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Samsung Galaxy Gear review – hands on

Samsung Galaxy Gear

We get our first look at Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch, which the company is already calling "tomorrow's future"

Samsung has come out fighting with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. It would appear to be almost common knowledge that Apple is investing heavily in wearable computers and with no other manufacturer making a big splash, Samsung thinks this year’s IFA show is the right time to strike. We put it to the test behind the scenes to bring you our initial impressions.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Firstly, lets get the specifications out of the way. A (flat) 1.63in AMOLED display – we’ll be waiting a while longer for a curved OLED smartwatch. 320×320 resolution – you won’t be watching high definition movies on your wrist. 800Mhz single core processor – it won’t set your wrist on fire, but it won’t bring benchmarks to their knees either.

However, once you strap the Gear onto your wrist, none of that matters. It’s a compact, stylish timepiece, built from stainless steel, that’s relatively subtle (if you opt for a different colour to the orange demonstration model we tried) and won’t attract a lot of attention. However, when you wake it up with a tap you’ve got a whole host of information right on your wrist.

The default clock also displays the current weather, but you can swipe between different apps to check any notifications on a paired Galaxy Note 3 (other handsets will be compatible in the future, but not until a software update gets released), check and reply to text messages and even make calls.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

We aren’t yet convinced by the ability to hold your wrist up to your ear to answer calls – it was impossible to test during our hands on and we were told the internal speaker isn’t particularly loud to outside listeners, but we can still imagine Trigger Happy TV-style shouting matches by Gear-wearing yuppies on the move.

More impressive is the camera built into the wrist strap. Swipe down from the top of the screen and Gear jumps into camera mode, then takes a photo with each successive tap. The 1.9-megapixel sensor might not sound like much, but it’s a quicker way to capture a moment than digging in your pocket for a phone. The screen is easily bright and vibrant enough for the monotone menu images, but the camera display definitely lacked clarity – an effect of cramming so much detail at a low resolution. 4GB of onboard storage should mean you won’t quickly rum out of room for storing photos.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

An integrated gyroscope and accelerometer also let Gear double as a pedometer for measuring steps and tracking exercise with S Health, although we’re a little disappointed there’s no pulse tracking built into the design – you’ll want to keep your Fitbit or Jawbone health band if you’re into your exercise tracking.

Samsung says Gear will last for up to 25 hours on a single charge, meaning you can go all day without worrying about running out of juice. That’s with S Voice integration running constantly in the background too, letting you ask about the weather or set reminders without having to dig out your phone.

You aren’t tied to the basic apps that come pre-installed on the watch, either. Samsung has already partnered with the developers behind Path, Pocket, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal for an opening list of over 70 native apps specifically for Gear. You’ll be able to load them to the watch using the dedicated Gear app on a compatible handset.

The Galaxy Gear will be going on sale around the world from September onwards, and is expected to land in the UK at the beginning of October. We don’t yet know UK pricing (Samsung US suggests a $299 price) but based on our short time with the device, we can’t wait. It’s one of the most focused and effective smartwatches we’ve seen yet, so expect it to go down very well with anyone already using, or considering buying, a Samsung smartphone.

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First Look