Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

The original Galaxy Gear in smashing rose gold (bottom), and the much improved Galaxy Gear 2 (top, with Pip-Boy watch face)
As we march headlong into 'the future is now!' one of the big new fields is wearable tech. I am all about metrics and data and information, so as soon as the Galaxy Gear became available, I wanted one. Super-Dad got me a Samsung Galaxy Gear (original version, in rose gold of course ) for our anniversary last year - my kind of jewelry! Sometimes being an early adopter has its disappointments. The general concepts are there, answering calls and texts from your wrist, a camera, and a pedometer; they just aren't executed super well. I found the software to be buggy and the hardware to be clunky. The camera is inconveniently placed and constantly brushed against stuff. The charging port was a ridiculous contraption that wrapped around the entire watch face. But, this isn't a review of the Original Galaxy Gear, it’s a review of the far superior follow up attempt, the Galaxy Gear 2.

The Galaxy Gear 2 may only be a second generation device, but in this age of super fast development cycles, that means more than it once did. The interface has improved dramatically, with significantly less bugginess than the original. It has a great list of features including IR (can be used to screw with your friends’ TVs! Or just to change the channel on your own set ) a heart rate monitor, a more accurate pedometer, and a sleep monitor. The Gear 2 also offers a more robust list of apps from which you can get notifications. SD is a constantly on call Systems Engineer, and the ability to check these alerts for urgency without fumbling around for his phone it great. It offers him both quick convenience and subtlety when we are out and about. This has been the true selling point for him. He, like so many of us, had given up on wearing a watch. It’s a relic in a time when everyone has a phone in their pocket. He was reminded of how convenient it is to easily check the time from your wrist, and the Gear 2 has the added bonus of allowing you to also check message and mail. It’s quite the time saver.

The ability to customize the watch has greatly improved since the original Galaxy hit the scene as well. There are a ton of watch faces available whether you want a fancy multiface analog style watch or something a little more geeky, like the Fallout Pip-Boy display.

The hardware has also gone through a major update with the two major design flaws - the obtrusive camera lens and the bulky charger - both being replaced with sleeker more integrated design. The charging port is still a separate piece that snaps onto the back of the watch face, and a downside to it being smaller is that it’s much easier to potentially lose. I’d find a permanent home for it, and just leave it plugged in.

Super-Dad did accidentally “wrist dial” people a few times. Mostly me, but it did lead to at least one awkward conversation with a business associate. SD also found that the icons would rearrange themselves on the home screen, which was annoying. These complaints could be avoided by addressing one of our other complaints and adding a lock screen. The Gear 2’s accelerometer also locked up once during the three weeks he tested it. This went unnoticed for a few days, SD just figured it wasn't tracking sleep for some reason,  but was easily fixed with by restarting.

So what’s the verdict? Well, our Gear 2 is on loan from AT&T for review purposes, and SD really doesn't want to give it back. Guess it’s a good thing that Christmas is just a few short days away. The Gear 2 would make a great gift for any Samsung Galaxy user. I can actually see it being really practical for our teen as well. Phones are supposed to stay in pockets at school, but a watch is a useful tool and a watch that also gives my ADHD kid reminders? I think that could be pretty great.

You can check out AT&T’s collection of wearable devices here: http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/accessories/wearables.html

And you can see the whole family of Galaxy Wearables here: http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/wearable-tech/all-products??cid=ppc-ce-wea-0614-43700002117091018

I was not compensated for this post, I was offered the Galaxy Gear 2, on loan, for reivew purposes from AT&T.

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