Samsung Should Call It the Galaxy Fear

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Samsung's Galaxy Gear, the smartwatch that has been rumored for about half as long as Apple's iWatch. The company announced it today, and the biggest thing I get from it is that it should have been called the Galaxy Fear.

Galaxy Gears

Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Specs and Features

First, the low-down. It's a smartwatch. A ginormous smartwatch. And don't get me wrong, I like big watches. It's not the surface area that I have an issue with, but rather the thickness. It's 11.1mm thick, 3.7mm thicker than the iPhone 5.

It doesn't look too thick in the product shots above, but if you look at the hands-on images and videos of this thing, it is ungainly, awkward, and grossly fat. The Verge has a nice gallery of hands-on pics.

It has 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. It features an accelerometer, a gyroscope, Bluetooth v 4.0 + BLE, two microphones (one for noise cancellation), one speaker, a 1.63 inch display (41.4mm) with an impressive resolution of 320 x 320, and that tumor on the wristband is a camera capable of taking 720p videos.

It's running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and it interfaces with the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (2014 edition), and there are software updates coming for the popular Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 smartphones to make it compatible.

You can place and take phones calls from your companion device, though (curiously) the speaker doesn't play music.

It runs apps developed specifically for it—there will be 70 of them when the device launches in October, and it will be priced at US$299. You can only put 10 of them on any given device, however.

Just Say No

That camera symbolizes the difference between Apple and Samsung. The late Steve Jobs, Sir Jonathan Ive, and current CEO Tim Cook have all spoken about the importance of saying "No," that what you say "No" to is more important than what you say "Yes" to.

This camera is ungainly—it's on the wrist. It's ugly. It looks like a tumor sticking out of the side of the thing. That was even more the case in the hands-on videos I watched. It's an example of putting a feature on a device because you can rather than because you should.

Galaxy Gear

Galaxy Gear's Camera

Being on the wrist, I imagine one could take a very stable video when holding your arm against your body, but no one is actually going to do so.

Someone should have said no to this camera.

Screwed

And those screws? Here's one of my favorite watches, Edition 12 from Jörg Schauer. It has screws, but they're awesome.

Edition 12

Edition 12 by Jörg Schauer

There are several high end watches with screws in the bezel, but the screws in the Galaxy Gear make it look unfinished, hackneyed. In the videos, I thought the screws looked even worse, but enough about the screws.

Galaxy Gear Front

Galaxy Gear Front

Yes, It's Possible to Be Reactionary When You're First to Market

The race to get a smartwatch out on the market before Apple's rumored iWatch hits (I expect it in 2014) is fascinating. That's why I think this thing should have been called the Galaxy Fear—it makes me think Samsung is desperate to beat Apple to market.

Worse, it makes me think Samsung believes that doing so, that beating Apple to market, will cause us to think it's not a reactionary device. That said, I've already seen phandroids out there claiming just that, but that's par for the course for that lot.

If anything, the Galaxy Gear is proof of the opposite, that Samsung does its best work when it has Apple to copy from. To that end, Samsung should have waited to see the iWatch before unveiling the Galaxy Gear. We all know that the first post-iWatch version of the Galaxy Gear will hew far more closely to the iWatch than this rushed-to-market device. Why highlight that fact by releasing a convenient before-and-after comparison?

Some Things I Like

I like the overall design aesthetic of the Galaxy Gear—it should have fewer features so it could be thinner, but I can see this device evolving into something much more attractive. I like the colors, too. Especially the orange.

I also like several of the watch faces. Engadget posted an image of an orange face with the orange band, and I think it looks terrific. The font is excellent, and I'm totally OK with Samsung going with a thin font when Apple is doing the same thing with iOS 7. The problem is that you don't need a Galaxy Gear to get a great watch face.

I also love the deployment clasp on the Galaxy Gear. It's not only a classy touch, it's very practical. Deployment clasps are safer, more secure, and faster to fasten than a standard strap. I haven't tested the Galaxy Gear's deployment clasp, but it looks solid. I hope that Apple does something similar.

Slow?

I haven't handled one myself, but in the hands-on video Engadget posted, it struck me that many of the gesture controls are sloooooow. That is the sort of thing that will result in hordes of Galaxy Gears heading for a dresser drawer to live out the rest of their lonely days.

The Verge commented on this, too, noting, "There's a tangible lag to anything you do with the Gear, while the swipe gestures are hard to figure out and do different things depending on where you are in the menus."

This is going to end up hurting Samsung, and I suspect it will become the butt of jokes, and some of them should be on the late night talk shows. Watching Engadget's Zach Honig struggle to activate S Voice was painful, the kind of painful that will ensure no one does it more than once or twice.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Gear won't sell well, plain and simple. It's an early-generation device released by a company desperate to be taken seriously as innovators, but it only serves to prove it takes more to innovate than packing features into a device.

