Review: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Galaxy Gear DSC_0007

I am one of the older folks on the Phoblographer. Unlike my associates here on the site, and thanks to where I chose to be educated, I got to see lots of technology released. I have seen things as they have changed. It has been an interesting mix of successes and failures. This is where the Samsung Galaxy Gear enters. I am not sure if it will be a success or failure. However, through a unique set of circumstances, I am wearing one. My inner child is extremely entertained with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but is my inner geeky photographer?

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A decent camera
  • Can talk while taking pictures
  • Timer can be used for long exposures
  • Can control you phone in awkward or dangerous situations.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Camera remote app (Samsung makes decent cameras)
  • Needs a cradle to charge.
  • Can’t talk in a noisy environment.
  • Not waterproof.

Gear Used

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I paired my Galaxy Gear with my Galaxy S4. I used the watch in conjunction with my S4 as I was shooting. It’s how you control the watch. One needs a Samsung Device for the Gear to work properly. There is a hardware profile installed that gives instructions on how the phone should handle data from the watch.

Tech Specs

Taken from Samsung’s listing

Form Factor

  • Metal Front, Color Body

Color

  • Jet Black

OS

  • Customized Android™

Size

  • 2.60 oz
  • 1.45″ (w) x 2.23″ (H) x 0.44″ (D)

Compatible Devices

Camera

  • 1.9MP Auto Focus

Battery*

  • 315 mAh Lithium Ion

Memory

  • 4GB + 512MB (RAM)

CPU

  • 800MHz

Display

  • 1.63″
  • Super AMOLED®
  • 1.63″ Super AMOLED®, 320 x 320 Resolution

Video

  • HD 720p Recording

Ergonomics

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The screen (first image in this post) is nice. It gives just enough info and can be changed as needed. The image on the screen is clear. Remember, itt’s a watch not a TV.

There is one button to hit. It can be programmed to do what you want, but works best as a home button.

Gear DSC_0013

The cradle has to be matched up here to charge the watch and pair it with a device. Samsung also took the opportunity to give the device some extra branding.

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The cradle can be worn with the watch if you have a really small wrist. Most functions won’t work unless the watch is out of the cradle.

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The speaker and microphone are on the bottom of the strap. It’s surprisingly clear in quiet environments. However, it can often take a beating.

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The camera is on the front of the strap. It works well there in real life use. However, it will take getting used to as you’re basically pointing your wrist at something to take its picture.

Build Quality

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This watch is well built for the most part. Throughout the review period and even now I worry about scratching the screen. It’s so far proven itself to be durable. Between fixing computers, going in and out of my camera bag, and loads of other daily tasks it takes a small beating. I’m not trying to destroy this watch. Everything from the strap to the screen seems made with a little abuse in mind.

Ease of Use

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I got the watch before the hardware profile came out for my Galaxy S4, so it had limited functionality. When my phone was updated the watch worked like a charm. I got alerts for email, could receive texts on the watch and more without having to stop shooting. I could look at my wrist, read the text and if the message was not important, continue shooting. The best part is taking a call while you’re shooting. Talking and getting the shot. Granted you could do that with a bluetooth headset or wired earphones but that’s just not as cool.

If you are a photojournalist, an interesting thing about this watch is that it can record audio. So if you are interviewing someone you can record with the watch which instantly transfers to your phone when done.

Image Quality

Straight off the watch

Straight off the watch

The Camera is much better than I expected it to be. It has two focus modes–Auto and macro. I kept the Galaxy Gear on Auto. The camera focuses quickly. You have a two photo sizes to choose from 1×1 ( 1392×1392) pixels or 4:3 (1280 x 960) simple sizes which were easy to work with. The Galaxy Gear’s camera is great for having to get a GPS mark on a location when paired with the phone or quick reference shots when needed. The watch can show the weather, which is nice for landscape photographers out in the field.

It’s up to the person using the watch in the end.

20131121_081245.mp4 from G Servo on Vimeo.

The video is okay in short bursts and that’s how the watch delivers it: 15 second clips. The funny thing is that with some imagination, a good videographer could make it work. The camera on this watch is not meant to make a movie, though. It’s meant to capture short little segments in life.

A few more image samples are below.

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Straight off Watch

If you are at a location and you want to capture coordinates, the camera works nicely.

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Straight off watch

Coffee: you know I had to do this: it’s just how I roll.

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The watch is fun at parties. You can get quick shots while still having fun and being low profile.

Conclusions

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Regular 4:3 Setting Straight off Watch

When I was a kid I wanted a smart watch because they were cool. Now they actually exist, and they are still cool. I am not sure how practical they are for most people. For me it is as I found uses for it. It is still the early days for this technology. This is definitely not a replacement for any camera. It is for quick snapshots and that’s about it. There are alternatives out there, but I am happy with the Galaxy Gear at the moment.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.