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Samsung's Galaxy Gear is slick or a stinker, depending on whom you believe



Possibly in an attempt to preempt any watch Apple might introduce at its event this Tuesday, Samsung rolled out its Galaxy Gear smartwatch yesterday. Maybe it comes as no surprise that bloggers' reactions spanned from pan to praise.

The features: The Gear, pictured, has a 1.6-inch touchscreen with 320x320 resolution, a 1.9 megapixel camera that handles stills and high-definition video, and battery life of up to 25 hours. The watch itself is 37mm by 57mm and 11mm thick. At launch, it works only with Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 phone. It includes a speakerphone. Other features, some apparently supported by apps, include downloadable watch faces, a built-in pedometer, a calorie tracker, support for playing music, audiobooks and podcasts, custom wallpaper, voice memo recording, photo viewing, and a stopwatch. Also: It tells time.

The reviews: First, the cons. At $299, the Gear is priced higher than most other entries in the (admittedly nascent) smartwatch market, a point not missed by many writing reviews. The watch's touchscreen apparently displayed a laggy response during demonstrations, and certain functions will stop working if you get too far from your phone. It will show details of emails you receive using Samsung's email client on the Note 3 handset, but for Gmail, Twitter and Facebook accounts it will only say that a message has been received. Having to plug your watch in to charge it every day doesn't sound like a treat.

"We like what we saw," Consumer Reports reviewer Mike Gikas wrote in a brief review, but "the Galaxy Gear had several shortcomings," pointing out that the display stayed only briefly with each press of the power button. Still, Gikas called it "one of the most useful devices to adorn the wrist since the wristwatch."

Writing for The Verge, Vlad Savov found the Gear too dependent on the Note 3. "I find it hard to justify spending the $299 asking price," he wrote.

Gizmodo reviewer Leslie Horn didn't experience the screen lag that some reported, but said wearing the device felt awkward. "$300 is a lot for a souped up fitness tracker, and as far as the basic smartphone functions Galaxy Gear is capable of, those feel a little strange and counterintuitive."

Horn did mention that "the camera is actually situated quite perfectly for creepshots. Seriously, I took three photos of a guy across the table and he had no idea. As far as he knows, I was just checking out my pedometer." Count that as either a pro or a con, I guess, or maybe as just more of an observation.

Writing for Engadget, Zach Honig called the Gear's design "industrial … instead of a more elegant finish," although he admitted "it's a bit svelter than leaked reports would suggest."

Sam Grobart waxed philosophical for Businessweek: "The Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones were launched with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink assortment of features and capabilities. The Gear is another chapter in the Do Everything, Show Everything book that Samsung is writing. With the Gear's significant limitations and lacking a clear reason for existing, it remains to be seen if customers want to read that book."

The Gear is really a Samsung-specific device, and the odds are slim it will ever be made to work even with other Android phones, much less iPhones, but Apple bloggers took note of the Gear as well. Reviews were posted by MacRumors, MacDailyNews, AppleInsider, MacUser and The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

The Galaxy Gear and Note 3 are scheduled to be launched Sept. 25.

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