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The Bulletin

Critics gang up on Samsung smartwatch

Posting in Design

Stormy forecast. The weather icons on these Samsung smartwatches indicate partly sunny, but critics are predicting nothing but rain for the Galaxy Gear.

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Whoever said "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all" neglected to tell the reviewers of Samsung's new smartwatch.

In the biggest universal panning since the 1980 movie Heaven's Gate, tech enthusiasts and market anaylsts uniformly rounded on the Galaxy Gear for clunkiness,  inadequate functionality, high price, questionable design, a difficult user interface, and poor battery life - it lasts as long as a mayfly.

The $299  Gear, which Samsung introduced yesterday in Berlin, tethers wirelessly to a phone or a tablet computer (but to only two specific Samsung models, which is part of the problem) and behaves as a phone (it's not a calling device in its own right). It's also a camera, an app player (you can turn it into a pedometer for instance), it can control music on another device, and more.

Last night I reported that one of the early reviews, from analysts Lux Research, saw no hope for the thing. Lux's kindest word for the device was "gimmicky."

This morning I trawled through the Internet see if anyone cared to sing the gadget's praises.  It turns out that Lux had plenty of company disengaging the Gear. Here is a sample of what others had to say:

“Based on the features announced today, it appears that Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch is a prototype masquerading as a commercial product—and because of that, it is unlikely to be successful in the market. The device exhibits multiple shortcomings, including a high price tag, a short battery life, its status as a companion device and its limited compatibility. The bottom line is the Galaxy Gear smartwatch probably will not succeed in the market and Samsung will need to try again with a more refined product.” - Ian Fogg from market research firm IHS

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"The Galaxy Gear is bigger than most watches and somewhat clunky — especially on smaller wrists. It also feels like a tiny, flat smartphone slapped onto a wristband — a curved screen would've improved it a lot."

"The performance of the device, however, is somewhat lacking...The Gear is priced at $299. It's too early to tell, but for that amount of money, the Gear feels just a little bit unpolished." - The website Mashable

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"We haven't been blown away by any smartwatch's performance, and that's much the case here. The Gear feels awfully sluggish, whether you're launching an app such as Evernote or Path, or swiping down from the home screen to activate the camera."

"Samsung opted for an industrial design instead of a more elegant finish."

"As we've come to expect with many first-generation devices, the Gear has quite a few shortcomings."

"Battery life has been pegged at a full day, at best."

"Perhaps the biggest setback, however, is that the Galaxy Gear is only compatible with the Note 3 and the new Note 10.1. " (the Note 3 is a Samsung phone and the Note 10.1 as Samsung tablet computer) - The website Endgadget

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"Samsung’s new smart watch may be the most polished effort yet—but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a hit." -- MIT Technology Review

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"There are a couple of significant downsides that temper my enthusiasm for the new Gear. First and foremost is the speed and intuitiveness of the user interface — or rather, the lack thereof. There's a tangible lag to anything you do with the Gear, while the swipe gestures are hard to figure out and do different things depending on where you are in the menus."

"If you think of it as a toy and a fun accessory, it can definitely be enjoyed, however Samsung just isn't pricing it like such a device."-- The website The Verge

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"Consumers might be a bit disappointed to find that the smartwatch is a partner device reliant on being paired with a Samsung Android smartphone or tablet, rather than being the completely autonomous media and communications device many consumers were expecting and hoping for." -- Analyst Chris Green from Davies Murphy Group via the BBC.

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"Samsung has a history of latching on to the latest trends and throwing a product into the market to try and get ahead of potential rivals. Galaxy Gear is the first attempt but I expect that there will need to be several more iterations before it is something that will will appeal to anyone other than an affluent geek." -- Ben Wood from analyst firm CCS Insight via the BBC.

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"My bet is that smartwatches are sci-fi inventions that are already anachronisms in this modern world." -- Sarah Rotman Epps from research firm Forrester via the BBC.

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Anything good? Some reviewers liked the speaker and microphones embedded in the watch's wrist band, as well as Samsung's use of metal where plastic might have sufficed on the watch face. There was also a bit of excitement over the camera and all the apps.

Forrester's Rotman Epps allowed that, "Maybe Samsung will tap into unmet demand with this product, disproving naysayers as it did with the Galaxy Note phone." Perhaps she heard from the conscious of my long departed (and missed) grandmother, who was among the sages advising people not to say unkind things.

I don't think Grandma would have approved of all those scathing reviews. But I also don't think she'd go anywhere near a Galaxy Gear.

Photo is from Samsung via Facebook

SmartPlanet watches the market:

— By on September 4, 2013, 7:51 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure