Has Samsung‘s decision to priorities style over functionality meant the Gear S2 falls flat? Let‘s find out in our in-depth Samsung Gear S2 review. Design and Comfort
At first glance, it is difficult to deny to beautiful looks of this new Samsung wearable. There are multiple versions of the device, including the Gear S2 Classic and Gear S2 3G. Here, however, we have the base Gear S2 version. The Classic may be a bit more to some people‘s taste, but there is nothing wrong with the design here. Read: Top 5: Problems with Smartwatches
It is sleek and stylish, and downright pretty. It is definitely a head-turner and one of the only wearables I‘ve ever reviewed where people don‘t ask “œIs that the Apple Watch?“ upon first setting their eyes on it.
All variants of the Gear S2 are round, and have two physical buttons ““ one to go back and one to go to the home screen or launch the app drawer ““ and a rotating bezel that can be used to navigate the Tizen interface. It has a touchscreen to navigate like traditional smartwatches, but it is very often not needed thanks to that rotating bezel. Its Samsung‘s version of Apple‘s Crown on the Apple Watch, and we generally prefer the former‘s implementation of this mechanic.
The Gear S2 has a rubber band that pops off without much fiddling, but you can only fit other straps made specifically for this device rather than some other third party option.
While some might find the Gear S2‘s dimentions relatively clunky, compared to other smartwatches it actually feels smaller and thinner. Paradoxically, it also sits a little less comfortably than some of those same smartwatches. I suspect it has to do with the size and shape of my wrists rather than any bad design from Samsung. It feels extremely well built ““ impressively the rotating bezel is extremely fluid and doesn‘t feel like it will break at all.
It is IP68 certified for dust- and water resistance. It also comes with NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity and the obligatory heart rate sensor. Overall, this watch is very well designed and it looks and feels remarkably accomplished. Display
As you get to grips with that great rotating bezel and keep playing around with it, you might forget to notice the watch‘s display. That would be a shame.
The Gear S2 has a bright, sharp and vivid 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display (the same tech used in its flagship smartphones). It is fully circular, unlike the Moto 360, but is slightly smaller than the Motorola smartwatch.
As mentioned before, I ““ and in general the Bandwidth Blog team ““ believes the circular smartwatch screens are more aesthetically pleasing compared to the rectangular ones of the Apple Watch and Sony Smartwatch 3. It just looks more like a traditional, analogue watch. In terms of functionality, it’s hard to make a case for it being better or worse.
At 360 x 360 pixels, the Gear S2’s screen has an impressive pixel density of 302ppi, which means you can choose to set the font very small and see more messages or notifications on one screen as you scroll through them. The quality is probably the best you‘ll find right now on any smartwatch. Battery Life
When the Gear S2 was announced we were quite concerned about battery life. It is equipped with (only) 250mAh in the battery pack, which is small compared to most modern smartwatches. Others mostly have battery packs with a minimum of 300mAh.
Another preposterous claim at the time by Samsung was that it would last you two to three days with regular use and the always on display turned off, and about 1.5 days with it turned on. I thought they were smoking something or inhaling too many of those battery fumes to make such a claim. This is one time I am very happy to be proven wrong, and their claims were pretty much spot on.
Now, you can‘t talk about the Gear S2 battery without talking about its great charging dock. I would summarise it as somewhere between the Moto 360 and Apple Watch charging solutions, and it looks and works a treat. It’s a really neat little dock, and features an LED on the front which turns from red to green when the watch has finished charging.
In short, the battery life is good, better than most of its Android Wear counterparts. No doubt, much of that is down to running Tizen instead of Android Wear and how it works with the hardware. Tizen Interface
The Samsung Gear S2 functions like you would expect any modern smartwatch to. It alerts you to texts, emails and other smartphone notifications alongside the fitness tracking discussed below. The only difference to other smartwatches here is that this device runs Samsung‘s proprietary Tizen operating system. When you receive a smartphone notification, the watch vibrates, and displays the message. You can choose to dismiss it, or interact with it.
