x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gadget review: while the camera phone is hugely impressive the Galaxy Gear does not live up to its billing.

Users test out the new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the launch event at Armani Ballroom in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National.
Users test out the new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the launch event at Armani Ballroom in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National.

The launch of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 was eclipsed by the company’s unveiling of its smartwatch, the Samsung Gear. The regional launch was no different, which is a shame because the watch is hideous and the Note is impressive.

Fans of the Note family will be familiar with the overall layout, but the Note 3 is wider at 5.7 inches, slimmer and lighter, weighing 168 grams. It now has a 13-megapixel rear camera, which takes great shots, but is not as impressive as some of the other camera phones in lowlight conditions.

The S Pen has been boosted to improve the note-taking experience, with many tasks just one click away. As the adage goes, the pen is mightier than the sword but in this day and age, the (S) pen is mightier and far more effective than a finger when it comes to note-taking, crossing out completed tasks and doodling.

Its ability to recognise handwritten notes (in Arabic too) is breathtaking. You can quickly scrawl a number, highlight it and the Note will dial that number and make the phone call.

Overall the Note 3 is a great device that enables and feeds into a creative, productive environment.

Now the Gear. This is a horrendous device: big, clunky and simply premature. It works alongside the Note 3 as an accompanying gadget to quickly answer calls, check emails at a glance and worryingly, take pictures. While Samsung’s intentions were probably innocent when adding a camera to the watch, it probably won’t be used in such a way. They are advertising the camera facility as a way to quickly take pictures of something you want to remember, be it a name on a business card or a colour you think will look great on your walls. Samsung is calling this “memography”; most people, however, will call it stalking, or a gross invasion of privacy.

It is worrying just how discreetly you can take pictures of people without their noticing. Samsung claims to comply with industry requirements by having a loud shutter sound. But imagine being in a mall or at a party – no one will hear it. It is illegal to take someone’s picture here without their permission, but that doesn’t usually stop people, and the Gear only makes it that much easier.

Samsung has its say:

Hayssam Yassine, the head of the telecoms group at Samsung Gulf Electronics, talks about his company’s latest gadgets.

How well do you expect the Note 3 to do here?

We’re very excited. When the Note category was created by Samsung, there was a lot of scepticism with the larger screen, but it has been a successful strategy, everybody is following it. We believe the Note 3 will improve our market share.

What improvements have you made?

If we talk about the hardware there have been major improvements. The outer design is stronger with soft texture and nice etching. It is lighter, slimmer with stronger battery and a 3GB Ram, which is the first in the industry. The S pen has also been improved with action notes and it recognises handwriting, including Arabic.

Which market segment are you targeting the Samsung Gear at?

Everybody is likely to buy a Gear. It has many uses: you can use it as a pedometer, control your music, take pictures, check emails. It is creating a new culture of communication, we call it the “smart freedom”. If your phone is in your bag, you don’t have to search for it, you can just answer calls with the Gear. The primary customers will be the trendsetters, people who like new technology.

Some have raised concerns about the camera. It enables people to take pictures quite sneakily, no?

We have followed the international requirements, so when you take a photo it makes a very big sound, you cannot reduce it. Plus there are other competitors’ watches with cameras.

What’s next?

Samsung is committed to bringing the latest technologies and provide the right products that best meet consumer needs. We hope to build on this and grow in the future. We are a very innovative company and right now our R&D teams are coming up with new technologies.

thamid@thenational.ae