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Do you really need a Smart Watch?

March 2014

Do you really need a Smart Watch?

The demise of the watch as the primary teller of time is now old news. In a 2011 US survey less than 37% of respondents used a watch to tell the time. With the current number of time telling devices (phones, tablets, notebooks and even appliances) in reach I’m sure this trend has continued. So with the recent spate of smart watches entering the market it is high ‘time’ the humble watch fought back to its rightful place on the wrists of consumers.

In an effort to assess just whether my wrist was likely to join those on the bleeding edge, I borrowed a Samsung Gear for a week to check it out. Here is what I found: 


Compared with other watches it’s certainly quite chunky but slim enough in width that it’s passable if you have an above average size wrist. The gun metal finish on the edges and the bright high res (for its size) display gives the watch a premium feel. The clasp of the watch contains a microphone and speaker such that it sticks out a little more than it should. This meant that it’s not ideal for wearing while typing. On the front side of the wrist band the watch sports a 2MP camera cable for taking videos in 720p. One of the coolest features is the ability to design your own watch face. You can select from a range of backgrounds and ad a host of elements, both design and function focussed, such as pips, the weather or upcoming appointments. 


Aside from the obvious ‘telling the time’ feature the watch is packed with apps straight out of the box: 

Diary and upcoming events 
Fully fledged phone (via blue tooth connection to your phone) which operates on hands free on your wrist 
Voice commands – using S-Voice, Samsung’s branded method of voice control. This allows you to open apps, make calls, send texts, schedule appointments, set alarms and timers and ask what time it is in other cities 
Incoming email – notified through the haptic feedback on your wrist (AKA vibrations) 
Incoming SMS – also notified through the haptic feedback 
Pedometer – which syncs with Samsung’s health app 
Photos/videos – via the wrist band camera. Videos are limited to just 15 seconds of 720p recording right now 
Notifications – aside from the standard notifications for in-built apps like email and SMS, you can configure any of your current phone apps to push notifications to your watch with a simple tick in the Samsung Gear phone app. 
Notifications for Twitter, Facebook etc will flash up and allow you to open the app directly on your phone. 
Third party apps – there are a limited number of third party apps available for the Gear, the only one I found useful was Evernote – the trusty, ubiquitous note- taking app that syncs across the cloud to all of your devices. 

Battery Life 

By far the biggest issue with the Gear is battery life. With heavy use you would be lucky to get more than one day, average use perhaps a day and a half. This means you have to plug the watch into its little caddy each night. The Gear 2 which will be released in April has supposedly been boosted to two to three times this battery life which might be just enough to tip some of the sceptical punters out there. 


The touch screen is nice to use and provides your navigation with simple swipe and tap commands. The only potential down side of the interface was that you need to do a fair bit of swiping to get to certain functions. The inclusion of a quick menu of sorts would be a welcome addition. 

Health and Fitness 

If you are a fitness fanatic or even trying to lose a few pounds, I can see the Gear being a pretty handy tool to help you reach your goals. When using the pedometer I found it fairly accurate and because it’s in your watch itself it is something you can constantly track all day. While there are lots of new devices on the market that do this as their sole focus, I like the Gear because it means one less thing to wear, sync up and charge. The next generation of the Gear (Gear 2) will also include a heart rate monitor. I believe this will be a game changer as it will open up a raft of very specific applications for monitoring fitness and health. Just imagine what is possible with all that heart rate data? There are very expensive devices/services available today that can send an ambulance to your house before you have a heart attack. This is based on sophisticated algorithms that can detect both defects and anomalies. 

Real World Use 

The thing that impressed me the most about the watch was that within 15 minutes of syncing it to my phone I got a phone call while I was away from my desk. The watch promptly started vibrating and showed the caller ID from my contacts list. I was able to comfortably talk on the watch's speaker phone while I was about 15 meters away from my mobile. Probably the second biggest feature for me was incoming emails. If you are like me and feel the need to take you phone out of your pocket, unlock it and open your email every time it vibrates then this might be for you. With each incoming email I was able to glance at my wrist for a split second and decide whether it was important enough to read or even respond to. Then you have the option of reading the email in text on your wrist and action on your phone if necessary. 

When you power the watch up, it gives you a handy animated series of pictures showing you how to sync it up with your phone, which means you can set it up quickly without even referring to the manual. 

This week I strapped the Samsung Gear to my wrist to try and answer this question. Within my first hour of wearing it I received a phone call on my watch while I was away from my desk (and my phone). That was impressive – the phone pairs to the watch via blue tooth and with absolutely no setup or configuration it was already espousing some of its virtues. I must say though, I still felt a bit silly talking to my wrist. I guess it’s akin to the first blue tooth hands free devices for mobiles that gave everyone the appearance that you were talking to yourself while walking. 

As I sit here and type this article I’m constantly reminded of one of the downsides of the Samsung Gear – the clasp (that contains the microphone and speaker) is a bit big to be wearing while typing. 

By Daniel Borin - Group Sales Director - StrataMax

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