“Despite the fact that the new Gear smartwatch tries to address all the flaws of its predecessor, the price and inability to work with non-Samsung devices makes it not-so compelling”
In the world of smartwatches, the Samsung’s Galaxy Gear was a noble effort by the company in offering a device that is feature-rich as well as offers a great deal of functionality. Taking it further, Samsung has launched the Gear 2, fixing out the kinks and issues to a great deal, along with a much improved design as well. However, the question arises that will Samsung be able to entice the buyers with the Gear 2 or not.
The original Galaxy Gear had very little or no customisation options owing to its design, but this time Samsung went ahead and made the Gear 2 extremely customisable, so that users can personalise it as per need and taste. For achieving this, the designers have fixed up all the loose ends. In the original device, the camera and speaker were placed on the wristband, but now, everything from the camera, microphone, speaker and the antennas have been integrated inside the watch itself. The benefit of this new design is that users can purchase replacement straps and change them on their watch when they feel like. To aid this, the Gear 2 also features an easy lock release mechanism for the wristband, which anyone can use in order to change the band and no specialised help is required.
The front of the Gear 2 has been covered with scratch-resistant glass, and uses metal and plastic for the construction, which leads to an overall weight close to 64 grams. While the weight for the Galaxy Gear 2 might be tipping the scales towards the heavy side, in reality it hardly causes any sort of discomfort while wearing the device. The broad straps surely help distribute the weight well.
In terms of overall construction, the Gear 2 feels sturdy and to add to it, the device also comes with IP67 certification making it impervious to water- and dust-related damage.
The quality of the materials used for the construction of wristband is top notch, and the locking mechanism does a good job and will definitely prevent the device from accidentally coming off. Even if the device does manage to come off, the lock has an internal linkage between the two ends that should prevent the Gear 2 from falling off your wrist.
In case you're wondering about the device and are amazed by the fact that it costs much more than an average Android smartphone, it'd be apt to understand what all it offers in terms of functionality. So a smartwatch essentially is a multi-utility gadget that, apart from indicating time, pulls info from the paired smartphone on the move, including notifications. The Gear 2 is no different to this notion, and in fact, takes the whole concept a little further.
In terms of notifications, the Gear 2 mirrors all notifications, be it email or text messages right on the user’s wrist. In addition to this, users can also download and install apps from the Galaxy Gear store and get notifications from additional ones such as Evernote and RSS feeds. Additionally, the Gear 2 also allows users to access the email or SMS related to the notification right from the watch itself, but if the user wants to view the same on the paired phone, the smartwatch also gives the option to open that particular page, email or SMS on the smartphone, right from the watch.
Other than notifications, the Gear 2 also works as a full-fledged communications device and extends its utility as a hands free kit. You can accept incoming calls and have conversations right from the watch. Extending this function further, users can also call their contacts or by simply punch in numbers to be dialled on the watch, with its dialer application.
If that’s not enough, the Gear 2 also doubles up as a multimedia device with an audio player, video recorder and a still camera as well, giving the user utmost flexibility to capture what's happening in a jiffy.
All this functionality is enabled via the Gear Manager app that is available only through the Samsung app store and for a limited number of devices. This app also allows users to personalise their smartwatch in terms of watch faces, apps, wallpapers, themes and so on. Everything can easily be accessed through the smartphone and can be uploaded to the watch.
When it comes to hardware, the Gear 2 can definitely be regarded as the Ferrari among other smartwatches. It comes powered by a dual-core processor running at a 1GHz. Calling it overkill would be an understatement as at the end of the day it is just a watch. However, all this muscle is not just there to make it look good on paper, but also to power all the other features and functionalities that the designers have added to the Gear 2.
The Gear 2 flaunts a 1.63inch Super AMOLED display enabled with capacitive multi-touch input system for easy access to functions via swipe gestures. Powering it up is a dual-core processor running at 1GHz, coupled with a good 512MB of RAM. In addition, the Gear 2 also gets a 4GB of non-expandable internal storage. This storage allows the Gear 2 to save videos, images, logs and even messages and emails. The Gear 2 also allows users to save their favourite tunes and play them back via a stereo Bluetooth headset.
