Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smartwatch may have had a longer life as a rumor than it will as a shipping product. Samsung jumped the gun to beat Apple to market with a serious contender in the smartwatch game, and the company made several compromised and a fatal flaw: the Galaxy Gear is a US$300 accessory.
Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch is a setup for failure
The Galaxy Gear is a smartwatch running Google's Android 4.3 operating system. That's a capable OS, and it's set on top of a device with a 320 x 320 1.63-inch touch display, 4GB of storage and 512MB RAM, built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, a built-in speaker and microphone, a 1.9 megapixel camera, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Packing all of that into something on your wrist takes space, and it shows. As The Mac Observer's own Bryan Chaffin noted, "it is ungainly, awkward, and grossly fat." Measuring in at more than a centimeter thick, the Galaxy Gear looks like a brick on all but the biggest of wrists.
For some people that won't matter, but it's size and shape will be a big turn off for plenty -- especially people with smaller wrists and hands. Despite the fact that the Galaxy Gear is available in several colors, it's market will primarily be men who would probably be just as happy if their only color choice was black.
Samsung says the watch sports a 25-hour battery life. That means you can't travel far from power outlets if you plan on using one all the time. If it's also your wakeup alarm, you better not forget to charge it every day, which sometimes isn't as easy as it sounds when you're on the road.
Performance is an issue, too. Based on the demonstrations so far, the display isn't nearly as responsive to taps and swipes as it should be. Sluggish performance in touch-based devices is a cardinal sin. When the display lags behind your gestures, you're pulled out of the experience and that leads to frustration. People stop using touch devices that frustrate them, and that's exactly what's going to happen with the Galaxy Gear.
What Samsung has done is rush to market with a product that doesn't feel complete, is bulky and clunky, has poor battery life, and sluggish performance. As if that isn't enough to doom the Galaxy Gear to failure, Samsung also designed it as an accessory to the Galaxy Note 3 and the 2014 version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (2014 edition).
By designing a product that's tethered to specific Galaxy smartphone and tablet models, Samsung has exponentially reduced its potential smartwatch customer base. That's a mistake I don't see Apple making.
I've held that Apple won't release a smartwatch if it requires other devices for basic functionality. Apple's device will be a stand-alone device that gains enhanced functionality when used along with other Apple products. Think Apple TV: It works great all on its own, but is even more useful when you have a Mac or an iPad as well.
By making Apple TV -- and for that matter, the iPhone and iPad -- fully functional stand-alone products, Apple opened itself to a much broader market. That's exactly what it will do with wearable tech, and especially its rumored smartwatch.
Maybe this should've been Samsung's smartwatch
I have a personal blog where I joked about some guy I saw wearing his Samsung smartphone on his wrist. Yes, it was big and clunky, and it looked ridiculous. The irony is that while wearing your smartphone on your wrist is cumbersome, at least he had the full functionality of his phone without spending an extra $300 on a spare screen.
Maybe Samsung should've made designer wristbands for its smartphones instead. The profit margins probably would've been higher and they're a much more affordable accessory. Instead, they went with a rushed to market smartwatch that ultimately will be a black eye for the company.