Editorial by Andrew Kameka on Thursday September 05, 2013.
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Why is Samsung bothering to make a smart watch? Not just because wearable computing is a growing trend that Samsung is trying to capture before the Apple iWatch, Google watch, and upstarts like Pebble dominate the market. That's obviously a huge - probably the driving - factor, but also because of one more thing: it will make its big phones seem less daunting.
After using the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 for a while and comparing it to my experience with the Moto X, I'm not too excited about humongous phones that are supposed to be "phablets." I'll still put up with a Samsung Galaxy S 4, HTC One, or even the new Galaxy Note 3, but I'm more inclined to lean towards the smaller devices that still give me a big screen. Those phones appear to be a dying breed, but they are appealing to a large segment of the consumer population. People love the large screens, but there are limits to how far many consumers are willing to go to enjoy them.
The Galaxy Gear represents a chance for Samsung to provide a better experience to the people who love big screens but not big devices. As I stated in my Galaxy Mega 6.3 review, the titanic screen was awesome when watching video and reading on a train. Trying to switch songs while standing on the train or check maps while walking down the street was not fun at all. Then I started thinking about how connecting the phone to Pebble makes controlling music so much better. Having a connected watch lessened the impact of one of my biggest gripes about the mega-sized Mega.
The Galaxy Gear can do the same for Samsung and much more. I love my Pebble smart watch and use it constantly to get updates, change watch faces, and see updates for messaging. The Galaxy Gear will offer those same features, but it will also have phone calls, voice memos, photos, and more dedicated development because of Samsung's larger platform and market share. If Samsung can get developers to embrace making apps for Gear or enhancing their existing apps to work with the watch, it will be easier to use the super-sized phones.
I'm less skeptical about whether the Galaxy Gear makes sense for consumers. It's feature packed and interesting based on the video below, but at $299, how good can it really be? The fact that it will work only with the Galaxy Note 3, for now at least, means it will appeal will initially be limited. Though it might not be sensible for users, it's exactly the kind of sell that Samsung would make to trumpet its ecosystem.
Having a watch won't be a make or break decision. Both Galaxy Note phones have sold millions of units, so obviously people aren't completely opposed; however, it will improve the experience of using the phone. Remember that Samsung doesn't need the Galaxy Gear to be the greatest watch ever; it only needs the Gear to be a great addition to the phone it's trying to sell. I'm not sure how attractive the prospect of buying another $299 device to go with a phone will be to consumers, but for a company looking for every edge it can get in the smartphone wars, covering up one of its weaknesses and turning it into a virtue makes sense. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 became more tolerable to me while using a Pebble. With Samsung out to push more phones with large displays, and offer more connectivity in its tablets, the Gear could be an important cog in its Android machine.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.