Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

Sitting on the desk in front of me is a Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch. In the five days I’ve had it, the smartwatch spent, perhaps, two hours on my wrist.

There’s nothing wrong with the device, I just don’t find wearing it makes my life any better. And that is the problem with smartwatches: they just aren’t useful enough. I prefer my old-school analogue-face dumb watch.

Don’t take my word for it. At the Guardian Charles Arthur reports Wearables: one-third of consumers abandoning devices. I’m not surprised.

This is a review smartwatch, it goes back to Samsung soon. If I had bought it from a shop I’d be wondering if I could get my money back.

Arthur writes:

That observation is strengthened by research from Endeavour Partners in the US, which found that one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months.

Before looking at what is wrong with these devices in general, let’s look at what Samsung got right with the Gear 2.

  • It looks better than any other smartwatch including other Samsung models and Sony’s ugly effort. That’s important, only the geekiest geek from geekville would be comfortable being seen in public with most smartwatches.
  • The display is a nice-looking 320 x 320 Super-Amoled touch screen. It measures around 40mm diagonally or 1.63 inches.
  • Samsung  boosted the processor from the earlier Gear watch. The Gear 2’s dual core power plant runs at 1GHz. In itself this is meaningless, what’s important is the watch functions smoothly. You never feel you’re waiting for the processor.
  • There’s 512MB of Ram and 4GB of storage.
  • Samsung claims the battery will run for two to three days, longer with low use.
  • A 2 megapixel camera with autofocus.
  • The Gear 2 has IP67 certification which means it is dust and water-resistant.
  • Samsung has swapped the software from a low-end version of Android to its own Tizen operating system.

As smartwatches go, the Galaxy Gear 2 is the gold standard. In New Zealand the Galaxy Gear 2 sell for the thick end of $300. I’ve seen it on sale at $290.

It only works with Samsung phones. That’s a strategy which suggests the company thinks it is a draw card, dragging customers into the Samsung world. I’d suggest limiting its market in this way means it can’t succeed.

At the Guardian Arthur says smartwatches have failed to ignite because the technology isn’t ready yet. He also says we’ve yet to see a killer app.

For me there’s a bigger problem. All the experience in recent years has shown there is an optimum size for a smartphone screen – that size is between 4.7 and five-inches. Smaller displays like the four-inch iPhone screen are useful, but bigger screens do a better job. In my book the 40mm screen on the Galaxy Gear 2 simply isn’t big enough to do much more than just deliver a few basics.

4 thoughts on “Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Another problem with a wrist device is that delivering a useful quantity of information is likely to require words in very small type, which is not good news for people who struggle with printed phone directories. Which is most people from their 40s onwards.

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    • Exactly, the display on the Gear 2 is roughly the same size as the display on a 1990s mobile phone – albeit with higher resolution. There are good reasons why phones evolved away from that format.

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  2. Since I have a long passcode on my phone, a smartwatch is a great way to quickly view text messages or emails to decide if it’s important to pull the phone out and reply (my work demands a reasonable response time in certain circumstances). It’s also a great way to see who is emailing/texting/calling in a place where it isn’t necessarily convenient to pull out your phone – in a crowded place, etc. where “grab and run” thefts are more likely to happen. I’ve also used the camera a lot more than I thought I ever would, for things as simple as recording which parking area I’m at in the airport while running to catch the bus to the terminal or grabbing quick snaps of fast moving or fleeting subjects that simply would not be there if I took the time to grab my phone, turn it on, enter the passcode, navigate to the camera app, wait for focus, and press the shutter. Also, sometimes I don’t hear or feel the smartphone vibrate in my pocket, so I miss calls and messages. With a smartwatch I always know if someone is calling.

    Is it necessary? No. Is it helpful? To me, without question, yes.

    The smartwatch display is fine as a small display. It’s not meant for reading. It’s meant for instant access to a tiny bit of information at a time. Whether that’s the sender and subject of an email, a notice that my flight is delayed or the gate has changed, or looking at and checking off a shopping list in the store without walking around staring at my phone. I’ve almost never dropped a cellphone in the ~20 years I’ve been carrying them, but any time I can access information without taking the phone out of my pocket, I’m pleased.

    Yes, I’m a smartwatch proponent. I was a huge fan of the original Sony MBW series, which paired a traditional analog face with an unobtrusive 2-line display that would show just a tiny bit of info – caller ID, a few words of a text message or email, etc. and for all the same reasons as the Gear line, it was perfect though I will admit I really liked the “hybrid” approach because analog watches are more elegant and the separate battery meant that the analog dials would work for ~2 weeks even if the smartwatch piece ran out of power.

    Of course you’re not going to read an entire email on your watch; there’s a reason I prefer reading and answering messages on my computer over my cell phone – easier keyboard, larger display – but I find a smartwatch incredibly convenient in day to day life.

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  3. Thanks Greg

    I think the key here is ” It’s not meant for reading.” I suspect there’s a market for smart watches, but perhaps not a large market.

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