In addition to unveiling the Galaxy Note 3 at IFA in Berlin today, Samsung also announced the long-rumored Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Samsung is touting it as a standalone fashion accessory, in addition to being a device that lets you “experience new mobile communication freedoms.” It has a 1.6-inch Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 320 x 320. It’s powered by an 800 MHz processor, and connects to other Android 4.3-powered Galaxy devices via Bluetooth 4.0. It has 4 GB of internal storage, which should provide ample storage for the photos you take with its 1.9MP camera, located on the front of the wristband.
It’s a novel concept, but one that isn’t new. In fact, the touchscreen smartwatch dates back to 1985, when Epson (yes, the company we now know for printers) released the RC-20 Wrist Computer, complete with a 42 x 32 pixel touch sensitive dot matrix display. It even interfaced with popular computers of that time, allowing you to write code that the watch could execute. Think of it as the first Pebble.
Fire up your DeLorean and race to 88 mph so you can pull yourself back to 2013 and back to the Galaxy Gear. It joins Google Glass and Sony’s Smartwatch 2 in a relatively new (again) category for wearable computing devices. That is, devices you don’t have to hold in your hand to operate. For $299, you can strap one of these to your wrist to assist you in making and receiving phone calls, viewing and responding to notifications and using specific versions of third-party apps made just for the Galaxy Gear (there are currently 70 apps available).
For example, the eBay app lets you complete virtually all aspects of a purchase, from bidding to Buy it Now. The RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal apps take advantage of the Galaxy Gear’s built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to make the Gear function as a pedometer, adding fitness data to the apps you already use. If you use Pocket for your read-it-later service, there’s a version of the app made for the Gear that enables text-to-speech playback of your articles. You can also use Samsung’s own apps for other tasks like recording a voice memo, counting down time with a timer, keeping track of time with a stopwatch, and reminding yourself of the time with an alarm. You can playback and record 720p HD video from the Gear, then transfer that content to your smartphone.
The Gear will be available later this month, on September 25th, in the U.S. and 148 other countries around the world, with a full global launch beginning in October. It’ll be offered for $299 in a variety of colors. Initially, it’ll only be compatible with Samsung Galaxy devices running Android 4.3, which as of today, is none of them, except the ones announced at IFA: the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (2014). As Samsung rolls out Android 4.3 for other current devices like the Galaxy S3 and S4, we’ll see the Gear’s compatibility list expand, possibly even to handsets made by other brands. I know there’s a few HTC One owners out there who would like something like this.
While we’re waiting for our review unit to arrive, we’re curious what you think. So, let us know in the poll below: is the Galaxy Gear smartwatch on your shopping list? Will it add convenience and style to your life?
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