I got the Samsung Gear Fit free with my new phone, from the recently departed Phones For You*. I am a sucker for technology, and not having researched these things, I had made a lot of assumptions about what smartwatches could and couldn’t do, largely based on old sci-fi and spy films. I have now been wearing this for a little under two weeks, and have some opinions on it.
The Gear Fit is the budget model by Samsung. I am sure the higher end models do more, and may consider getting one in the future, when enough canaries have gone down the mine, and I know it’ll be worth the cash. As it is, this is more like a watch with a few fun additions, and I didn’t have to pay with it. Some of my advice is based on how I’d feel if I had shelled out the £90 for it. One final qualifier- I have been using this in vertical mode the whole time, the horizontal display requires at least five years of yoga to read comfortably!
First and foremost, it works well on almost all the things you’d like a watch to do. It tells the time. Aesthetically, it is not too bulky, and the curved glass screen is actually very impressive. You can choose from about 20 different displays, with more downloadable, and with a variety of extra information should you want it- I can see how weather or calendar data can be very useful on your watch. The one failure is of a practical nature, in that it needs charging every four days or so. The only practical time to do this is at night, and I like being able to check my watch at night, as I have awful eyesight!
Now in regards to the smart part, it has some nice features, but nothing that makes it as essential as the hype might suggest. I can reject calls (but not receive them… more on this later), receive messages and notifications from my phone, and send a preset reply to the text messages. My dear lady wife has received little in reply to her texts but Yes, OK, No, I’ll call back or variations on these for a week! That’s all the genuine mobile stuff.
The feature that works best for me is the music controller, as I listen to a lot of music on my phone. It is just basic features (track skip, pause and volume), but it’s nice not having to get my phone out of my pocket every time I don’t fancy a track, or it has an overlong outro, especially if it’s raining. The timer function is also useful for my cooking, and the alarm is good, I quite like being woken up by it vibrating on my wrist, as well as the sleep timer, which tells me how bad I’ve been at getting enough sleep at night.
Sadly, the weakest part of the experience is the fitness part, which is a problem when you put the word ‘Fit’ front and centre of the experience. The pedometer is less accurate than the one which is already extant on my phone, although it flatters me as being fitter than I actually am. The fitness measuring part is not as good as the running apps that I have on my phone, and only synchronises with S Health, the limited built in software on Samsung phones*. The heart rate monitor (HRM), while accurate enough, only tells you your top and average heart rate, which isn’t all that useful if you are doing threshold or interval training, where an HRM would actually be useful, rather than a novelty. Essentially, if you wanted to use this seriously for fitness, you’d have overpaid by about £70, as a low end HRM and your existing phone would do exactly the same job.
While there is plenty to like here, and I have been enjoying my new toy, right now, ownership of one of these things is essentially a novelty, and is likely to remain so for several years yet. Even with the iWatch coming next year. I will probably return to my Casio watch for the most part, except when I fancy a little geek out. To finish, here are the things which will make a smartwatch essential to me in the future, based, as previously mentioned, on my love of spy and sci-fi movies:
- Video calling– Obviously. In real life, this would involve two people looking up each other’s nostrils, given the positioning of your wrist in relation to your face, but come on. I’d be a Thunderbird!
- Voice recognition, and talking back– would be useful, as typing on a touch screen will always be too fiddly. Reading large amounts of text also. Every male over the age of 30 would call their watch KITT.
- GPS and directions- The current trend of navigating by looking down at your screen at Google Maps, then up, then down, then up, then down is causing crowded areas to become minefields of phonegawping morons cutting you up. Solved in one.
- A laser- for escapes, pointing at things, and annoying football players.
- Microgames– I just think that the format of a watch would set a very interesting challenge for developers, and I love the old Game & Watch.
* Had their name been written in an adult manner, it is my firm belief they’d still be in business.