Samsung Galaxy Gear, $300
Claimed battery life: about a day
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Works with: Samsung Note 3, Galaxy S III and S 4, and Mega Android phones
The Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch stands out from the pack: It's the only smart watch of the tested group that can make a phone call and the only one with a built-in camera. And it pairs only with some Samsung phones, although Samsung has been increasing the number of compatible devices.
The Gear comes with a charging case, which also pairs the smart watch with your mobile device via NFC. The watch comes with six strap colors, all plastic. A microphone is built into the strap's buckle, and the camera lens is integrated into the strap.
The Gear started with 70 apps, but there's a much larger app selection now. Finding apps was really easy; they're organized and displayed well on the phone by category, such as Entertainment, Health/Fitness, and so on. You just click on an app to install it.
What we liked
The Gear, like the Sony SmartWatch 2, has NFC connectivity, and was the easiest watch in this group to set up and pair. It has an intuitive color touch-screen interface; the only external button is Power/Home. You wake the watch up by shaking it on your wrist or pressing that button. Go through the menu by swiping, tapping, double tapping, and tapping with two fingers.
The camera embedded in the strap takes 1.9-megapixel stills and 720p H.264 MP4 video; there are also two microphones, which Samsung claims are noise-canceling.
You can make phone calls with the Gear—by dialing them and by voice, right through the watch. It also has a gyroscope and an accelerometer.
What we didn't like
For now, at least, the Galaxy Gear works only with a limited number of phones. And the display’s readability in bright sunlight was middling.
This is a very versatile smart watch in so many ways. It has the most functionality of the smart watches we tested, with NFC, a color display, voice control, a built-in camera. But it's pricey at $300, and pretty much useless if you don't already own a compatible Samsung phone.
Samsung recently announced three new smart watches, which will ship in April: The Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit. In our exclusive preview demo, we found the the company made some very smart improvements. Check our story and video for details. We'll test the new models as soon as they're available.