YOUR MCMURRAY TECH TALK
The Smartwatch Emerges
Growing up, I was a Dick Tracy fan. You know, the square-jawed detective sporting a yellow overcoat and fedora. He was heavily committed to breaking the organized crime that infests in the city. Sound familiar? Cue the Batman music! My older cousins would have the Dick Tracy “Bazooka Joe”-like comics and then there was the 1990 movie starring Warren Beatty, so I became fascinated with the character; especially his gadgetry that included a 2-way wrist watch radio. I dreamed of having one of these attached to my wrists and while fighting all sorts of crime in my parents’ living room; but even though the toy was a popular Christmas item, I guess Santa didn’t think I was the crime-fighting type. UNTIL NOW!
In September 2013, Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear. Labeled as one of the world’s first “Smartwatches”, the Galaxy Gear was touted as the watch with the ability to be as great as your smartphone. But with great promises comes great disappointments in the world of consumer electronics. We when finally got the first look, I was rather disappointed to find out that the Galaxy Gear “watch” is basically a dumbed-down version of the Android operating system in a small 1.63-inch hardware screen on your wrist. The Galaxy Gear basically acts as a relay between you and your mobile phone in your pocket via a Bluetooth connection. You can run device-specific apps such as weather, media controller, pedometer, calculator (yes, it’s a calculator-watch) and S-Voice which is Google’s answer to Siri. It displays text messages and it gives you notifications of emails; but even then when you attempt to open an email on the Galaxy Gear it only gives you a few lines then tells you that you must read it on your phone.
The little device is powered by an 800 MHz processor, 4GB of storage, 512MB of RAM, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a 315 mAh battery. Not bad for such a relatively tiny computer, but a whole lot less than what you’re used to in a phone. A positive, it comes with a 1.9MP camera attached to the strap and you can look really cool trying to point it and shoot; but a negative is that it takes absolutely horrible video for only 15secs at a time. Pictures also look like they’re taken from an old 2005 flip-phone, so don’t expect high-quality spy shots.
Now, the big question that I needed answered. How well can it be used to talk with? The Galaxy Gear has a couple microphones located around the LCD so you can talk into your wrist to make phone calls, look up information, or take memos. While the Gear does a pretty decent job of isolating your voice from the background (even in a noisy setting) your call recipients will hear a fair amount of static in your voice. You’re audible, just noisy. You will also look awesome, because you’ll be talking into your wrist Secret Service style or better yet, Dick Tracy style. The speaker on the Gear is a little underpowered. You may be able to talk into the device decently; trying to hear things from it is difficult.
Overall, the Galaxy Gear isn’t that bad of a device. It looks half decent attached to your wrist and it’s actually colored to match normal business attire or for a night out on the town. My problem is that it’s completely under-powered with such a small processor and only a half gig of RAM. It doesn’t overly do much besides tell you what’s happening on your phone that is only an arm’s reach away, and with a retail price of around $300 it’s pretty expensive. I think the Galaxy Gear and the “smartwatch” class definitely has potential. My opinion, give it a few more years of upgrades for it to be sleeker, smarter and way more powerful. Apple has a heavily rumored device called the “iWatch” coming out in 2014 which may stimulate the market. Dick Tracy would approve. Stay tuned…
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