Connectivity on the Gear 2 is provided mainly through Bluetooth and that too with a limited number of Samsung devices. The device gets an accelerometer onboard, which allows it to wake up the device when it detect a motion. The watch wakes up when the user raises his or her arm to view the time, and users don't need to fiddle around with buttons. Just a flick of the wrist brings up the display.
Additionally, similar to the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Gear 2 also features a dedicated heart rate monitor, which not only tracks the heart condition on demand but also combines it with some key fitness apps and can be used to monitor the heart rate as and when the wearer wants.
The Galaxy Gear 2 is a step away from the Google Android OS based smart watch and this time Samsung has resorted to its very own Tizen operating system to power this up. The benefit of this move can be seen clearly in a more responsive and better user interface on which additional apps can also be installed.
The Gear 2 allows access through touch or tap action and swipe actions, although it is a bit difficult getting used to the smallish display but once you get the hang of it, it’s good fun. The device comes preloaded with a number of apps including a dialer, contacts browser, media player, personal activity manager and the very interesting WatchOn universal remote control app.
All but the media player, activity manager and the universal remote app require only initiation data connect from the paired smartphone and once the apps have been set up, users can use them standalone as well.
As one of its best and the most interesting functionalities, the Gear 2 can be used as a hands-free device as well – users can receive and even make calls right from the watch while it is connected to a smartphone. In addition, this functionality is not just limited to dialling the last received/dialled call but also allows users to fetch the complete phonebook and call logs from the smartphone, and make calls to the saved contacts. It also has a full-fledged dialler app integrated. Even though it is a bit of a fight to dial the numbers because of the smaller size of the display, there is certainly no lag in the functionality.
The fitness manager app allows users to track their daily physical activity and monitor their health along with it. While the Gear 2 monitors your steps and level of physical activity using the accelerometer and gyroscope, the heart rate sensor keeps a tab of the stress the exercise is putting on the body. Thereby, it returns a better estimate of the amount of calories burnt by the users and physical activity done.
The Gear 2 comes with a dedicated infrared blaster, which allows it to control multimedia devices such as televisions and set-top boxes. All this smartness is fed to the watch via the Gear Manager app, which draws the required remote control profiles matching a particular model and uploads it to the Gear 2. Once uploaded, users can easily control both a television and an STB with the watch, however once it is set up with one TV it cannot be used to control other TV’s.
Other than being powered with similar hardware as a budget Android smartphone, the Gear 2 also comes with a very capable 2-megapixel camera as well. With this camera the Galaxy Gear 2 can capture stills and 640 x 640 pixel resolution based videos as well. However, the videos are limited to only 15 seconds, post which the device automatically stops the recording.
Overall, the quality of the images and videos are good and impressive. The videos are good too but because of the omni-directional microphone, they tend to capture a lot of noise and surrounding voices.
The Gear 2 is a brilliant piece of equipment and a perfect accessory to have, but there are two problems which make it a straight no for many smartwatch lovers. Firstly, the Gear 2, similar to the previous Galaxy Gear, is only compatible with Samsung's smartphones and that too a precious few models. Secondly the price of the Gear 2 is definitely going to keep many interested users even with Samsung smartphones at bay.
Otherwise as a smartwatch, the Samsung Gear 2 offers superb functionality to users with a host of innovative features. In essence, the Galaxy Gear 2 boasts features that most smartwatch devices do not, and while comparing it head-to-head with others, it offers more functionality with notifications, entertainment, multimedia and health-related functionality built in. The rugged nature of the Galaxy Gear 2 definitely helps it to earn some additional brownie points.
As a device the Samsung Gear 2 offers superb functionality, a great set of features, and a battery backup of not less than two to three days. Overall, the Gear 2 is a neat device but its dependence on Samsung devices could be a major turn off for many potential smartwatch users.
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