On Wednesday night, Samsung quietly lifted the curtains off another set of wearable electronics, the curved-glass Gear S smartwatch and the Gear Circle headphones. Smartwatches blah blah blah… but look at the Gear Circle!
Here's what Samsung writes about it per the official announcement:
When paired with a smartphone, users can easily receive calls, listen to music, and make voice commands in style through a Bluetooth connection.
Standard headphone stuff. You can buy hundreds of headphones that have those same features right this second! Here's where the Circle gets potentially interesting, though:
It features a magnetic lock which clasps around the user's neck when not in use, as well as a vibrate function to signal incoming calls and notifications.
Samsung has, shall we say, something of a reputation for blitzkrieging the market with underwhelming products. Its phones are bloated with features of questionable benefit. Occasionally that massive scattershot approach has its positives, like when it stumbles on a feature that's actually useful, such as this. (For what it's worth, companies like Jaybird make similar and nice-looking Bluetooth earbuds.)
I was fully prepared to make fun of the Circle. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it to be a good idea worth widely imitating. Any old pair of earbuds can hang around your neck when you're not using them; you could even call it a necklace! Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would proudly wear the Gear Circle as a testament to their personal style. It's as if puka shells mated with a Transformer. You will still look like a dweeb.
But when you're chit-chatting with someone you forgot the name of at the gym? Or when you're decked out in old sweats and out for a run, and need to leave your earbuds somewhere safe? The magnetic clasps provide an elegant solution that keeps the Circle safely attached to your person. There is no need to worry about it falling out or dragging along on the sidewalk.
Think about the alternatives: Usually you'd wrap your earbuds around your phone a dozen or so times, and stuff them in your bag or pocket. Inevitably they'd emerge as something resembling a tangled chromosome. As far as I can tell, the Gear Circle solves this problem. Please build magnetic clasps into more gadgets going forward, especially earbuds.