Our video review of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch finds that for £299 you'd have to really want to own a big chunky add on for your already expensive Samsung phone.
The Galaxy Gear is a smartwatch that works only with the Galaxy Note 3, S4 and S4 Mini. It's a smartwatch that costs £299 and lets you make telephone calls, send and receive texts, take photo and video, create voice memos, get in shape with the included pedometer, play music from your paired smartphone, check the weather forecast and your calendar appointments for the day, and download apps.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Setup, battery life
Setting up the Galaxy Gear is straightforward. Embedded in its charging cradle is an NFC chip that allows you to download to your handset the Gear Manager app. Pairing is thereafter conducted over Bluetooth 4.0.
We didn't see a significant decrease in the battery life of our Samsung Galaxy S4 courtesy of this always-on Bluetooth connection.
Samsung claims it will last 150 hours on standby, or 25 hours with 'typical' use. We had 50 percent of the battery remaining after 24 hours of use. You'll need to get used to taking off and charging your smartwatch at least every other day. A Micro-USB mains charger is supplied.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Gestures and navigation
The touchscreen is activated either by a single press of the solitary power button on the device's side or lifting your arm. You can swipe down from the top of the home screen to access the camera, swipe up from the bottom to access the Dialler and so on. A double-tap brings up brightness and volume settings and the battery status, while a double-tap and hold invokes the Recent Apps menu.
The Galaxy Gear smartwatch is good at repelling fingerprints.
Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Texts, calls and email
The Galaxy Gear alerts you to new text messages, provided you aren't using your smartphone when they arrive, and you can use S Voice to quickly send a reply. You can't type a reponse on the Galaxy Gear and it isn't possible to check your sent messages.
Conducting a phone call over the Galaxy Gear is a bizarre experience. When you receive a call both your smartphone and smartwatch will ring, and it's up to you to choose on which device you answer.
Talking into a smartwatch both looks and feels odd and, although the Galaxy Gear's sound quality is adequate, there was a noticeable lag between what was said to the Galaxy Gear and those words being heard on the other end of the line.
Email is a sore point: the Gear is able to inform you of a new Gmail message, but you can't see who it's from, read its contents or send a reply.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: S Voice, camera, other features
S Voice is Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri, a voice-activated assistant that can do such things as search online to find answers to your questions, text or call a friend, and add appointments to your calendar. It's used to great effect on the Samsung Galaxy Gear, allowing you to speak aloud replies to messages without needing to pick up your phone or send a preset message.
The Voice Memo app also makes use of the Galaxy Gear's built-in mic.
We liked the fitness tracker elements, although the low-res camera side-mounted on the Galaxy Gear's strap seemed mostly pointless. Another intriguing but useless feature is the ability to remotely play songs stored on your smartphone. You can also see album art and skip between tracks, but if you have a lot of music stored on your smartphone there's no menu from which you can quickly pick out a specific track.
To install apps on your smartwatch you will have to bring up the Gear Manager app on your smartphone, tap on Samsung Apps, and then choose from the limited number of available apps.
At the time of writing there were no more than 100 apps available for the Galaxy Gear, few took our fancy.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: Design and build
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is big and heavy, and not particularly well suited to a female arm. But its bulk isn't necessarily a bad thing: there's no chance you'll forget it's there and not use it, and you'll know the second you lose the device.
It's also well made, with a sturdy stainless steel body, rigid rubber strap and metal clasp. There's a 1.63in (320x320) Super AMOLED touchscreen display.
Samsung Galaxy Gear: verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is an interesting well-built device, but it works with only three smartphones and is expensive at £299. There are some gimmicky features, such as the Camera and Music Controller apps, while S Voice and Voice Memo are in their element here. The Pedometer, Walk Workout and S Trainer apps will appeal to fitness fans. Proper email support is a glaring ommission, and the device is far too bulky and heavy to be comfortable for everyone. We award three and a half stars.
(To find out how the Galaxy Gear stacks up against its rivals, also see: The 13 best smartwatches of 2014.)