Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch has taken heat for its limited app selection and general lack of usefulness. But with a little bit of hacking know-how, you can turn the Gear into a full-fledged wrist-worn smartphone. The folks at ArsTechnica found that if you switch on the USB debug mode in the Gear’s settings menu, you can access a command line using the Android Debug Bridge and sideload any Android app you want onto the watch.
As Ars points out, the Gear runs a modified version of Google’s Android 4.2.2 operating system and packs an 800-MHz processor with 512MB of RAM. Those specs may sound paltry next to the octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM found in the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but the Android OS doesn’t need much in the way of performance to function properly.
So what’s the benefit of running full-fledged Android apps on the Galaxy Gear? In truth, there isn’t any. You’ll still be stuck with the smartwatch’s 1.6-inch screen, which means navigating apps will be incredibly difficult. And, as Ars points out, you still can’t completely root the Gear. If you’re into quick do-it-yourself projects and a bit of hacking, this could still be a fun project for you.
There are other smart watches out there that run the full version of Android. For instance, the Neptune Pine is powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It also offers a larger 2.4-inch color display and full QWERTY keyboard. But it also starts at a higher $335.