Samsung Gear review

Is this the smartwatch to put the wind up Apple?

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

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The Samsung Galaxy Gear was designed to be a device that functions far above other smartwatches on the market at the time when it launched. For instance, it's got a microphone, a speaker and the ability to read messages from a variety of sources.

In short, for the higher price, Samsung was staking a claim for this to almost be a smartphone in its own right - but sadly even at the time it failed in nearly every respect and now with more capable competition from Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch looming on the horizon its failures are even more apparent.

The contacts system is OK - it drills down into your phone's address book and isn't too hard to navigate as despite the smaller screen getting to the letters on the side of the display to move quickly through the list isn't a problem at all.

Galaxy Gear review

A quick tap and you're taken to a cut down version of the contact profile from a phone, making it possible to do only one thing: make a phone call.

And here we get to one of the most pointless parts of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The ability to make and receive calls with it. It's not something that any human being should ever do, unless they've had a lifelong desire to pretend a call from your partner is actually a covert mission assignment to rescue a package from the local library on a matter of national importance.

The problems are many: the speaker quality isn't high, so you have to keep moving it closer to your ear to hear what's being said before returning it to your mouth to chat back.

Everyone can hear parts of your conversation, which makes privacy impossible. Talking in anything other than a quiet environment isn't really possible, with it clearly obvious you're not talking on a standard smartphone.

And the worst bit: you have to essentially hold a pretend phone to your head to make the call. We took to carrying a stapler around to pretend we were talking to that, rather than the watch on our wrist.

Galaxy Gear review

It's preferable to look unhinged than admit you're too lazy to take your phone out of your pocket.

We're not saying that the Gear's ability to register calls is a bad thing - twice we had walked away from our phone only to be notified we had a call that we could trot back to.

It's also handy to be able to dial numbers directly from the phone itself using the tiny dialpad that you call up by an upward swipe from the main clock face.

That's fine - all we need is a notification. If you buy a Gear, you'll use calling once (maybe twice in an embarrassed emergency) and that will be it. The phone is clearly close. Pull it out and use it.


From the demonic to the sublime: getting messages on the Galaxy Gear is a really nice method of checking when things are important or not. Text messages are the real winner here, as the bright and clear screen is excellent at showing you missives that fire into the phone on your pocket, and allow you to choose whether you need to reply or not.

It would be good to have set responses you could send from the Gear; for instance, if it was a simple question, you could reply with a 'Yes', 'No', 'OK' or 'What are you talking about? That's not my car' in a simple click.

Galaxy Gear review

However, texts are often something most don't reply to straight away (unless you're a particular type of teenager) so being able to view them in this way is cool.

The same can be said about email, although many might not realise that the Gear can do this as well as SMS. Users need to drill into the Gear Manager's notifications settings on the Note 3 (or other compatible device) and tap the option that allows emails to be shown, which means many will be confused as to why this doesn't happen out of the box.

Since launch, the Samsung Galaxy Gear has had a large update to allow it to support nearly every message notification going - in short, it mimics the power of the notifications bar on your phone on the screen, which is what it should be doing.

Galaxy Gear review

So this now means that Facebook Messenger, Gmail and Twitter are all present and correct. You're not going to get the same amount of information or aesthetics you'll see on the phone though - in many cases it's just a one line update, and in others (like Gmail) it adds in all the extra page furniture such as 'delete mail' before presenting you with the actual information you want.

This update feels like it's halfway between what it should be and what was needed - while it's good to be able to read updates, you often don't get the full thing and still have to drop back to the phone too often.

Thanks Gear - we dropped the best part of three hundred notes to be told when to pick up our phone. Thanks for that.

Galaxy Gear review

Messaging isn't terrible on the Gear at all, as it's the primary reason to buy the phone - but we've seen it implemented on many other devices, and for the most part it supports more options.

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.