Devices like Pebble are far more interesting than the Galaxy Gear, even though—or because—it does less.

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15 Comments Leave Your Own

xmattingly

Or Galaxy Fugly. Wow… this thing is just BRUTAL on the eyes. Clunky odd shape, very short battery life, AND a $300 item?? I’m not expecting these to fly off the shelves; I’ll even go as far as to say that we’ll be seeing significant price drops and stockpiled inventory in the coming months.

Still… this will be far more successful than Google Glass. smile

scottnch

Did any of you watch the plesentation? It was painful - almost pitiful - to watch. I did like the feature where you can use the spen to draw a window on the scleen and launch an app into it. Fair do’s, that was innovative. Everything else? Yawn.

Samsung really shouldn’t hold these events to release their stuff. Their stuff just isn’t that good - and they are rubbish at presenting it.

skipaq

Wow! BIG watch - FAT watch - The name is appropriate. The price is not.

aardman

Apple’s probably been working on the iWatch for about five years, waiting for the technologies needed for it to catch up with their use concept.  Then last years, Samsung gets a whiff of Apple working on some iWatch thing and mounts an all-hands-on-deck-get-this-sucker-shipped-before-Apple effort and here we are then with this ill-conceived abomination of a smart watch.

aardman

And that camera does look like a wart, or a boil ready for lancing.

Aftermac

That is one hideous watch! I do like the orange and chartreuse colors, but that’s about it. This is about what I expected when they didn’t have Apple to copy from - a feature happy POS with no product vision.

Bryan, since the iWatch is going to be an all-glass slap-bracelett, I expect that it won’t need a clasp. wink

paikinho

I guess I am not really sure what the point of a watch is whether from apple or samsung.

I quit using watches entirely about 14 years ago and I really haven’t looked back. I am not particularly anxious to bind one to my wrist again.

daemon

Meh, these smart watches just remind me of spy watches mostly. Hidden cameras for taking pics on the fly, radio for covert communication with your extraction team.  Just add a little gun to it and it’ll be just like any watch that Q ever came up with.

When I was little I would have been excited by this…. now I don’t even want anything on my wrist.  Apple will have to come out with hologram generating watch for use as a 3d interface to be interested in smart watch I suspect.

gnasher729

Here’s what someone posted elsewhere: “No digital slave bracelet for me. “. My thought upon seeing it was: “No f***ing way is anything like that ever getting on my wrist”. And the poster I mentioned got it. People will think you are a convict on parole having to wear some bracelet to keep track of them. That’s how godawful it looks.

Lee Dronick

The proof will be in the pudding of course, but I am skeptical that it will sell well. Of course it could be refined in future models, but it might be Edselized by then.

geoduck

I thunk you’re all missing what the real purpose of this watch is.

Samsung does not expect to sell many of them. Samsung does not expect them to set the standard for all smart watches to come. Samsung only has one purpose in mind for this POS: legal precedent.

If Apple releases a smart watch, Samsung is expecting to point to the Gear and say Apple stole their IP. That Apple copied them. Samsung has gotten badly bloodied in the SmartPhone wars and they assume it was because they weren’t out first. They pushed this thing out the door to plant the flag. Now if Apple releases a watch with a camera Samsung will sue. If Apple releases a watch with gesture controls Samsung will sue. If Apple releases a watch with anything that could possibly have any vague connection to this device Samsung will sue. Samsung believes that by pushing out this toaster-fridge-chainsaw device they will start winning.

It’s not a product for the market, it’s a product for the courts.

wab95

Bryan et al:

Okay. I’ll bite. I was trying to contain myself. I should probably listen to your ACM podcast first, but I can no longer restrain myself.

First, I believe in pointing out the good in things, where it can be found, and from what I have seen on Bloomberg West, the screen is nice and bright, and given its size, easily readable. That’s the good.

The bad, in my view, comes double-barrelled. Without doubt, Samsung intend, as many pundits have noted, a preemptive strike on Apple’s iWatch in order to forestall any criticism that they copied Apple. While some have labelled this a good move, I would label it well intentioned, but a failure in delivery. In order to achieve any first-mover advantage or even marginal gain in mindshare, it has to be a device that people will want to use. I question this for the following reasons.

