The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a smartwatch that connects to the Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3 and soon to other Samsung devices and it includes several hidden features that deliver a better mobile experience.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear offers access to a collection of new watch faces, apps and other features through the Galaxy Gear manager. This is how users change settings and access some of our favorite Galaxy Gear features.
While Samsung is pushing the Galaxy Gear with big advertising and in store demos, it took us a while to tease out these features, which in Samsung style, are hidden behind an extra tap in settings.
You don’t need to root the Galaxy Gear or use adb to use most of these hidden features, but you will need to dive deeper into settings.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is a wearable computer that works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on all carriers and works with the Samsung Galaxy S4 on Android 4.3, which is available now for Verizon and Sprint and is coming soon to other carriers. The Galaxy Gear will also work with The Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S3 after the Android 4.3 updates arrive.
After using the Galaxy Gear for roughly a month with the Galaxy Note 3, here are our favorite Galaxy Gear features, most of which are hidden behind several taps in the Galaxy Gear manager settings.
Auto Unlock the Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Gear pairs to your Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4, and with a few taps you can make sure that the smartphone automatically unlocks when you are holding the phone in the hand that your Galaxy Note 3 or S4 is in. This is much nicer than trying to enter a pass code or swipe a pattern to unlock.
Open the Galaxy Gear manager app and tap on Settings -> Auto lock -> On. With this setup using the Note 3 securely is much easier. If you don’t already have a pass code lock on the Note 3 or S4, it’s a very good idea to keep your personal information secure in the event you lose the phone.
Customize Apps and Access
The Galaxy Gear includes a variety of Samsung apps, and a slowly growing list of third-party apps. Scrolling through apps isn’t as fast as many users would like, but you can re-order the apps and make it easier to get to the ones you use.
Go to the Galaxy Gear manager -> My Apps -> Tap the ‘+’ icon on the top to add one of the installed applications to Galaxy Gear list of apps. This will allow you to move an app outside of the app area for easier access. After you are done tap on the icon next to the plus sing to change the order of apps.
Voice Control Galaxy Gear Camera
You can also use voice control to take photos with the Galaxy Gear and to answer or reject calls. The commands are the same as the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4.
Go to Galaxy Gear manager -> My Apps -> S Voice Settings -> Check the boxes for Incoming calls and Camera. Once these are on you can use your voice to control the Gear in more ways. If a call comes in you can say”Answer” to accept it or “Reject” to dismiss it.
When the camera app on the Galaxy Gear is open, you can say “Cheese”, “Capture” or “Smile” to take a photo. Users can also say, “Record video” to start taking video. This only works when the camera app on the Gear is open, but it’s still very handy.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear only supports a notification without actual information for most third-party apps. This means Twitter, Gmail and Hangouts notifications only show that a message arrived, without the sender or any other information. For some apps this is acceptable, but for others you will need to grab your phone to see if it is important. The good news is that a third-party app delivers notifications with more information.
With ATN Manager, or All The Notifications, users can push other notifications with more information to the Galaxy Gear smart watch. Install the ATNManager.apk and follow the directions on the App page at XDA developers to get it up and running. You’ll need to find the right combination of alerts, as some apps push alerts that vibrate the watch way too often.
Automatically Transfer Photos to Phone
The Samsung Galaxy Gear can take decent looking photos but sharing them involves transferring them to your phone. Out of the box you need to transfer them manually, one at a time, but you can set it up to automatically transfer.
Go to Galaxy Gear manager -> My apps -> Installed Apps -> Camera Settings -> Pick the Auto Transfer method you want.
While charging is the easiest way to keep things synced without killing the watch’s battery life, but if you need photos fast, the always option may be better.
Pick Your Double Press Shortcut
Users can quickly launch a favorite app with a double tap of the power button on the Galaxy Gear. This is set to S Voice by default, but you can make it open any app.
If you use Evernote often, or any other Galaxy Gear app, you can go to Gear manager -> Settings -> Double pressing the power key -> and pick the app you want fastest access to.
Install Regular Android Apps
The apps you can install on the Galaxy Gear are limited compared to the plethora available for Android phones, but if you want to put the time in you can install other apps, like Candy Crush and more right on the Galaxy Gear. Ars Technica runs through the detailed steps you’ll need to follow to get this up and running.
You’ll run into some limitations, but if you want to run regular Android apps on the Galaxy Gear, that’s the price you’ll pay for now.