Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Samsung unveils the Galaxy Gear smartwatch

As promised, Samsung revealed the Galaxy Gear smartwatch on Wednesday at IFA (via Engadget). Much of the device's functionality and hardware had either been leaked or assumed, beforehand, but it is still much clearer now.

For one, the price will test gadget geeks. When it goes on sale in the U.S. in early October, it will cost $299.

For another, Samsung devices that will interact with the smartphone -- and it appears only Samsung devices will do so -- will be limited. At launch, only the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition will work with the Galaxy Gear. Samsung is working on updates for the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy S III, however, but it is unclear when those ROM updates will ship. Samsung gave the month of October as the target.

However, considering that the Galaxy Gear uses the Bluetooth Low Energy standard and Android 4.3 includes that as a feature, we could be seeing the GS4, GS III and GN 2 all updated to 4.3 in that timeframe.

As far as functionality goes, the Galaxy Gear does what you'd expect: It displays notifications transmitted from a paired smartphone, can control music playback, and yes, even functions as a wristwatch.

Samsung, though, adds a few interesting things, such as a 1.9-megapixel camera (strap mounted), a speaker built into the buckle, and two microphones. Indeed, that means you can not just fill your 4GB of internal storage with short 720p movies, you can even conduct phone calls with the Galaxy Gear.

Don't expect a speedy device, though. The Galaxy Gear ships with an 800MHz processor. It also comes with a tiny 315mAh non-removable battery, which despite its size Samsung claims should last up to a day with "regular" use. It also sports an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and 512MB of RAM.

Don't expect to run every single Android app on the Galaxy Gear. However, the number of partner programs noted by Samsung was a big surprise. There will be a total of 70 partner programs available at launch, including social apps like Evernote and Path, fitness companions like RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal, and even eBay.

As noted above, the U.S. -- and Japan, too -- will wait until early October for a release, but the Galaxy Gear will ship in other parts of the world in late September.

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