You’ve been seated in a corner cafe for hours, wondering if it was built on top of an old volcano because your shirt is drenched in sweat. Your patience has been stretched thin and it looks like central intelligence gave you the wrong information. But just before you decide to leave, the suspects you’ve been surveying are about to make ‘the exchange’.
You need photographic evidence, but you can’t pull out your camera because it would be too obvious. And you can’t use your phone because, again—it would be too obvious. So what do you do? Why, take pictures with your Samsung GALAXY Gear smartwatch and transfer them to your Samsung GALAXY Note 3 of course!
Samsung Electronics has been a mammoth in the smartphone game, and now it’s looking to bully its way into the scantily occupied smartwatch market. The GALAXY Note 3 and GALAXY Gear are worthy additions to both markets and I had a chance to toy with the devices.
The GALAXY Note’s 5.7 inch Super AMOLED screen is amazing and its water surface effect makes it look like you’re looking into a pool of pixels. This makes up for the fact that the phone is a little difficult to operate with just one hand. The phone’s back cover gives it an executive feel, even though it is not made of genuine leather. It comes in black or white and maintains Samsung’s more recent standard design with minor ‘square-like’ variations around the edges. Its stylus is not obvious and slides out at the bottom of the phone, making it easy to forget it’s even there.
The smartwatch has a rubber strap that comes in a default orange, and you can select different watch faces for its 1.63 inch Super AMOLED screen. These faces range from a digitised analogue clock to a weather update and digital watch combo. Its camera is embedded in the strap and is ALMOST inconspicuous. This takes nothing away from the design.
Pull out the S-Pen from the GALAXY Note and a nifty ‘Air Command’ menu pops on-screen. The Stylus can be used to select from Action Memo, Scrapbook, S-Finder, Pen Window and ScreenWrite.
With Action Memo, you can turn your handwritten memos into actionable links. What that means is you can jot down a web address, draw a square around it and then it will take you directly to the website you had scribbled in. Jot down a number, box that in, and you can create a new contact.
The Note 3’s camera is pretty sweet and with 13 mega pixels of High Definition, it can zoom in up to four times without much loss of quality. You can also take snapshots of your surroundings using the Surround Shot feature, and this produces ‘globe-like’ images.
Pen Window is one of the phone’s most talked about features. Draw a rectangle of almost any size with the S-Pen and it opens a ‘portal’ to the phone’s many ‘dimensions’ or apps. This lets you multitask and run two applications at the same time.
As a writer, the feature I found most useful was Note Pad and the Evernote app (which along with thousands of others, can be downloaded from Google’s Play Store). They were handy for taking down notes with the S-pen and my handwriting was amazingly similar to my writings on paper.
The Note 3 can also convert your scribbles into text, and it recognises most words with little to no difficulty. Doctors would probably love this feature too.
S-Note and the Scrapbook features can be used to create ‘Notes’ you can share and collect. Different covers and templates can be chosen from the many options, and these range from ‘Special Event’ to ‘Travel Note’.
The GALAXY Gear can be synced with the Note 3 and a number of apps can be installed and linked to the watch. The apps are currently limited though, and a software update will allow the watch to sync with more of Samsung’s phones (currently only Note 3, the GALAXY S4, S4mini, GALAXY Mega 5.8, GALAXY S4 Zoom device can sync with the Gear).
Swipe the touch screen left or right to bring up your contacts, settings or pedometer. Swipe it up or down and you get the camera, time or weather update.
One of the coolest features is its 2MP camera and you can take pictures from your wrist with it, just like a real spy! These pictures cannot be shared to social media directly from the watch and that’s a bit of a bummer. The camera can also take 15 second video clips which can also be sent to the Note 3.
Busier people will appreciate the fact that you can check notifications, or who’s calling you with the watch, without having to pull out your phone. Fellow board members will think you are simply checking out the time during those boring board meetings. The display also turns off to save power, but simply raise your wrist and it lights up to display the current time.
The battery power of the watch can last a whole day without needing a recharge, but this would be more impressive if other smart watches like the Pebble, didn’t last longer.
If the camera wasn’t an impressive feature for you, maybe the calling feature will be. Your entire phone book is on your wrist and the Gear has an embedded microphone that lets you make and answer calls from your wrist via voice command. This can sometimes be difficult though, because it doesn’t always recognise what you say or it will take some time to load your command. Another drawback is that everyone can listen in on your conversation because it’s on loudspeaker, and that’s not very spy-like.
You can install Temple Run and a few other games to play on your watch. The pedometer would keep health enthusiasts pleased. It can count the number of steps you have taken during the course of the day or calculate how many calories are in your meal when you input the details of your food into your phone. When you reach a target, the watch gives you a nice little medal for your efforts.
Both gadgets have their pros, and even their cons. The Note 3 has a slew of features you probably won’t discover until after a couple of weeks, and this could keep you entertained or in awe. Goodgle’s Play Store is populated with hundreds of apps you can choose to make the phone something you would never leave at home.
The watch has many features regular digital watches do not have and it IS smarter than your average wrist wear.
Unfortunately, both devices could lose their novelty after a while. Kinda like that blender that sits in your pantry. You’re excited when you first get it, but then you run out of things to throw into the blender and peanut butter and banana just don’t cut it anymore.
Both come with steep price tags too (about $700 for the Note 3 and $300 for the Gear), and the watch is almost useless without the phone. I’d recommend it if you’re pursuing a career in pseudo espionage.
GALAXY Note 3: 7.5 out of 10
GALAXY Gear: 6 out of 10