far from Samsung and Sony looks like mini-phones on a strap. They are definitely not going to make a positive fashion statement. Let's see if Apple can bring a cool instead of geeky look to the market, otherwise it is going to go the way of the calculator watches.....
LilQTBrain
@Jens Kristianson iWatch is just around the corner. :)
http://www.gizmag.com/apple-iwatch-2013-release/26501/
kalqlate
@LilQTBrain - I agree that the Gear doesn't look TOO geeky, but I tend to agree more with Riaanh regarding possible Apple style. There was speculation earlier in the year that Apple hired a top designer from Yves Saint Laurent to consult on the design of the iWatch.
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2421349,00.asp
If true, an enormously savvy move. Style will probably always trump functionality when it comes to wearable electronics. Apple has always shown great style consciousness. Whoever looks the most chic and stylish (least geeky) with at least basic functionality will win the crown. Looking at the Gear and without seeing the iWatch, my bet is that the iWatch is going to blow the Gear out of the water merely on style. If Apple makes it compatible with Android, say, "Goodbye, Gear!... we hardly knew ya."
Ron Spicer
What a clunker, way tooover sized. And should have been at the size it is made turned to landscape position on the wrist. What with the black and white digital clock is that it!!! I think I would put a wrist strap on a IPOD NANO before buying one of these. I hope Apple comes out with more a reasonable size and and something other then a black and white clock.
Hamza Ismail
A Really Nice Article . It Would be more good If software and application were also mentioned
Charles Zeller
I was looking for a full-size phone that wrapped around my wrist and returned to full form when removed from my wrist. This gear contraption is laughable. It will be blown away and forgotten when apple releases. (not that I like apple, I have a galaxy, but that's what will happen.)
Zain Hoosen
I smell apple fanboys amongst us humans...... Cant wait to test run the galaxy watch. Looking forward to using the camera and glancing at my watch to get a summary of email activities, weather reports, facebook updates etc
But....
Do I invest $299 dollars for a test run?