Time-of-the-smartwatch

Here comes Samsung.

If there’s one thing we took away from the International Franchise Association’s 2013 conference, it was that the Korean manufacturer is pushing ahead hard. It’s not waiting for the market to change on them. It’s trying to be that change with the new Galaxy Gear smart watch (think Pebble).

The Gear should be the magic bullet that helps push people toward Samsung products, the solution that gives it an edge over Apple. In theory, Samsung could invent an entirely new category of electronics like they did with the Galaxy Note. The Gear could be the next way to make money after smartphones.

Too bad it won’t be.

It Does… What Again?

Let’s take a look at the list of features for the Galaxy Gear, courtesy of The Verge. The Gear sports a 1.9-megapixel camera for taking pictures, which display on its 1.63-inch 320 x 320 screen.

Alongside that are two microphones for voice input with S Voice and a speaker so S Voice can talk back to you.

The single-core 800MHz processor runs more than 70 Gear-optimized apps. Most of the heavy processing is done via a Bluetooth connection to the Galaxy Note III or the 2014 Galaxy Note 10.1.

Right from the start, the features seem off. A camera? Really? Who takes pictures with their smart watch?

The S Voice integration is a nice idea, but nobody is clamoring for the chance to talk to Samsung’s Siri-wannabe. We tested S Voice against Google Now and found the former lacking.

Samsung Only

Then there are the compatibility issues. The Galaxy Gear is only compatible with the Note III and 2014 Tab 10.1, two devices which no one owns yet. It doesn’t even work with the Galaxy S III or S4.

galaxy-geat-glamor-shot

If you want to join the smartwatch party with the Galaxy Gear, it requires buying a brand-new Samsung smartphone, plus a $300 watch that can’t even last a day (more on that in a minute).

Samsung seriously erred in opting to try to force users into their ecosystem. That’s exactly the kind of thing Apple would do.

The difference is that when Apple does it, it works so seamlessly with the company’s other products that you don’t really care. Samsung could learn from that.

Out of Power

The S III and 4 are incompatible because they run Android 4.2. 4.3 introduced support for Bluetooth low-energy mode, which the Gear uses.

galaxy-s4-4.3-update-android

Samsung claims the Galaxy Gear can run for “about a day,” but figures from the manufacturer tend to be optimistic. If this watch can’t even make it through the day, it’s not much good.

At least this gives Samsung some motivation to get the S III and 4 updated to 4.3. You know it’s bad when HTC beats you to an update.

Final Thoughts

I have serious misgivings about the Galaxy Gear. It looks like it has some issues. However, we’ll see how well everything turns out.

You never know. Maybe it’ll work (I have my doubts). What’s your take on this move by Samsung?