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Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them

- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Gadget of the Week - Samsung Galaxy Gear

We have in past weeks looked at computers and smartphone, including hybrids that blur the lines between phone and tablet or laptop and tablet.

This, we look at an emerging category of tech gizmos - wearable tech.
Our gadget of the week today is Samsung Galaxy Gear. Specifically, Galaxy Gear 2.

First off, something about wearables.
Recently, Google released an operating system for wearable tech, which is known ad Android Wear. It should be noted that Google Glass, a unique wearable tech in its own right has been around for a while now.

Other manufacturers such as LG, ASUS and many more who already make devices powered by Android are currently working on, or have so far released wearable gizmos, especially smart watches. Some watches already powered by Android Wear include the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and Motorola Moto 360.
The competing Apple Inc. has already announced the Apple Watch which is due for release in early 2015.

Now back to Galaxy Gear 2.

What sets it apart

With the Galaxy Gear 2, you can make and receive calls, send messages and receive notifications on the large, super AMOLED watch screen. It runs Tizen OS and the straps can be swapped.
It also has a stand-alone music player which can be paired with a Bluetooth headset.

Galaxy Gear 2 can be used as a TV remote and has a 2 MP camera with which to take photos and capture video. It is water & dust resistant and unlike past iterations of the Gear smart watch, it is compatible with several Galaxy phones and smartphones. The battery also lasts significantly longer.

Expert Reviews

Tech Radar agrees this is a greatly improved device, but throws cold water on it since Gear 2 Neo offers only slightly less and is much cheaper.

CNET boldly calls Gear 2 a smartwatch that tries to be everything. And this is not a good thing, as captured in this verdict:
Samsung has made strides with the Gear 2, but this smartwatch is on its own island with few apps and Samsung-only device compatibility. At this point, you're better off waiting for Android Wear.

It is good that Gear 2 has "an improved design, better notifications, a heart rate monitor, and basic fitness tracking offer a lot of extras." Sadly, however, it has "a limited number of apps, poor S-Health fitness app syncing, can only be paired to Samsung phones, [and the] camera is an unnecessary extra for the $100 it costs over the Gear 2 Neo".

The Verge gives Galaxy Gear 2 a score of 6.7, noting that the most obvious benefit is the improved battery life. The smart watch gets a thumbs up for the improved design, great display and the changeable straps.
The fact that is works only with Samsung devices, plus the clunky interface are a deal breaker.

User Opinions

Stephen Clark, is particularly upset, and says:
I bought the gear2 on the strength of the running app.its terrible.but ithought id live with it until I found that a 6 mile run showed as 9.5 miles...making it not just terrible but useless....what can I do?

Roger Frogger seems impressed by Tizen OS:
If wearables really are the next big tech thing, imagine if Tizen became the OS of choice for them? This is probably Samsungs strategy here.
Liking the new Gear, I think they may really take off in the next few years, just need better battery life and functionality. Don't know if I could bear to part with my eco-drive Citizen though.

Other Gear owners have had this to say:

I loved it!!!
Today is my first day wearing it and its amazing. All my email reminders, phone calls notifications, dial pad etc are just perfect. Heart rate and other fitness apps are made for my day to day use.
I recommend all to have one.

Too small for my wrist, does not fit with Galaxy S5 features
I am not small with a 19.5 cm or 7.75 in wrist, but am not a Hulk either. However I can barely close the band and it is very uncomfortable. The heart monitor is not ANT compatible and is not recognised by S Health on my Galaxy S5.
Her heart monitor does not work well on hairy wrists. It is a fairly good gadget, if you can wear it, but don't expect too much.

Pricing and Availability

Jumia sells Gear 2 for Ksh28,499 while OLX listings have a price range of between Ksh 15,000 and Ksh 32,000 for a brand new Gear 2.

On Amazon, the list price is $299.99. Used ones are at $199.99 and refurbished watches at $ 229.99.