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Review: Smart watches – the Galaxy Gear and the Pebble

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DENVER -- Smart watches are quickly becoming the new trend and will surely be everywhere in 2014.  Right now, Samsung is stealing the spotlight with the Galaxy Gear but a Kickstarter project called Pebble was one of the first on the market.  I had a chance to test out both.

LINK: More tech reviews from Kirk Yuhnke

Samsung Galaxy Gear - $300

The Galaxy Gear is slick!  It has a color touchscreen along with a 1.9 Megapixel camera on the strap.  It also has a built-in microphone so you can truly walk around and talk into your watch, just like Dick Tracy.  The Gear only connects to certain Samsung smartphones including the Note 3 and Galaxy S3 and S4.

You can check your calender, read incoming e-mails and text messages , check the weather forecast and track your fitness.  You can even use your voice to send messages via Samsung's "S Voice" app.  When a call comes in, simply swipe the answer button and talk into the wrist strap.  Pictures and videos look OK but at 1.9 Megapixels it won't replace your standard smartphone camera.

Be prepared to take the Gear off and charge it every day or 2.  The battery life is decent but if you use it a lot, it drains fast.  The screen turns off after 30 seconds or so and automatically turns back on when you are trying to look at it.  Once in a while I found myself pressing the button to turn it on.

The Galaxy Gear is impressive.  It has a big price tag but does a lot.  I loved sending quick text messages and answer quick phone calls on the Gear.  For longer e-mails or extended calls you'll probably want to pull your phone out.  The Gear is a glimpse into the future of what smart watches will soon be.  The Galaxy Gear sells for $300.

Pebble Smart watch - $150

The Pebble is an entirely different concept for a smart watch.  It shies away from all the bells and whistles and focuses on a simple extension of your smartphone apps. The black and white screen uses an e-ink display, similar to the original Kindle.  This means it can keep the watch face turned on all the time.  The backlight will automatically turn on in the dark when you turn your wrist.  It has buttons on the side instead of a touchscreen.  It displays incoming e-mails and text messages and works with a number of apps including Runkeeper.  I took a jog with the Pebble and it was great having my distance and time right there on my wrist.

You can download new watch faces with the Pebble app on  your smartphone.  There are a lot of fun faces.  Some include the weather and some let you create your own watch face.  Customization is endless here.

The best part about the Pebble is that it slowly sips the battery.  You can go 4-7 days without charging it up.

You can get the Pebble in multiple colors and you can replace the wrist strap with standard watch straps.

The Pebble works with both iPhone and Android smartphones.  It doesn't have the longest list of features but it hits the sweet spot with price, battery life and functionality.  It sells for $150.