Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Dick Tracy Watch Is For Real

By Will Oremus

When it became clear that Samsung was set to unveil a smartwatch this week, expectations were modest. For decades kids and techies have dreamed of owning a modern-day version of the Dick Tracy watch, a mobile device that can tell time, make calls, and more importantly, make you look like a secret agent. But efforts up to now have been underwhelming. The so-called smartwatches that have hit the market so far—the Pebble, the Sony SmartWatch, the Fitbit Flex, Nike’s Fuelband—are watches, all right, but “smart” is a stretch. The first two are little more than basic remote controls for your phone, while the others are useful for quantifying your workout but little else. Not one lets you bark top-secret orders at your wrist.

As a result, most mobile industry watchers had either written off the category—once seen as the next big thing after mobile phones—or resolved to wait for Apple’s long-anticipated iWatch. But Wednesday’s Samsung event in Berlin brought a big surprise: a smartwatch that might actually live up to its name. The Galaxy Gear is both a control center for your phone and a health-tracking device, but it’s also much more. Think of it as Google Glass for your wrist, or—sure, why not?—the first device that can legitimately claim to be a 21st-century version of Dick Tracy’s “2-way wrist radio.”

The Galaxy Gear isn’t a stand-alone device—it’s meant to link up with Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, which it also launched Wednesday. But it does a lot of things that most other smartwatches don’t. For starters it can make and receive calls. To answer an incoming call, just lift the watch to your ear and start talking. Thanks to an embedded microphone and speakers, Samsung claims you can keep talking even as you go back to whatever you were doing with your hands—without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. Sure, you can also talk on your phone hands-free with a Bluetooth headset, but that makes you look like a dork. Talking into your wrist arguably makes you look like a dork too, but if you squint a bit you might also look like a secret agent.

The Gear also takes pictures, with a wristband-mounted(!) camera that you activate by swiping downward on the watch’s face, and can even shoot 10-second video clips. Samsung claims it will come with some Google Goggles-esque capabilities, like the ability to translate a foreign-language sign or pull up more information about a landmark or a product. The watch will also come with Samsung’s “S Voice” feature, its version of Apple’s Siri personal assistant, so you can dictate text messages or pull up your calendar using voice commands (although, perplexingly, you have to tap the watch first to trigger this). Or you can navigate the watch by touch, swiping from one feature to the next and tapping to make selections.

Read the rest here.


  1. I don't know if I want a device that works on microwaves attached to my wrist

  2. But how much longer will I have to wait for the Maxwell "Smartshoe"? *sigh*

  3. Dont know about the watch, but the commercials were cool.

  4. More useless, gimmicky gadgets.

  5. The Dick Tracy watch is for... Well... Dicks...