How the Samsung Galaxy Gear defined wearable tech in 2013

Forget Google Glass and the elusive Apple iWatch -- Samsung was the one to keep an eye on when it came to wearable tech in 2013.

Forget Google Glass and the elusive Apple iWatch  -- Samsung was the one to keep an eye on when it came to wearable tech in 2013.

The Korean giant turned up a cuff in early autumn to reveal the Galaxy Gear, which it no doubt hoped we'd believe was a bone-fide smart watch. Except it wasn't. It was more like a second screen combined with a cut-down remote control for the chunky Galaxy Note 3 .

That was its first problem.

Without the Note, which more or less tripled the Gear's £299 asking price if you bought the two together and bypassed the offer of a contract, it was just... a watch. Even when the two were paired the experience was less then impressive. It let you make and answer calls, and read your texts, but it couldn't initially handle emails or social network notifications. Fortunately a software update has largely sorted this out.

It received a predictably muted reception. Our own Andrew Hoyle gave it 2.5 stars in his review , and users rated it even lower, at 1.5 stars, which was hardly worth calling home about -- even from your wrist.

But it wasn't all bad. The 1.6-inch display had a resolution of 320 pixels both up and across, so it looked great, and a series of updates over the last couple of months means that it's now compatible with a handful of other Samsung mobiles including, crucially, the Galaxy S3 and S4 .

It had some decent hardware under the hood too, so was nippy in general use and supported a limited range of third-party apps at launch, including Evernote. The 1.9-megapixel camera built into the strap was "surprisingly good" too, but the voice control system was "frustrating, unreliable", and we concluded that overall it was "just not ready" for the big time.

With the benefit of hindsight, it could well be that Samsung rushed out what was, in effect, a proof of concept to beat its long-time rival Apple. The iPhone maker was -- and still is -- hotly tipped to be doing something similar after an admission from CEO Tim Cook that " wearables is really interesting and could be a profound area for technology ."

It's a shame then, that if this was its inspiration, it evidently didn't need to come to market so soon after all, with even one of Samsung's own execs acknowledging that " our Gear lacks something special ."

In that respect, we'd hope to see a second edition rolled out some time in 2014 that plugs the gaps in its initial feature line-up, improves the voice control system and inspires a wider range of third-party coders to push out minified apps for its Android-based OS.

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It remains to be seen whether Sony also updates its own SmartWatch 2 , which earned itself a one-star rating and has "a whole mess of its own problems that make it a way more annoying device to live with" than its Samsung rival. Or whether Microsoft ships the rumoured Surface smart watch , and swerves the whole idea of wrist-worn tech altogether and plumps instead for the mooted iRing , paired to the next revision of Apple TV.

 

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