Samsung Gear review

Is this the smartwatch to put the wind up Apple?

Samsung Galaxy Gear review
Want one of these on your wrist?

TechRadar Verdict

The Galaxy Gear is still too expensive and hard to track down - but at least it's getting updates.


  • +

    Quality design

  • +

    Strong display


  • -

    Very expensive

  • -

    Interface hard to customise

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Updates: Our Galaxy Gear review contains updates to address its lower price, the increased competition and the optional switch to Tizen.

What makes a smartwatch these days? Is it something that simply sits on the wrist and buzzes when the phone does something in the pocket? A fully-fledged phone it itself? Or, like the Galaxy Gear, something in between?

We've got all kinds of devices pretending to be a smartwatch, and there's definitely an interest from consumers, if not a desire, for such a thing strapped to the wrist.

There was clamour for the LG GD510, the real 'Dick Tracy' smartwatch that was essentially a feature phone on a wrist, allowing you to make calls and send texts.

It was thoroughly rubbish as a phone replacement, yet sold out the world over.

And then there's the Pebble, a watch that's meant to sit neatly next to your smartphone and give notifications and extra information when needed - a huge hit on Kickstarter, it's been met with tepid reviews yet the makers still struggle to meet demand.

Galaxy Gear review

So when Samsung, the world's biggest supplier of smartphones, makes a device that supplements the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy S4 (thanks to the latest update) we should all sit up and take notice, right?

The Gear is certainly an attractive device, a clever mix of metal and rubber that gives it a really solid feel. It has to do that, since at launch you had to fork out £299 or $299 (Around AUS$324) for the privilege of owning one, although the price has since dropped to around £150 / $150 if you shop around.

And given it won't function without it, you'd be a fool to pick up a Gear without a companion Samsung device.

Some retailers have taken the Gear off sale it seems since its launch too - don't hold out a lot of hope for this being a device with a rich support history.

Despite also packing a 1.9MP camera, the Gear doesn't feel overly cumbersome on the wrist. It's a little on the large side to accommodate the 1.6-inch Super AMOLED 320 x 320 resolution screen, which means it will catch on most clothing, but it's not in the realms of sports watches that runners love to lug around on marathons.

Galaxy Gear review

The clasp is strong, so the fit is generally snug enough, although it can get a little tight over the course of the day - but that's an issue most watches struggle with. The problem there is that you can't change the strap on the Gear as it has the camera stuck inside - so best make sure it's a decent fit before purchase.

There's only one button on the outside, which is the power / function key. A tap of this will turn the device on, but a long press or double tap will also make the Gear perform other tasks, which you can choose yourself. These are a little limited, but we like that Samsung has tried to maximise the lack of tappable space on the screen in this way.

We were a little surprised by the method of charging: the Galaxy Gear comes with a plastic case which you strap the watch into and plug a standard microUSB cable into the back of. This means that you have to remember to bring the charging case with you at all times, and can't rely on anyone having a spare charger when caught short.

However, the addition of a port on the watch would have likely increased size too much, so we can get on board with this compromise, although it can still be incredibly frustrating.

The case also comes with NFC connectivity, so when pairing your Note 3 (or Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2) you just tap the handset to the back of the case and the pairing is taken care of simply, which again reduces heft in the watch.

Galaxy Gear review

Do we like the design of the Galaxy Gear? It's a little chunky and the screws on the front of the watch look like they're trying a little too hard to make it look like an expensive wrist-watch... which we suppose it is.

But Samsung needed to give a premium air for something that initially cost so much to buy, so we'll say the design makes a lot of sense here.

Since launch the price has come down, it's been superseded by the Gear 2 and has some stylish Android Wear competition from the likes of the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R, but it still stands up relatively well in the looks department.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.