Wearable devices have made frequent appearances in sci-fi movies for many years. If you are old enough (which sadly I am not), you may remember David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, often yelling at KITT, his artificially intelligent and nearly indestructible car, to get him out of tight spots.
And it happened in practically every episode.
But this is 21st century and wearable devices have been around for several years now. With big names like Samsung entering the market, it is projected to grow rapidly in the years to come.
None can call forth a 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am sports model yet, however.
KITT stands for Knight Industries Three Thousand
The hottest name in the game right now is Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and it has even made an appearance in Demi Lovato’s “Neon Lights” (albeit only for 3 seconds) in a desperate attempt to jump on the bandwagon and catch some hype.
Galaxy Gear has a 1.6-inch AMOLED screen, third-party support and a camera to boot. So on paper, it seems all right until you see the price tag and realize the MSRP is $300 and there are just so many better items on your Black Friday bucket list.
But let’s put that MSRP aside and look at the Gear as is. The Gear is not all that bad in terms of design. It is sleek and the stainless steel construction makes you look just cool enough to not get beat-up for being a geek. The only problem with the exterior is the camera’s location. It is facing forward on the rubberized wristband, creating an ugly wart on one of the most visible parts of the watch.
Now that you read it described as a wart, you can’t see it as anything else.
It also has a high pixel density screen (227 ppi) and a screen with outdoor brightness mode which allows you to easily see the screen regardless of how bright it is outside. Its 315mAh battery allows you to last almost two days on a single charge and the camera actually takes good pictures and 720p videos (in 15 sec segments because of limited storage space).
But that’s about where the positives end because there are just physical limitations of a wristwatch that not even Samsung could avoid. Most of the apps need companion app installed on the phone in order to work and the notification or alarms from the apps you get on your Gear merely alerts you to check your phone for it and doesn’t offer the option of viewing the information on the Gear. There are also only about 45 apps available and the number isn’t projected to increase by much anytime soon because only a limited number of developers have access to the Gear Store; and Gear apps use separate APK, which means developers can’t just tweak a few lines to ensure compatibility - they would have to almost rebuild a new app.
Your primary way of navigating through the Gear is swiping and it could be pretty tiring to swipe through the tiny screen to look for an app buried deep within the app folder. And the only way to input information is via S Voice (because obviously there is no keyboard) and that is nowhere near perfection. It isn’t truly hands-free because it requires your other hand to press a button to turn it on which can put users in a dangerous situation when they are driving.
But above all things, the Gear’s fatal flaw is its incompatibility with most of Samsung’s smartphone series. The Gear is currently only compatible with the Galaxy Note 3 and the Note 10.1. So let’s face it, unless the Gear matches its specs with that of Michael Knight’s wristwatch, you are not going to turn in your current phone to buy a Note 3. Plain and simple.
None of this is really Samsung’s fault. Maybe it is my fault for expecting too much from a first-generation smartwatch. I realize that hologram technology for 3-D phone calls maybe light-years ahead of us. But there just isn’t any demand for a glorified watch. It doesn’t enhance our user experience of using a smartphone. Making phone calls on a wristwatch isn’t any more convenient than using a phone. Reading texts and e-mails require scrolling after every sentence (due to the small screen resolution) making it actually inconvenient to use the Gear. There aren’t apps that are better suited to run on the Gear as opposed to on your phone the way there are apps that are designed specifically for the tablet. So until the day a smartwatch can auto-drive my car to come pick me up and take me home when I’m drunk out of my mind, count me out.