Samsung’s Bizarre Galaxy Gear Smartwatch Gets Detailed Before Official Launch

Samsung is getting ready to pull the curtain on its curious Galaxy Gear smartwatch (well, among other things) in just a few days, but what’s a major product unveiling these days without a slew of last-minute leaks to ruin the surprise? To that end, VentureBeat recently got what may be the first real glimpse of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and it’s, well, pretty bizarre.

Unlike most of the other smartwatches that have exploded onto the scene these past few years — think the Pebble, the MetaWatch, or even Sony’s family of wrist-worn gadgets, the Galaxy Gear is shaping up to be a real whopper. VB reports the square display plus the bezel that runs around it means the watch itself measures about 3 inches diagonal, and images culled from an internal promotional video depict a device that looks like a Galaxy S4 that got nailed with a shrink ray. So much for subtlety. I’m no watch nerd (I leave that sort of thing to John) but I can’t imagine bigger always equals better when it comes to stuff you wear on your person.

It looks like a Galaxy S4 that got nailed with a shrink ray

In typical Samsung fashion though, the company has apparently packed the thing to the gills with a 4-megapixel camera nestled inside in the Gear’s strap, a WiFi radio, speakers, and a microphone so users can deliver S Voice commands to a connected Samsung smartphone.

Perhaps the biggest bummer is that the Galaxy Gear may only be able to run for 10 hours before having to be recharged. That’s just about respectable for modern smartphones (though we should all be demanding more longevity from Samsung and its ilk), but who wants to worry about charging their watch that often? And manufacturer provided battery stats tend to be optimistic too, so that anemic battery could spell trouble for early adopters.

Throw in a handful of “pre-loaded Android apps” and an apparently substantial focus on mobile fitness and health tracking, and you’ve got an ambitious device that seems to have an identity crisis. Is it for your average smartphone nerd? Fitness buffs? Both? VentureBeat’s report provides the clearest look at the Galaxy Gear to date, but I’m looking forward to Samsung trying to explain its rationale for why people would actually need something like this.

If you’ll allow me to wax personal, the reason I’ve stuck with a device like the Pebble instead of dumping it in favor of a more robust gadget is because it’s focused on doing a small number of things well. Notifications? Taken care of. Changing tracks over Bluetooth while I’m driving? Works like a charm. With the Galaxy Gear, Samsung has added plenty of complexity to the smartwatch formula, which also means there are more bits that just may not live up to people’s expectations.

Then again, it’s not like the Korean electronics giant doesn’t have the resources to go out on a limb like this every once in a while. Strange first steps like this one often beget staggering successes down the road — for all we know, Samsung may flex its design and production muscles to becomethe de facto smartwatch maker within a few years. For now though, I’m still not convinced that we’re looking at the full Galaxy Gear picture here, so stay tuned for our coverage of Samsung’s IFA bonanza later this week.