TORONTO – Samsung has finally lifted the veil on its highly anticipated smartwatch, a smartphone companion device that the tech giant suggests is a fashionable and futuristic way to enhance users’ mobile experience.
But – fancy futuristic features aside – Galaxy Gear has the chance to change consumer opinion on wearable technology.
Samsung is not the first technology company to release a smartwatch – in fact Sony introduced its latest smartwatch in June and Apple is said to be working on its own version – but the tech-enabled wrist watch fad has yet to really take off with consumers.
At first glimpse, Samsung’s device totes an impressive amount of features that may bode well for its success.
And Samsung has tapped right into that idea – nicknaming the camera “Memographer” during its unveiling.
But one of the most impressive features about Gear may be one of the least obvious, according to Emrich.
Galaxy Gear will launch with an app store of 70 applications, including big names like Life360, Path and Evernote, and has more apps on the way.
“The fact that there are going to be 70 apps at launch sounds small – because there are 800,000 Android apps on the market – but we really shouldn’t underestimate how big of a feat that was,” said Emrich.
Emrich noted that this is a bonus for Samsung because a main complaint amongst early adopters of wearable technologies is the lack of apps. Google Glass – which is still in its developer testing stage – only has 12 official apps so far and Sony’s smartwatch only boasts about 40.
“The fact that there is an app ecosystem indicates that those brands believe in this technology; the consumer may not think about that, but from an industry perspective the fact that there are big players taking the time out to develop for yet another device says a lot,” said Emrich.
Another thing Gear has going for it is its looks.
“I was really happy to hear that they were focusing on this as a fashion icon, or a fashion piece. At the end of the day this is something people are wearing,” said Emrich, who added that while the device isn’t futuristic-looking, it’s sleek enough for everyday wear.
Gallery: First look at Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch
Compared to another popular smartwatch – the Pebble – the device feels a bit more luxurious. While the Pebble is made of plastic (which does make it less expensive), Gear is made of stainless steel.
“Considering that Samsung has always been banged as being the cheaper version of Android, having plastic phones, I was impressed with what seemed to be a very quality build,” said Emrich.
The device also comes in a variety of colours.
But the device also has its pitfalls – as with any new technology.
Lack of devices
Gear will be compatible initially with two Samsung products also unveiled Wednesday – the Galaxy Note III, which is a smartphone with a giant 5.7-inch screen and a digital pen, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a tablet computer with a 10.1-inch screen.
This leaves Galaxy S4 users, like Emrich, left with no choice but to upgrade their device if they want to get the smartwatch.
Though it is rumoured that Samsung will update the operating system on its older devices (ike the S4) to be compatible with Gear, it leaves some users feeling alienated in the meantime.
“It would have been nice for them to come out and say that the S4 was compatible at launch to give them that warm fuzzy feeling and not seem like they are trying to up-sell their customers on a whole new phone at the same time,” said Emrich.
Short battery life
Emrich said he was most disappointed in the battery life of the device.
“With it having only a full day’s worth of battery, if you forget to charge it you aren’t going to wear it,” he noted.
Gear goes on sale in the U.S. and Japan next month. The rest of the world will get the chance to purchase it sooner, on Sept. 25, with prices starting at $299.