I have been curiously following the negative feedback on the new Samsung Galaxy Gear (pictured above). The New York Times' David Pogue wrote in his review: "Nobody will buy this watch, and nobody should." ABC News' Joanna Stern titled her review: "The Next Big Thing Is Not Here." In our review, Samsung’s smartwatch scored an underwhelming 2.5 out of 5 stars.
The company introduced the Galaxy Gear back in August at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. While it's Samsung's first entry into the market, by my count it is at least the fourteenth smartwatch introduced in the last 18 months. I have reviewed six of these devices so far, all of which are rather big, not very stylish, and, to be truthful, aimed mostly at male geeks. I can't imagine any woman clamouring for one of these early models. Indeed, Samsung's version is geekier than many others on the market.
Most of these new smartwatches extend the functionality of smartphones by displaying info on your wrist at a glance. This is a very practical feature and in fact, the watch will most likely become the leading wearable computer in the market over the next five years, trumping innovations like Google Glass which may take more than a decade to hit their stride with the average consumer.
While the Galaxy Gear has some cool applications, it is neither stylish nor attractive to anyone but male geeks like me. Samsung has successfully created sleek smartphones and tablets, but let's be honest here: Their designs essentially copied Apple's iPhone and iPad, and the company rode on Apple's coattails into these markets.
This makes introducing a smartwatch a real gamble. I fear Samsung is rushing this so it can say it beat Apple to market, but in reality its model is no different from the other existing smartwatches. Sure, Samsung is a marketing machine and has big bucks to drive this into the mainstream, but Samsung has a weak track record of creating ground-breaking designs.
While creating a product for male geeks is not a bad idea in itself if they buy them, you must remember watches are worn as fashion statements and are hardly about telling time.
I believe that although functionality is vital, design will be what sets Apple's eventual smartwatch apart. Apple surely understands the difference in style that appeals to men and women and this will factor heavily into its actual product designs.
Notice that Apple is not rushing a product like this to market just so it can get in the game. Historically Apple has waited to see if a product takes off and only then does it reinvent the product with an eye on form, function, design, and the surrounding software ecosystem. It did so with the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, and it will likely continue the trend with the iWatch.
I suspect Samsung understands this and is taking a calculated gamble by introducing the Galaxy Gear now. By beating Apple to market, Samsung runs the risk of falling short compared with what Apple will deliver. In the end, Apple will do the Apple thing and reinvent the smartwatch, transcending the geekiness of today's models.
Now Samsung must wait for Apple to drop the other shoe and if history is a reliable guide, it will copy Apple again in order to remain a player in the smartwatch revolution.
Image Credit: Yrving Torrealba