Samsung Galaxy Gear SmartwatchMany people have said that 2013 will be the year of the smartwatch. Yes, it’s true that Apple has yet to reveal what many are calling the iWatch, but that hasn’t stopped several of its competitors from getting into the wrist-worn computer game. One of the newest additions to the smartwatch arena is the Samsung Galaxy Gear, a device that borders on being a full-blown smartphone on your wrist.

How does it compare to some of the other smartwatches that are already available? How much will it cost? Is it compatible with the Apple iPhone and other non-Samsung, non-Android devices? Let’s dig into the finer details of this new smartwatch and find out.

Galaxy Gear Key Features

Formally announced and revealed at IFA Berlin (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin) on September 4th, the Samsung Galaxy Gear joins the rapidly expanding ranks of other smartwatches, but it brings several new advances and cool features to the table compared to its competitors.

The Galaxy Gear is powered by a 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. It comes with 4GB of internal storage, integrated speakers and microphone, 720p video playback capabilities, NFC pairing, Bluetooth 4.0 and a relatively small 315mAh battery. The 1.63-inch touchscreen display has a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels and the menu navigation is done primarily with swiping rather than touching; this makes sense, since the watch will likely endure many accidental touches. The Galaxy Gear runs on a heavily modified version of Android Jelly Bean.

There are a range of sensors in there too, so the Galaxy Gear can function as a fitness tracker in much the same way as a Fitbit or Nike+ FuelBand can.

The Camera in the Strap

Aside from the color touchscreen display, one of the most prominent features on the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is its 1.9MP camera. This is built into the strap itself and while the megapixel count isn’t anywhere near comparable to what you’d find in the main shooter of a modern smartphone, it should be perfectly adequate for the occasional rogue shot. It can also capture HD video at 720p.

Multiple Colors of Galaxy Gear

Multiple Colors of Galaxy Gear

The strap comes in a variety of colors–like Oatmeal Beige, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange–but because the camera is built in, the strap is not exactly user replaceable. This is not much of an issue early on, but it could become a problem over extended wear and tear. This is quite unlike just about every “normal” watch on the market today.

Only Compatible with Android 4.3 + BTLE

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles that you will face if you’re considering the Galaxy Gear is that it is only compatible with Android devices running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (or above). At time of launch, that would include only the brand new Galaxy Note 3 phablet and the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, but that will naturally change as other devices get upgraded. However, the other requirement is that the paired smartphone (or tablet) must also be compatible with Bluetooth LE, which isn’t true for a number of mobile devices.

This is quite unlike the far broader compatibility that you’d find with a smartwatch like the Pebble. While the Galaxy Gear can perform some functions on its own, it really is designed to be a companion device for a smartphone. Indeed, you can take calls, send text messages, and check the weather on it without taking your smartphone out of your pocket.

25-Hour Battery Life

When you look at a more conventional wristwatch, you probably don’t expect to change the battery in it for months or even years at a time. Smartwatches are an entirely different beast and the 315mAh battery in the Galaxy Gear won’t stretch that far when it has to power all those sensors and wireless radios, not to mention the full color display and digital camera. The official word is that it has 25 hours of standby, so you should be able to get through a standard work day, but it does mean that you’ll have to charge it nightly along with your smartphone, Bluetooth headset, tablet and whatever other mobile devices you tow around.

Launches on September 25 for $299

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is set to start shipping in most markets around the world on September 25 and it should become available in stores in the United States some time in October. Expect an MSRP of $299.

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