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Review: Samsung Watch Blends Style, Tech Wizardry

Sony introduced its latest SmartWatch in June and unveiled an update Wednesday. Qualcomm announced a smartwatch on Wednesday as well. Google is working on Google Glass â¿¿ a device designed to work like a smartphone and be worn like a pair of glasses. Apple is seeking an iWatch trademark and is widely believed to be developing a watch that uses the same iOS software as its iPhone and iPad devices.

Meanwhile, the response to projects such as Pebble, a smartwatch that received more than $10 million in investment pledges through funding website Kickstarter, also attests to the public interest in this trend.

At about twice the price of the Sony SmartWatch and the Pebble, the Gear boasts a camera, a speakerphone and plenty of apps â¿¿ about six dozen, according to Samsung. Apps include Twitter and sports services such as RunKeeper, which tracks runs and other workouts. These are all great features, but the 1.9 megapixel camera is of poorer quality than a typical smartphone camera. In addition, moderate use of the device will require a daily battery top-up with yet another charger to keep track of.

I can imagine wearing the Gear with a casual dress or a formal outfit. It is sleek, with a thin metallic bezel surrounding the display. The strap comes in six different colors â¿¿ black, gray, orange, beige, gold and green. But the screen, which is pitch black in idle mode, probably draws more attention than a tasteful accessory should. The dark recess in the strap where the camera's lens is embedded will also elicit questions from the curious.

In terms of what the Gear can do, the three features I tested worked efficiently. It was easy to activate the camera and quick to shoot a photo. It left both hands free while placing and answering calls. The Gear alerted me with a nice soft buzz and showed a preview of a newly arrived email. The full message can also be read. Samsung says replies are possible through voice dictation.

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