If you see someone speaking into their watch, they're not crazy or pretending to be a spy. They probably own a Samsung Galaxy Gear.
The South Korean tech giant released its $299 smartwatch in the U.S. earlier this month and has been spending some big bucks marketing the device, running dozens of full-page ads in numerous newspapers and multiple TV commercials, including one with soccer super star Lionel Messi.
You might have seen these ads, and if you have, you're likely asking yourself if this is another must-have gadget. Well, the answer is: not yet.
The Galaxy Gear is a nifty device and an awesome preview of what's to come with wearable technology. But as is often the case with first-generation gadgets, there's a lot of limitations with what the Galaxy Gear can do.
Let's start with how the device works.
The Galaxy Gear features a 1.63-inch touch screen. To navigate, users do a lot of swiping and give voice commands. To wake the watch up and show its main screen, users can tap its power button or simply raise their arm.
The main screen shows a pre-selected clock. This can be a simple interface that looks like a traditional clock with hour and minute hands or something more modern like what I chose, which showed me the time in digits and had shortcuts to the camera, voice assistant and the settings menu.
Users can swipe left and right to see their "favorite apps," which include their photo gallery, pedometer, notifications and a few others apps. More apps can be added to the favorite apps menu using a companion app called Gear Manager, which users install on the smartphone that they sync with their Galaxy Gear.
One of the favorite apps is simply called Apps, and it takes users to a screen where they can find all of the apps on their smartwatch.
From the main menu, users can swipe downward from the top of the screen to quickly open the camera app. The downward swipe is also the motion used to go back when users are inside apps.
Another way to quickly get around the Galaxy Gear is using S Voice, which is Samsung's version of Siri. S Voice is one of the favorite apps on the Galaxy Gear. You can use the Gear Manager to set up the device so that you can simply tap the power button twice and launch S Voice immediately.
With S Voice, I could tell the Galaxy Gear to call a contact, text one of my friends or simply launch one of my apps. But I only used S Voice when I wasn't near too many people. For one, I didn't want to seem like the crazy guy talking to his wrist. And more importantly, S Voice didn't always understand correctly what I said in noisy environments.
Learning to navigate the Galaxy Gear and give it voice commands was easy enough, but there was a slight learning curve because the Galaxy Gear is designed differently -- for obvious reasons -- than a smartphone or a tablet.The Galaxy Gear uses a rubbery band that is available in multiple colors and is similar to a regular wristwatch. The big difference is in the part of the band that faces away from the user. That's where its 1.9-megapixel camera is located. Another is on the latch of the bands. It doubles as the Galaxy Gear's speaker.
The frame of the watch face is metallic and features four noticeably big screws. The power button is located to the right of the screen, and to the left of the screen is a tiny hole where the mic is. On the underside of the watch face are five gold pins. These connect to the Galaxy Gear's charging cradle, which then connects to a USB cord.
I personally liked the design of the Galaxy Gear. I think it looks cool, and looks like a slick wristwatch, not a geeky tiny computer. No one ever noticed that I had anything other than a regular wristwatch unless I started using it to take pictures.
I also liked the design because it seems to be durable. I dropped the watch at least twice, bumped it a few times just going about my business and I also washed my hands with it on, and it kept on ticking -- so to speak.
When it came to actually using the gadget, however, I really only focused on three main things: taking photos, making calls and sending text messages.
The whole point of wearable devices is to make tech even more accessible than before. Rather than pulling out your phone to do something, you can simply raise your wrist. That was certainly true with taking pictures.
Whenever I saw something interesting or simply wanted to surprise a friend, I just raised my arm, launched the camera app and tapped the screen to take a quick picture. Super simple.