First impressions of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch

This week,  Samsung launched its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, marking the first big consumer electronics company outside of Sony (and no, I don’t consider Motorola a big consumer electronics company) to launch a new-generation smartwatch.

The interest from the press and blogosphere was high and deservedly so. Samsung is perhaps the biggest mobile device company in the world at this point, and any time an entirely new product category comes out from such a big fish means that the pond suddenly is getting a lot more crowded for existing fish like Pebble, Metawatch and others.

So with all the speculation aside now and actual hardware to look at and pick over, how did they do?

I’d give them a B+. The overall look and feel of the watch is better than I anticipated, and while the device is very much a first-generation device and one that many horology fanatics will probably turn their nose up at, I think it will appeal to most young tech-centric males and maybe a few females.

And while I haven’t had a chance to actually play with one, from what I’ve seen of the software and UI, it’s not a bad first pass. Granted, while  I tend to think Android is a heavy OS for a watch and clearly not optimized for such a small form factor, Samsung looks have done a fairly good job of creating their own customized software on top, as well as tying in some specific Samsung services such as its S-voice.

The big surprise was the camera on the wristband, and while some have mocked the low resolution (1.9 megapixel), I think it’s sufficient for a first-run and the use of the wrist-band is fairly innovative (if limiting from a fashion flexibility perspective).

The biggest downside to the whole effort, in my opinion, is the limitation (at least initially) of compatibility to Samsung devices. I think it was by necessity given the difficulty of pairing watches with Android devices and the amount of customized software that Samsung put on this watch, but it’s going to limit the initial sales of the device at the outset (that said, Samsung does have a huge installed base of phones, so they’ll likely still sell quite a few watches).

I’ll have more thoughts on the Gear in the near future, but overall, like I said, Samsung gets a B+ for their first effort.

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