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Galaxy Gear: It’s fun, but not ultimate smart watch

So I’m standing on the street corner outside Hyperion Espresso in downtown Fredericksburg mumbling more and more loudly to my wrist:

“Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me? WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”

For some reason, this causes people to give me a wide berth and try not to make eye contact.

OK, that does happen to me pretty often. But this week it was because of the Galaxy Gear smart watch I was testing. At least most of the time it was because of that. Really.

Anyway, it was not quite as cool as I thought using a smart watch would be.

The fact that it must be tethered to a smartphone by Bluetooth is a deal-killer for me. The Galaxy Gear has to be paired with the new Galaxy Note 3 super smartphone to do just about anything—including keeping time. (It will soon also be compatible with Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 phones.)

AT&T launched both the $299 Galaxy Gear and $299 Note 3 last week. The prices are valid with a two-year contract. Both became available from Verizon Wireless on Thursday for the same price.

AT&T sent me the Galaxy Gear and the Note 3 to play with.

The Galaxy Note 3 is far and away the best “phablet” yet. We’ll have a full review of the Note 3 next week.

Galaxy Gear, not so impressive. It is fun, though. When people—especially males—recognized it this week, they were excited and wanted to try it out.

Everyone liked the Galaxy Gear, including me. It’s cute. It’s cool. But it loses a bit of its coolness with each passing day of eye-straining, fumbling frustration. The 1.6-inch screen is just too tiny.

Its Siri-like S Voice allows users to make calls from their contact lists. But if it comes down to having to actually tap in a phone number, good luck.

It’s easy to access the apps that are available. Swipe left or right for weather, contacts, notifications, media controller for music, photo albums, voice memos and a pedometer. Swipe down to activate the 2 megapixel camera. The lens is in the wristband, along with the microphone and speaker. Swipe up to bring up the minuscule phone dialer.

With its $299 price tag and limited functionality, the Galaxy Gear’s novelty factor isn’t going to translate into sales to those who aren’t diehard first adopters. Or those with money to burn who want to show off. Or both. It’s an expensive toy and conversation piece.

Again, it’s a 1.6-inch screen. How much can you do? There is no Web browsing. There is no video player. There is no Facetime-like video calling.

It is nice to be able to leave your smartphone behind in one room of the house and not miss calls. And you can respond to texts received

on the Gear by talking to

S Voice.

Samsung commercials show the “evolution” of wristwatch-like communication devices used by Dick Tracy, Maxwell Smart, George Jetson and other fictional characters to hype the Galaxy Gear.

The problem is it’s too much like Dick Tracy’s wristwatch. Both have a tiny screen. Dick must’ve had dainty hands. And, come to think of it, Dick was always squinting.

When the smart watch makes it really big—and it will—it will be big.

And it won’t need to be paired with a smartphone. It will be a smartphone we wear on our arm, like the multifunction device Leela wears in Futurama. It will have a curved screen at least as large as an iPhone 5s, with a crack-proof display. (Rumor has it that Apple is working on an iWatch with a curved design. And Samsung announced this week it will release a curved smartphone called the Galaxy Round.)

On Futurama, Leela sometimes calls it “my wrist thingy.” She uses it as a communicator, laser, portable video-game unit and tissue dispenser.

Anyway, I like the Galaxy Gear. But I’m holding out for my wrist thingy.

Michael Zitz