It has been on retailer shelves for several weeks now, along with the LG G Watch (reviewed here).
Samsung’s third kick at the growing smart watch market in the past year (after last years’ Galaxy Gear, then the Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo) is also the third different operating system the company has tried in its wearables. The original Galaxy Gear shipped with Android, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo use Tizen (Samsung’s own mobile OS) and the Samsung Gear Live is powered by Android Wear.
Is this latest Samsung smartwatch better than previous generations? Should you pick the Gear Live over the Tizen-based Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo? Our review of the Gear Live, the new Android Wear-powered Samsung smartwatch will help you answer those questions.
Samsung Smartwatch Review (Samsung Gear LIve): Android Wear!
There have already been a slew of smartwatches released, many of them like the Pebble getting their start on Kickstarter. Among the big consumer electronics manufacturers, Samsung has been the most prolific so far, but Sony (SNE) is also several generations into its own version.
What’s been missing from many of the early efforts — especially the Android-based versions — was an operating system and UI designed specifically for wearables.
The Samsung Gear Live’s use of Android Wear immediately gives it an advantage over earlier generations.
In particular, locational awareness and deep integration with Google Now make Android Wear devices feel more like a standalone device — with its own purpose — than a sometimes awkward add-on for a smartwatch.
Samsung Smartwatch Review (Samsung Gear Live): Hey, This is the Samsung Gear 2 Neo…
The new Gear Live looks an awful like the second generation Samsung Gear smartwatch, something that could end up confusing consumers. Just check out the photo showing the Gear Live (top) and Gear 2 Neo (bottom).
The two devices look similar, but the Gear 2 Neo runs Samsung’s own Tizen operating system instead of Android Wear and offers features like an IR Blaster (a TV remote control) that the Gear Live Samsung smartwatch lacks. The Gear 2 is slightly chunkier than the Gear 2 Neo or Samsung Gear Live smart watch, but also includes a built-in camera.
Anyone pumped up about Android Wear’s UI and capabilities will find that if they accidentally buy the Samsung Gear 2 smart watch (or Gear 2 Neo) instead, there will be no Android Wear to be seen.
On the plus side, the Gear Live clearly shares components and design cues that Samsung has been honing through several generations of wearables, including a big, bright and crisp 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display. Reusing these on the new Gear Live smartwatch is not a bad thing.
Samsung Smartwatch Review (Samsung Gear Live): Specs
- 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display (320 x 320 resolution)
- 1.2 GHz CPU (See note)
- 512 MB RAM, 4GB storage
- 300 mAh Li-ion battery rated for all-day use
- Bluetooth 4.0 (LE)
- Accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, heart rate monitor
- 2.12 oz
- MSRP $199
Note: The company is not saying anything other than “1.2 GHz” but the CPU in the new Samsung Gear Live is expected to be the same 1.2GHz Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 400 found in the LG G Watch.
Samsung Smartwatch Review (Samsung Gear LIve): Conclusion
This latest Samsung smartwatch is going to force you to make some choices.
First, do you prefer Tizen or Android Wear as a wearable OS platform? If you said Tizen, then you’ll want one of the earlier Samsung smartwatch releases — the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo (or you could pick up an original Galaxy Gear at a discount and upgrade it to Tizen).
If you prefer Android Wear, then it’s the Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch, at least for the moment.
If price is a concern, then the Samsung Gear 2 Neo and Gear Live smartwatch are both $199, while the G Watch lists at $229 and the Gear 2 is $299.
And if you simply like the look of the Samsung smartwatch, you’d better go back to step one and decide on a platform because visually, the Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo and new Samsung Gear Live look very similar.
Finally, with an Apple (AAPL) iWatch (or will it be the iTime?) expected to be unveiled in time for the holiday shopping season, it may be worth waiting a few more months to get a better view of the smartwatch picture before committing $200 to a Samsung smartwatch.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.