2015 is certainly the year of the wearables, and we've been eyeing the possibility of a smartwatch-centric future for the last few years. But if you've taken a close look at the smartwatch market recently, it's a category that's been waiting on the sidelines. Most customers are skeptical of the tech preferring to hold tight to their smartphones.
If a standalone smartwatch sounds too good to be true, it is. So far, we've mostly seen dummy smartwatches tethered to a phone in your pocket and a connection to a device with a SIM card in order to make phone calls, stay connected and access the internet.
With the exception of the Neptune Hub, a standalone 4G smartwatch and Will.i.am's Puls smart cuff - these smartwatches end up being, largely, a half baked wrist-gadget or phone accessory.
There is hope, though; the latest Samsung Gear S might be the most ambitious smartwatch yet. It's the first of six Gear smartwatches that let you make and receive calls from your wrist, no phone required. It has its very own cell service and data, basically putting the smartphone in a smartwatch.
And yet, even with all that, it's still not the perfect wearable and remains achingly close to being a phone replacement.
How the Gear S tries to be a phone
Although it's bulky, the Gear S' 2-inch screen is a selling point for making calls and responding to emails, especially compared to the 1.63-inch display used on the Gear 2 and Gear Live. It has its own speakers and microphone, and vibrates when you get messages or an alarm goes off, just like a phone would - only it's buzzing on your wrist.
With 480 x 360 resolution (300 ppi), the screen is pretty easy on the eyes making text big enough to read. It's still a huge pain to enter long messages on the Gear S, and there doesn't seem to be a plan for installing third-party keyboards or other input options.
The Gear S also shows full content of every notification. Yes, even those long emails from your boss, messages and or comments. So there's no need to take your phone out of your pocket to to read. The big problem here is the syncing; there's no two-way notification sync on your watch.
Thanks to its very own nano-SIM card, the Gear S can show you emails in full and has the option to reply directly from your wrist using an on-screen keyboard without using your voice.
If you want, you can also use voice control as an option for dictation. Samsung's S Voice assistant responds even faster compared to the older Gears. It still doesn't have the capacity to answer every question, making it inferior to both Google Now, Cortana and Siri.
It should be noted, that dictating voice messages in public will make you feel like Dick Tracy, and may even pose a privacy concern.
The huge Gear S display comes with large bezels, and a bottom bezel, which holds extra functionality with the UV sensor and ambient light sensor with a rectangular physical home button that matches ones you'd find on any Samsung phone today.
Also, like every Samsung device, there is an array of customization options. Want to change the color of the interface, sound profiles, brightness controls, connection preferences, do not disturb mode, home button shortcuts, a privacy lock, motion controls and power saving modes? It's all done from the watch.