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First review: Samsung smartwatch is a dud

Posting in Design

"Welcome to the future," says the head of Samsung's think tank team Pranav Mistry, as he introduces the Galaxy Gear smartwatch in Berlin. One review says it's a mystery as to why this would be the future.

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A few hours ago in Berlin, Samsung beat the likes of Apple and Google to the punch by unveiling a smartwatch, called the Galaxy Gear.

Not long afterwards, the first review arrived of the device that's meant to turn a wristwatch into a singing, dancing, communicating, phoning, Internet machine: Thumbs down, ruled technology analysts Lux Research.

Lux labelled the Gear a  chunky, "gimmicky" accessory that lacks an innovative display and that basically has the battery life of a mayfly - not good if you want your watch to do something novel like reliably tell you what time it is after you wake up tomorrow. In a press release, Lux noted:

"With a rigid, OLED display, the Galaxy Gear offers only about a day of runtime from its small 0.3 Ah battery, presenting a problem for many users – and the display and resulting battery demands have led to a bulky form factor."

And with that, Lux was just getting warmed up. It went on:

"For smart watches to evolve into ubiquitous devices, Lux Research projects that innovation in energy storage, displays, touch screens, haptics, sensors, and power electronics will be needed to enable the functionality users need." (Haptics has to do with moving things - like an icon - via touch or motion).

Extending the dead-in-the-water diagnosis, it also pointed out that:

"Moreover, to access the burgeoning consumer health device segment, the Gear would need to offer monitoring of various vital signs – heart rate, sweat, and skin temperature – in a much more comfortable, sleek design."

"These devices remain glorified smartphone accessories, and new technologies are needed to make them into practical stand-alone products," Lux analyst Cosmin Laslau said in the release. "Today's lithium-ion battery technology may suffice for tablets and smartphones, but developers have to make these batteries five to ten times smaller to fit inside a smart watch. Developers like Samsung will need to commercialize disruptive technologies like silicon battery anodes and flexible battery packaging."

This does not all come as a complete surprise. As I noted last week, truly bending screens might not be available for smartwatches and other consumer electronic devices until 2016.

Some kudos should go to South Korea-based Samsung for being, as Lux observed, "the first major smartphone OEM to enter this swelling market." But if Lux's opinion carries the day, then we know what time it might be in Seoul: Time for Samsung to get a new watch.

Photo is a screen grab  from a CNET video via YouTube

On the watch, with SmartPlanet:

— By on September 4, 2013, 6:58 AM 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