This is where the rotating bezel becomes very handy. Instead of having to touch the screen and obscure your view of it with your finger, the bezel enables you to easily and concisely decide what you want to do with a specific interaction.
This Tizen implementation on a smartwatch tries to take the best of both worlds between Android Wear and Watch OS. It amalgamates some parts of both to create an experience that is new, yet satisfyingly familiar, whether you have used either platform. Tizen is very similar to Android Wear, with your home screen watch face, and then different cards for at-a-glance information. Whereas navigating the cards on Android Wear requires furious swiping, those in Tizen can be viewed with one fluid turn of the bezel.
Rotating the bezel anti-clockwise lets you look at the most recent notification from your phone. Tapping on an email allows you to read the entire text, scrolling down using the rotating bezel. Tapping on the three dots to the left of a message brings up the options, allowing you to archive, delete, reply, open on phone, block or clear all notifications.
We can go on and on about all these features, but as you can see they are extremely simply and intuitive. As mentioned before, the rotating bezel completely makes this device what it is and shows off the best of what Tizen can offer to the user.
The software isn‘t completely infallible, however. As is always the problem with a relatively new platform, or one that hasn‘t been adopted by a wide range of developers, there is a serious lack of apps. Sure, Android Wear and Watch OS isn‘t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there are exponentially more amounts of apps available for you to explore, delete, and explore again.
If Samsung can narrow that app gap, they can surely become a dominant force when it comes to smartwatch adoption. Health and Fitness
While this category might not be on everyone‘s list of most important things for the device, there is still a lot a smartwatch can offer in terms of health measurements and tracking. It is also not the main attraction for the Gear S2, but let‘s take a look what it does and does not offer to the fitness fanatic.
Step counting is accurate and S Health offers some easily glanceable graphics to show your progress to specific goals set in the smartphone app. Obviously, as this is not an Android Wear device, it can‘t really sync with Google Fit or many of the other major fitness trackers you might use on your Android phone.
The Gear S2 will vibrate to let you know you need to be more active after a long time being passive at your desk, and other alerts include step target achieved and healthy pace. You can also enter the basic health tracking info like amount of water you‘ve drunk, calories consumed and other exercise done during the day.
This device definitely won‘t replace any sports watch you might want to replace, especially since it doesn‘t come with GPS included and won‘t be able to take advantage of the applications that need it. It auto tracks walking, running and cycling, with estimates of calories burned, which is perfect for the kind of casual user who would consider the Gear S2 as an all-rounder.
The heart-rate monitor was surprisingly accurate, and with S Health you can let it know if that measurement was before, during or after exercise. It will take this into account when measuring your fitness levels and the amount of exercise you have done during the day.
Overall, the Gear S2 is on par with other health and fitness trackers included in smartwatches; needless to say it can‘t compete with devices purpose built for fitness. But that is not what is was built to do. For the regular user, it is more than adequate.
At its current price point, the Gear S2 sits right in the middle of what you can expect to pay for any of its competitors. The price is exactly what we wanted a likewise device to be, which is rare from Samsung.
The Samsung Gear S2 is one of the best smartwatches on the market and it is a huge improvement from everything the Korean company have released previous. It is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous iteration of the Gear and Gear Fit, to be frank.
The device really feels like a step forward in smartwatch design; the rotating bezel especially and Tizen OS are genuinely useful innovations. We can’t wait to see this start popping up on other smartwatches.
Of course, Samsung’s rivals are also advancing, the Moto 360, Huawei Watch and Apple Watch are all getting better as well. It’s an encouraging sign for smartwatch enthusiasts.
With the Gear S2, the rotating bezel alone is unique enough to keep this wearable on my wrist and the battery life is an added benefit. In an industry full of similar devices, the Gear S2 remains unassuming, but makes just enough of a splash to capture and keep your attention.
Let us know in the comments below what you thought of our in-depth Samsung Gear S2 review.
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