Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch: Hands-on preview

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Despite all the talk about an iWatch this year, Sony beat Apple to the punch with its Smartwatch 2 back in June, and now Samsung joins the wearable tech club with the Galaxy Gear.

The Gear is a companion device for Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets. At launch, it will work with the new Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, but that will expand as more devices are upgraded to Android 4.3.

The Gear features a 1.63in Super AMOLED, 320 x 320 display that's surrounded by a metal frame. A rubbery band straps to your wrist, while a metal clasp holds things in place. There will be an array of colour options - from the sporty orange to the more fashionable rose gold.

In deciding to pursue a smartwatch, Samsung said it looked at two consumer trends: wanting to stay ahead of the curve and the desire for quick access to information without having to hunt around for a smartphone or tablet. The Galaxy Gear seems to satisfy those needs, but it is a tad clunky; no flexible display here.

The band is thick, housing a 1.9-megapixel camera on one side, while the clasp was a bit difficult to close; you have to press quite firmly for it to stick into place. The display has four screws on each side, which might earn it points from the iFixit teardown crew, but probably won't win it any design awards.

The Gear has a hint of 007, with the ability to speak commands into your smartwatch and snap photos or video from your wrist. But you still need to double click the exterior button for voice commands; no completely hands-free "OK Google Now" option just yet. The smartwatch also makes a loud sound when snapping a photo so you can't be too stealth (or creepy) when taking shots.

There are, however, a number of things you can access from the Gear - from smartphone notifications and your phone's dialler to an array of 70 apps optimised for the smartwatch. For the fitness-minded, there's a pedometer and the ability to control your smartphone's music collection from the wrist.

Charging is easy enough; snap on an exterior device atop the display and plug in via micro USB. Samsung said the Gear can get up to 25 hours of battery life depending on use.

The price of the Galaxy Gear will likely be a deciding factor for most buyers, especially if you're already shelling out £250+ for a Galaxy smartphone or tablet. It's a nifty little gadget, but I don't know if the average consumer necessarily needs a Galaxy Gear at this point. Perhaps the appeal will increase if it develops into something more like the concept designs that floated around recently, or can connect to more smartphones.

Admittedly, I've never really worn a watch and find rings and bracelets distracting, so the Gear is probably not for me. But in looking around the table at dinner last night, I noticed a few people with rather large (non-smart) watches, so I might be in the minority. The question is whether the Galaxy Gear is stylish enough for watch enthusiasts to swap their current timepieces for Samsung's gadget.

The Galaxy Gear is expected to start rolling out on 25 September around the globe in six colour options: Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green.