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Welcome to the future? A day on the wrist for the Samsung Gear smartwatch

The woman on the bus clearly thought I was mentally ill or a witch - or perhaps a deadly combination of the two.


As I made a phone call into my watch, I didn’t feel like I was entering “the future” - I felt like Dick Tracy, with the emphasis on the first bit.

Say what you like about a nice TAG Heuer, it rarely provokes passers-by to open a Bible and start praying like they’ve just heard the Four Minute Warning. Others were staring. I had to get off and walk. It wasn’t a good start to a week testing Galaxy Gear, a device that Samsung believes is “the future” and (more ambitiously) a “global fashion icon”.

The Gear watch will reduce the amount you look at your phone, but it's not ready to take its place. 

The “fashion icon” part is, well, just wrong. It’s wearable, but the fact it doesn’t turn on until you activate it (by raising a wrist, or getting an email) makes it less of an eye-magnet. A hipster Mickey Mouse watch would draw more eyeballs.


People don’t even notice you’re wearing it - and I was really trying hard to show it off, lifting it up (the gesture turns it on) in shops, and flipping between apps ostentatiously in crowded rooms.


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The one thing you can say for it is that you won’t get pursued down the street and beaten up by young men yelling, “Get the nerd!” which I imagine may be all too common once Google Glass launches here.

The S Voice commands - “What is the weather?” of course, are clearly unusable - you look like a maniac, and the connection with your Galaxy Gear phone is slow, so it takes far longer than simply getting your Galaxy tablet out and doing it with a finger. Or just looking up at the sky.

The Gear needs to link up to a Samsung smartphone, using Bluetooth.What Gear clearly is, though, is the start of something big. Wearables  are going to happen - Gear’s a classic Version 1.0, in geek speak. It’s the unfinished one, the one your nerdy friend buys and bores you rigid about.

It’s ungainly, unreliable, and lacks functions. But it’s the start - it’s cut the amount of times I get my smartphone out by about half, which offers a ray of hope for what these things might do.


It often feels like a nicotine lozenge for the digital cigarette that is your smartphone - a “cure” for fishing out your phone and doing the grim rounds of your social network apps.





But it’s not really a finished product - at all - and certainly not a £300 one.

Getting email on your wrist is great -  from the watch’s screen you know whether it’s someone offering you some lucrative work, or Curry’s telling you that washing machines are half-price all weekend.

There have been times I’ve felt like I suddenly had a new “missile shield” protecting me from the various PR and marketing guys who pursue me with the inexorable force of Tutankhamun’s curse.


But you can’t send email from the watch - not even a digital brush-off like “Great, thanks”.

Emails also sometimes take ages to arrive at the watch - you get a little buzz on your wrist, and in this impatient age, you’ve already got your Galaxy Gear (the giant smartphone it “buddies” with) out.
Pedometer - likewise, nice to have, and another good reason not to get the phone out - as is the option for a watch face with weather built in. Gear removes about half the reasons you get your smartphone out  - which means you, in turn, spend less time pointlessly whirring through Twitter, Facebook and the news before returning it to your pocket.


But it’s got so many glaring, gigantic flaws. The fact you can only charge it with a special cradle - not a cable - and it needs a charge every day. The fact that the Bluetooth connection breaks all the time, leaving your phone marooned and dataless.

Samsung says it wants the Gear to be a fashion statement...we're not so sure.

Gear 2.0, or 3.0 - or Apple’s iWatch, might well be great. At this price, this is just a geek toy - and missing obvious stuff (a sat nav app?), at the expense of odd stuff (a camera in the strap), which just seems like it’s made to get you arrested.


I have seen rather a few “smart watches” - and none have been smart, at all. The best ones looked like you’re wearing an electronic tag. The worst ones look like you’ve taped some improvised explosive device to your risk. Gear looks like a watch.

Gear is so much better than the horrors that went before it. Samsung, of course, will be busy on a Version 2 - as will others. Google. Microsoft. Apple. To paraphrase D:Ream - things are going to get smarter.