During IFA 2015 in Berlin, a month after Samsung’s Note 5 launch where the company teased us about a new smartwatch, the Samsung Gear S2 has been unveiled. The circular smartwatch is the first of its kind from Samsung, and is following in the steps of other circular smartwatches like the Moto 360 and, more recently, the Huawei Watch. During its announcement, Samsung promised exciting things regarding the Gear S2, but did the company deliver? We went hands on with the Samsung Gear S2 at its announcement to find out.
The Samsung Gear S2 comes in two editions, the standard Gear S2, and one for those of us that love the classic wrist watch look, the Gear S2 Classic. Both editions are crafted from stainless steel, though during our brief hands on time with the Gear S2 Classic, we thought that it felt a bit cheap – which isn’t ideal for what we presume will be the more expensive of the two smartwatches.
The Gear S2 Classic comes in black, whereas the standard Gear S2 comes in both silver and a slightly darker grey. Samsung has followed the route of many smartwatch manufacturers before it and allows for the watch strap to be customised, as any standard 22mm watch strap will fit the Gear S2 Classic, however the standard Gear S2 looks like it’ll only fit official Samsung straps.
On the wrist, the Gear S2 feels pretty lightweight and comfortable to wear. Though it measures in at 11.4mm compared to the 11.5mm of the first generation Moto 360 which people say is quite bulky, the Gear S2 doesn’t feel like a bulky watch. In fact, after wearing it for a few minutes, we completely forgot we were wearing it at all and even though it sounds like a bad thing, it’s a really good thing.
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The real beauty of the design of the Gear S2 comes not with the circular display itself, but with the bezel of the watch. Instead of directly interacting with the screen of the Gear S2, users have the option of using the rotating watch bezel to scroll through the various menus and apps of the smartwatch.
When you turn the bezel, you’ll feel a gentle click which Samsung says will allow for muscle memory to eventually kick in and enable you to select apps without needing to look at the screen. It’s not a click generated by a vibration motor either, it’s mechanical. This means that there’s no battery life drain for those of you (and believe us, there will be a few) that just love the sensation of turning the bezel. It is pretty satisfying, we can’t lie.
Of course, users have the freedom of freely tapping and swiping directly on the watch face, but this isn’t how Samsung intends the device to be used. Although with this being said, we found using the bezel a little confusing when navigating the new circular UX, especially at first. However, early adopters of the Apple Watch had the same issue and we don’t hear many complaints about it months down the line, do we?
Samsung included Android-style back and home buttons on the side of the smartwatch to make using it an easier process, though we found it to be a bit of a fiddly process and we kept confusing the buttons as there are no real indications of which is which just by looking at it.
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Both the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic are protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which is pretty standard for smartwatches. We think Samsung could’ve pushed the boat out and used Gorilla Glass 4 or Sapphire glass for a real statement of protection.
With that being said, Samsung did have one interesting feature tucked up its sleeve – 3G connectivity built into the Gear S2. This means that you no longer need to rely on yoursmartphone for a data connection, which should speed up the loading time of many apps. Sadly, this isn’t a feature that’s standard with the Gear S2, and you’ll have to fork out a bit more money if you want 3G connectivity.
Alternatively, the standard Gear S2 boasts not only Bluetooth but NFC and Wi-Fi capabilities, with Wi-Fi connectivity allowing you to use the Gear S2 when not connected to your phone, but only at work, home, etc.
Samsung has included a host of sensors to allow the Gear S2 to track your activity throughout the day and display it to you in a watch-style layout. Instead of just measuring calories (it still does, don’t worry!) it’ll measure the amount of activity you’ve done throughout the day and present it to you in blocks – green areas were areas where you were quite active (and the watch will motivate you when it detects this), yellow areas where you’ve taken it easy, and grey areas for when you’ve not moved at all.
It’s a good way to motivate yourself to get fit, but will users take heed of their results or just dismiss them like with similar fitness apps on other smartwatches? Only time will tell (get it?).
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Samsung are working hard with many businesses in various sectors (retail, social media, etc) to make sure that the apps running on the Gear S2 are as great as they can possibly be. We imagine this is because more often than not watch companion apps are pretty disappointing in terms of what they can do without requiring you to use your phone. This was apparent in our hands on with the CNN app – with other smartwatches, you’re able to see headlines of stories but not much else, but with the Samsung Gear S2 you can tap on an interesting article and read it in its entirety directly from the smartwatch.
Let’s talk spec; the Samsung Gear S2 boasts a 380×380 resolution with an AMOLED display, which would’ve been very impressive if Huawei hadn’t announced that the Huawei Watch would have a 400×400 resolution a day earlier. Although with this being said, we’re not aware of pricing for the Gear S2 just yet so Samsung could be looking at a lower price point than Huawei’s smartwatch. It also boasts an Exynos 3250 processor with 512MB of RAM along with 4GB of on-board storage. It also has an IPX rating of IP68, which means its dust and water resistant to a certain extent and will definitely survive being caught in the rain.
In terms of battery life, the Gear S2 boasts a 250mAh battery (300mAh for the 3G variation) that Samsung claims will last around 2-3 days on a single charge with the use of Samsung’s built in battery saving mode. We weren’t given much of an indication of just how long this extends your battery life by, so we’ll be sure to test that out when we get one sent to PC Advisor towers!
So, how much will the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic cost, and when can we get our hands on them? Samsung has confirmed that both smartwatches will be available in limited quantities from October, though the company hasn’t yet announced pricing so it’ll be interesting to see where the Gear S2 sits in the smartwatch market. However, October is only a month away so we won’t have to wait too long (hopefully) to find out!
Samsung Gear S2: Specs
- 42.3 x 49.8 x 11.4 mm
- Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity
- Circular watch face
- 1.2in 380×380 AMOLED display
- Heart rate monitor
- Exynos 3250
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB storage
- 250mAh battery
- IP68 resistance rating
- Circular UX