For several years now Apple have snared
unsuspecting tech flies into their web by creating an ecosystem of interconnected products that incrementally take control of different elements of your daily existence until you can’t remember how
you ever functioned without them.
This week the Cupertino giant’s great rivals Samsung will launch their own assault on your lifestyle with the release of three new devices designed to dominate your every waking moment:
the Galaxy S5 smartphone, the Gear 2 smartwatch and the Gear Fit smartstrap.
I’ve been playing around with all three products ahead of their worldwide release on Friday April 11th and while I haven’t had the opportunity to put them through their paces literally, initial impressions are that this could be the start of a magical menage a trois.
The least impressive member of the team – at least in terms of pure wow factor – is the Galaxy S5. Despite boasting an almost imperceptibly larger
5.1” screen (compared to the S4’s 5.0”), a new ergonomically designed back, and – of course! – a fingerprint scanner, it doesn’t look or feel all that different to its predecessor.
The FHD SuperAMOLED display is still eye-popping impressive but the handset comes a distant third in the style stakes to both the HTC One M8 and the iPhone 5S. There are plenty of improvements
beneath the plasticky shell, though, including a meatier 2.5GHz quad core processor and a 16MP camera embellished with some neat new focusing functions.
As if to emphasise the S5’s powerhouse
credentials, a new Download Booster mode allows you to combine wifi and 4G technology to suck stupid amounts of data down from the internet at once. Parents worried about incurring charges
might be more taken with the new Kids Mode, which essentially implements a pre-defined lockdown so that your offspring can’t access anything you don’t want them to.
Samsung are making a big play for the
increasingly important health and fitness market, and the S5 comes pre-loaded with their proprietary app, S Health 3.0. An all encompassing lifestyle manager, it combines a pedometer with an exercise planner and food diary. It can even record your heart rate thanks to a new biometric scanner slipped under the handset’s rear camera.
If the S5 feels more about evolution than
revolution then the real magic happens when you pair the phone – literally, via Bluetooth – with its wondrous new wearable accessories.
The Gear 2 is a genuine thing of beauty, a simple but sleek timepiece that improves upon its lumpen proof-of-
concept predecessor in almost every way. When linked to the S5 (or 16 or so other compatible Samsung products) it can answer and reject calls, show SMS, email and calendar alerts, receive news updates and generally act like an
The watch is pretty smart on its own two. It boasts biometric sensors that can record heartbeat and exercise data to sync with your S Health app at a later date and a face-mounted 2MP camera that also shoots 720p video.
You can also connect Bluetooth headphones or speakers to offer a standalone music solution, control your TV via the inbuilt IR blast and, oh yes,
tell the time. Best of all, it makes you feel like a cross between James Bond and Buck Rodgers when using it.
The Gear Fit Smartstrap
If the Gear 2 is a little too retro for your tastes – and for all its elegance there is an unmistakable whiff of the 1980s calculator watch about it – then the Gear Fit is future tech at its finest. The world’s
first curved superAMOLED device, it’s almost too beautiful to be confined to fitness freaks.
As before, a battery of biometric sensors send data back to S Health 3.0 on your phone, allowing you to monitor your daily activities in real time and tailor exercise programmes accordingly. The Gear
Fit also offers rudimentary access to a range of message and call alerts and allows you to control media playback from a paired device remotely.
Perfect, then, for both the very active out on a run and also the very lazy whose phone or tablet is annoyingly out of reach.
Sure both the Gear 2 and the Gear Fit feel gimmicky but wearable tech is where it’s at right now and there’s also enough functionality here to appeal to more than just early adopters. And while
Apple are expected to announce their own move into the fitness market during the San Francisco WWDC event in June, Samsung have more than seized the opportunity to set the early pace.