Smartwatches. Some of us love them, some detest the idea of wearing anything but a thoroughbred timepiece on their wrist. And the others hate wearing anything on their wrist … period.
That said, there is no denying the market and anticipation for the new PAN devices is on an upswing. It started years ago with Bluetooth watches that, otherwise, looked normal. And Allerta created the inPulse smartwatch, the older sibling that eventually led to the creation of one of the most popular smartwatch offerings today: Pebble.
A few of us here at Pocketnow (Joe, Michael, and I) wear Pebbles, and if you ask any of us, the sort of device that keeps your phone in your pocket more often and allows you to casually glance at your wrist each time something important on your phone happens offers a unique value proposition.
In other words, smartwatches have a place in this world, and many of us are excited to see where the future of such devices will take us.
The best part? That future is nigh. Apple and Samsung both are believed to be unveiling smart wristwatches next month. And if we had to pick the most compelling contender, we would most certainly have to go with Samsung’s rumored Galaxy Gear.
According to a hodgepodge of different sources, Galaxy Gear will sport a 1.67-inch 320 by 320 pixel AMOLED display (roughly 283ppi), 1.5GHz dual-core Exynos chip fixed with a Mali-400 MP4 GPU, 1GB RAM, 2-megapixel camera, and speakers fixed in the clasp. It will allegedly also come with some standard connectivity and sensors built-in: NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, accelerometer, etc.
Various colors have also been rumored. It will initially come in white, black, orange, or gray, and it will later be offered in a white gold tone.
As indicated by a patent filing, Galaxy Gear will flex around the wearer’s wrist with a back and menu button fixed below the display, a power button along the bottom edge of the face of the watch, as well as speakers, microphones, and a micro USB port.
The question is: what benefit would Samsung get from making a smartwatch, aside from the obvious fact that it would be yet another device in is ever-expansive lineup?
Samsung needs to continue to stay competitive, and with other companies jumping on the bandwagon, Samsung is simply covering its bases. But there’s more to Galaxy Gear than it simply being a smartwatch. Samsung appears to be banking on Galaxy Gear to become a massive selling point for its Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets.
If Galaxy Gear isn’t the most compelling device of its type, I don’t know what is. Although its functionality and practicality falls short of your standard smartphone, this device has a full color display and will likely extend the function of your phone. Pebble, on the other hand, functions primarily as a basic watch with the occasional buzzing to alert you of incoming notifications. There are a handful of useful apps, but nothing mind-blowing – timers, stopwatches, Runkeeper integration, etc.
Galaxy Gear could potentially upend the current smartwatch industry by bringing a lot more functionality and value proposition to a device you wear on your wrist – it will basically work as a controller for your smartphone in more ways than simply skipping forward or backward in your music playlist.
Integration, for instance. When checking notifications on your wrist, GigaOM reports your smartphone will open to the last notification you checked on Galaxy Gear – something I could only hope for with Pebble. In other words, it makes my Pebble look like something from the stone ages with its black and white e-paper display, simple controls, and limited functionality.
But there’s one major caveat for the consumer, something that may benefit Samsung in the long run: ecosystem.
Normally, we’d say anything that adds to the ecosystem on Android is a good thing, unless it has anything to do with forked, manufacturer-specific ecosystems. And that’s exactly what Galaxy Gear will be, if we’re to believe rumors. GigaOM also reports that Galaxy Gear will not pull apps from Google Play. Instead, its apps will be served through the Samsung Apps Store. And, unfortunately, it will require a Samsung device running TouchWiz (sorry Google Play edition Galaxy S 4 owners).
And that’s one of the main reasons I, personally, have not batted an eye at Galaxy Gear. The idea of a wearable device that doesn’t work with multiple operating systems or even the various Android devices I own is a major turn off.
Beyond that, it’s an indication of something much larger, however. It’s foretelling of what Samsung’s endgame is. Samsung wants its own ecosystem, and it’s willing to build hardware to further invest users in its own catalog of apps and digital content. In other words, Samsung is looking to cut Google out in any way it can, which is unfortunate. Becoming invested in a single ecosystem is one thing. To be invested in an ecosystem within an ecosystem is something much worse, something many consumers won’t think twice about until it’s too late – until they’ve purchased apps, music, and videos from Samsung and the only way to continue using your DRM content is to follow Samsung blindly.
So does Galaxy Gear sound like something we will be buying, come late September or early October?
Honestly, ecosystem and proprietaries aside and assuming the price is right, yes. It sounds awesome. It looks awesome. It probably will be awesome. But this isn’t a vacuum, and not everyone wants to use a Samsung device. And, unfortunately, that means many of us will likely pass on the device.
What say you, folks? Will you be picking up Galaxy Gear to go with your existing Samsung device? Will you switch to a Galaxy phone or tablet, just for Galaxy Gear? Or will you pass instead?