Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Smartwatch Takes Shape Ahead Of Sept. 4 Event, Likely Won’t Resemble Mini Phone

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The good ship Galaxy Gear smartwatch is springing multiple leaks ahead of its official reveal this Wednesday, September 4, and there are even leaks about previous leaks vying for attention. That said, there’s a lot about the device we can reliably say we know at this point, although what the device looks like probably isn’t one of those things. Here’s a quick breakdown of the latest rumors about Samsung’s foray into wearable computing, for those of you keeping score at home.

Not Just A Shrunk-Down Galaxy S4

The Internet cried out in horror at leaks this past weekend that claimed to show the Galaxy Gear in the flesh on a person’s wrist, effectively taking the shape of a shrunk-down Galaxy phone that’s still looking might unwieldy when worn. But that’s apparently not what the shipping hardware does in fact look like, according to Om Malik, who appears to have solid sources providing lots of information about the upcoming device.

Malik wrote on GigaOM that Samsung will present a “different, more finished product” at an event taking place in Berlin ahead of the annual IFA consumer tech show, claiming the version leaked to VentureBeat was actually an early developer prototype. It isn’t uncommon for major smartphone OEMs to seed early hardware to developer partners to help them build software; BlackBerry’s BB10 development devices are perhaps the most public example in recent memory.

More Powerful Than Many Budget Smartphones

Rumored specs for the Galaxy Gear, according to both GigaOM’s sources and SamMobile’s, paint a picture of a device that has the guts of a decent mid-range phone, with a smaller display best-suited to a wrist-top computer form factor. In short, the Gear is said to offer:

  • A Samsung Exynos 4212 dual-core 1.5GHz processor
  • An AMR Mali-400 MP4 GPU (the same found in the Galaxy SII)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 2.5-inch, 320×320 OLED display
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low-Energy
  • Android 4.3 (likely because of included Bluetooth LE support)
  • Accelerometer and other sensors
  • Built-in camera and mic
  • 24-hour batter with light user, 10 under more strenuous conditions

The device actually pretty closely resembles the Galaxy SII in terms of its internal specs, but has a slightly more powerful processor, which could give an idea of its range of software capabilities.

Modified Android OS (And Non-Samsung Hardware Support)

New details from GigaOM shed some additional light on what the OS experience of the Galaxy Gear will be like, contrary to appearances from the leaked VentureBeat screenshots. The Gear will run the latest version of Android, minus a software keyboard (logical enough) and with no native browser. Using apps on-device should require a Samsung device and a special Samsung-specific app store, but connection to the iPhone 5 and other Android devices is listed as a strong possibility for basic smartwatch functions. It sounds like it’s possible the device could offer a basic set of notifications for all devices, requiring Samsung smartphones for more advanced features and third-party software.

A Gear To Grind Your Gears?

In a piece commenting on Samsung’s vision for the smartwatch based on the VentureBeat image leaks, Chris Velazco said that Samsung appears to have added too much complexity into the smartwatch mix for the Gear to be genuinely useful. The new details seem to suggest a device that focuses on supplementing the experience of using a smartphone (with full-screen notifications, for instance) rather than trying to replicate or replace that experience. It still might seem an unnecessary layer for most consumers, but at least the most recent reports about its features and hardware make it seem a bit more likely to achieve relevance than would a shrunk-down phone strapped to someone’s wrist.