Samsung’s rep explained this device as extending their ecosystem. That is what it should do. In order to do so, however, it must do two things: 1) It should solve a problem, address a need, or fill a niche that Samsung’s current products do not; unless the intent is cannibalisation/replacement - which is also acceptable so long as the new device does what the relegated device does only better and then some. From what I have heard and read, this device does neither. While it has some interesting features and apps, e.g. fitness, there are other devices on the market costing less, and with a smaller footprint (or wrist-print) that do this as dedicated devices. Additionally, they do not come with the burden of integration with extant devices, which this device does, but thus far, only poorly given the limited range of Samsung products with which it will integrate. Prospective buyers will have to wait for compatibility, for example, with the Galaxy S4. In short, it’s not clear what niche is being filled here or problem being solved. Indeed, one can argue from an integration point of view, it might add to, rather than subtract from, one’s problems if one uses it but cannot integrate it with a current smartphone; 2) It should enrich the user experience by expanding capability, and therefore options, of the ecosystem. To that end, the device should have independent added value, that is, one should be able to do something with this even without other devices nearby, specifically, things that those other devices either do not do, or do not do as well (e.g. one can read an e-magazine on either a laptop or an iPad, however, it is easier to do so on the iPad especially when mobile). If the Galaxy Gear does this latter, it’s not been articulated, at least not that I have been made to understand. While it can provide fitness monitoring, this is not a core capacity, in my view, of a digital data management system or a niche in need of being filled. Besides, other, cheaper devices can do this, as can a smartphone.

In sum, it fails to solve a problem, at least an obvious one, but perhaps this will, if you’ll pardon the wordplay, surface, and it fails to extend the functionality and/or capacity of the ecosystem, at least in terms of core capacity, insofar as I can see. That’s the bad.

The ugly speaks for itself with stentorian gusto. Worse, it’s the ugly that undermines Samsung’s whole strategy with getting out ahead of Apple. Specifically, will anyone want to use this device? Aesthetics count. I think this device is more properly named, ‘Frankenwatch’. Not only is it monster-sized, it’s got bolts on it. What are those for, electrical conduction to bring it to life? A camera. Seriously? This is a chimeric collection of features and functions that replicate, not complement, everything on a smartphone, but with less capability. It’s as if Samsung tried to port features that people like on their smartphone to a watch, and in so doing, have created something that is to smartwatches what the Surface is to tablets.

Mind you, no one knows, certainly I do not, what Apple will proffer in the iWatch, but I hope, indeed I dearly pray, that it not be a replica of what Samsung hath, but should not have, wrought. While I could articulate what I would like to see in the iWatch (or any smart watch), I don’t want to give Samsung or anyone else ideas, and can only hope that Apple adhere to the formula outlined above in terms of ecosystem complementarity and extension and problem solving, which has been their modus operandi to date.

For these reasons, I don’t believe that this device will provide the strategic advantages Samsung were hoping for, indeed, I suspect this move will backfire.

I yield the floor.

wab95

geoduck:

I concur with your reasoning, and had planned to make a similar point, but you’ve articulated this succinctly.

Samsung describe this as a ‘concept’ device. I’ve had such concepts as well, usually in sleep states, but I’ve called them nightmares.

While I don’t put it passed Samsung to have put this forward as a first iteration consumer device with intent, I think it’s highly conceivable that they will go after Apple for ‘copying them’ either in the courts, or failing that, the court of world opinion, while reconfiguring their next iteration device to look and function much more like Apple’s. Should Apple sue for this latter act, Samsung will likely, as they did with the smartphone, cite prior art and complain that Apple want to patent the ‘circle’ or the ‘bracelet’ just as they tried to patent the ‘rectangle with rounded corners’ (a phrase oft-repeated in the comments section at TMO).

Thus, this device can serve multiple functions; a consolidator of consumer feedback, a propaganda ploy, and a patent weapon in the courts. I believe at Samsung they will see this as an opportunity for gain with little to lose.

It’s the consumer reaction that might embarrass that calculation if it is overwhelmingly negative.

ibuck

I don’t understand how Samsung can claim to have been first, when Pebble and others have beaten them to market. Isn’t that what patents are for?

And speaking of “prior art”, in 1984 a bought a digital watch with a pulse sensor and a few other features. Fairly big and clunky, but smaller than this and under $100. Didn’t work so great and soon occupied a drawer. Déjà vu?

jameskatt

When Apple reveals its iWatch, Samsung won’t be able to sue Apple for anything because Samsung has not new patents that cover the Galaxy Gear’s design or functions.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear also looks a lot like the square iPod Nano watch from 2-3 years ago.  In fact, I bet this was the Apple product that Samsung was trying to copy.  They both even have screens which turn off, and batteries that have to be charged every day.  The biggest difference between the iPod Nano and the Galaxy Gear is that the iPod Nano actually has the storage capacity to play music!

The Galaxy Gear is fugly.  This is what happens when Samsung has no new Apple product to copy.

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