Samsung’s smartwatch has been long talked about, but it’s now a real thing–Samsung’s launched the Gear at its Unpacked event in the IFA show in Berlin. In six “flavors” of color, the watch is designed like many of its peers to be a companion device to larger smartphones.
The Gear has an 800 MHz processor, a 1.63-inch OLED touchscreen display, plus also a 1.9 megapixel camera that can shoot 720 HD. The device is being launched with some pre-created apps like the Evernote watch app that lets you easily snap photos of something you need to remember, and it’ll send them to the bigger app. The Glympse location sharing app is also integrated alongside the popular Line messaging service.
In terms of hardware synergy with Galaxy smartphones, the device can be used as a hands-free system–when the phone rings, you just raise your Gear to your ear and the speakers and mic connect to the phone. Similarly the Gear has S-voice, Samsung’s proprietary voice control system, so you can command your phone from your wrist. There’s also proximity awareness so the Gear can be commanded to help you find your phone, and also to auto-unlock it.
Samsung also tapped the vogue for wearable tech, and may be trying to rival Google’s Glass headset with some of the Gear’s systems. The most obvious of these is the outward facing camera on the Gear’s wrist strap, which connects to a feature called Memographer, a quick-access feature that allows super-swift capture of images or short videos and instant-sharing. Voice Memo is intended to make quick voice note recording much more popular. And the device has in-built sensors so it can be used as a pedometer for the whole “quantified life” trend–RunKeeper is one of the launch partner apps for this purpose.
In its press release for the device the company notes that it “also serves as a wristwatch” and has personalizable watch faces. Samsung also plays up the style quality of the watch, noting it is luxurious but “understated enough to go well with any outfit.” It also integrates “with the user’s personal environment, maintaining comfort at all times.”
The device has been described in context as pairing with the Galaxy Note 3, but also with other Galaxy smartphones (although CNet reports that this really just means the Note 3, for now at least). While it carries Samsung’s name and brand heft, the Gear is entering a market that Sony is also playing in, that the popular Kickstarted Pebble watch is doing very well in, and that Apple has its eyes on. So the Gear is novel, fascinating, confusing, and will probably sell moderately well to a certain audience with Galaxy devices. But is it innovative?