In pace with the times

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Updated: Jan 30 2014, 07:50am hrs
I have been wearing a smartwatch for over a month now. So when I

finally got a chance to review the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, it was only natural that I started comparing it with my Pebble. Here are the results.

Watch: There is no doubt that the Pebble is the better watch of the two. But that is not because it is more accurate in timekeeping, but because once you wear it you dont realise it is on your wrist. But the Galaxy Gear is a bit heavier and with a clip on strap and these two factors constantly remind you that there is something there. Plus, the review unit I had was bright orange and that sure got me more attention than I am used to. Then it has the camera bump on one side and that sort of reminds you that this is no ordinary watch. The Pebble on the other hand has so many watch faces that you can get one with which on one will realise that you have smartwatch on.

Set-up: The Gear is very easy to set up. But the problem here is that it can be used only in tandem with a few top-end Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The Pebble on the other hand works with most iOS and Android devices. But the Gear has something that makes life so easy for the user. Thanks to NFC you can just tap the watch with its Galaxy phone to get a link. Both the Gear and the Pebble need the phone to install apps.

Performance: You can do much more with the Galaxy Gear than you would with the Pebble. For instance, the Gear has a camera and that sorts of adds so many new scenarios to what you can do with a watch. Then this has a Super AMOLED display, compared to the Pebbles e-paper display and is hence capable of doing much more. While the Pebble shows calls, notifications and alerts from your phone, the Gear actually lets you dial and even make the call using just the watch and with the help of voice. And that is a wow feature that sort of made me feel a bit like James Bond. The audio quality is not all that good though, especially if there is a lot of ambient noise around. Then you can use the voice controls to create notes and reminders. Actually, the Gear lets you do almost everything that you can with your smartphone. The Pebble is in comparison just a smartwatch.

Apps: The Pebble is a star when it comes to watchfaces and users have the choice to choose hundreds of them depending on your mood, religion or political inclination. It has apps too, but they are mostly third party apps that need to downloaded to the phone first and transferred to the phone. A lot of the apps are limited by the fact that there is no colour screen. The Gear has no such limitations. In fact, its 1.6-inch screen is powered by an 800 MHz processor and hence it can run a lot of powerful apps. There is already a superb Evernote app, Banjo and MyFitness apps. You can get Line and ChatOn message on your wrist while pedometer and media controller are pre-installed. Plus, the phone (in our case a Galaxy Note 3) and the watch can find each other. All of these worked out of the box and without any hitches.

Camera: The real differentiator of the Galaxy Gear is the 1.9 megapixel camera with auto-focus that creates these amazing photography opportunities we would not have imagined before. The camera and its results, both still and video, are good when you consider it has been shot from a watch. I would have loved to have had a front facing camera to make video chats much more natural.

Battery: Built to work like a smartphone, the Gear has a battery life almost similar to those devices. So you will be lucky to get 48 hours on a full charge if you are using this device to its potential. In comparison the Pebble gives you a week of juice on a full charge. In fact, I charge mine only on weekends. The Gear also needs to be put inside a special cover to be able to take the micro-USB port. No such hassle with the magnetic charging ports of

the Pebble.

Should you buy it: That is a tough one, especially since there is no concept of buying the Galaxy Gear on its own at the moment. You need to buy it with a smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and that means it will put you back by around R60,000. If you dont mind that and have been waiting to buy a new phone as well, then it a good combo. It is a easier decision for those who have a compatible Galaxy device as this just augments the entire experience. As for me, I am quite happy with my $150 Pebble.

Estimated street price: Rs 22,900