Samsung Gear S2 Reviewed: Has Samsung Flopped With This Wearable?

[box] Our verdict – A shiny and exciting piece of technology, which is superficially great but in reality flawed. A piece of technology which was superseded before it was released, a bit of technology which was released too slow for the frantic and fast paced world of wearable tech that we’re currently operating in. Read on to get the full BurnTech.TV review of Samsung’s latest wearable. [/box]

The era of fitness, health and wearable technology has brought with it some of the most advanced and cutting-edge product development that we have seen – and sadly for the Gear 2, some products are becoming the victims of this frantic pace, sometimes before they’re even fully launched. This new technological era has merged the fashion industry with the technology industry, presenting a landscape which is as much a fashion statement as a device is a useful accompaniment to your everyday life. Smart watches, fitness bands, headsets, and other fashion accessories have all been benefiting from the latest advancements in technical ability, not least with the newfound ability to put GPS and heart rate monitoring into a wearable, enabling continuous tracking when in the past we relied on hooking up heart rate monitors in order to measure on a workout by workout basis. Alongside the technical advancements has been a explosion in the interest that consumers have for these devices, transcending the space away from upstarts like Fitbit and bringing the ‘big boys’ – companies such as Apple, Motorola, Samsung – into the fitness and wearable space. This all means that a release like the Samsung Gear S2 faces a frightening amount of competition in this space – and thus its going to need to be really good for us to get blown away.

At the time Apple introduced the Apple Watch to the world, companies leaped at the chance to invent something better and more innovative. Samsung, a longtime competitor of the Cupertino based giants, known for its high-resolution televisions, smart phones, and variety of other products, couldn’t resist entering the smart watch game. This upgrade to their original Gear is a step forward, representing improvement on the Gear 2 and the Gear S. We have broken down the S2’s features to provide a Samsung Gear 2 comprehensive Review.

1Samsung Gear S2 vs Samsung Gear S2 Classic

For starters, the Samsung’s newest smart watch comes in two editions: the standard version of the S2 and the Classic. Other than the 4GB internal memory of the Classic, which costs an extra $50, there frankly aren’t really many differences between the two watches.

Both smart watches have the same features, function the same way, but they do differ ever-so slightly in their designs. For example, the Classic only comes in black, while the regular S2 provides the option for silver as well. The Classic is also designed to look like a more traditional watch, while the other provides a more futuristic and sportier feel to it. Furthermore, the Classic is compatible with most 20-mm watchstraps, while the standard Gear S2 is limited to Samsung made wristbands. Lastly, the Classic is slightly smaller than the standard version of the smart watch. With the exception of these minor changes, the two watches aren’t all that much different.

2Operating System

The standard Samsung Gear S2 and the Gear S2 Classic both run on the latest version of the Tizin Operating System. The easy-to-use OS allows for quick access to notifications, settings, third-party applications, and all of the other Samsung smart watch features. Whilst this OS has taken some stick from a range of commentators, we remain, on balance, as advocates for it. It includes nice usability, such as the bezel swirl to scroll. Simply by rotating the bezel, users can scroll, screen-by-screen, through the multiple displays of the Samsung smart watch. Or, if users wish to switch over to the menu function, Tizin aligns circular app icons are across the outside border of watch face. However, Tizin currently lacks the ability to display images, but all other features work great. Images after all, are somewhat limited in their ability to add value on a tiny watch screen.

3Samsung Gear S2 Screen

Both versions of the Samsung Gear S2 have a high-resolution, easy-to-read AMOLED screen. The impressive 302ppi pixel density of the S2 allows for users to change the font-size, and still be able to clearly read what’s on the screen. Users have the option to view more messages per screen or dedicate the entire display to just one. Additionally, screen-brightness can be altered, depending on the amount of light available. Some users have even reported that the new Samsung smart watch might even go too bright. We didn’t find this ourselves, and came to appreciate the watches bright screen. The only downside, which we’ll need more time to fully explore is the impact on the devices battery degradation when the screen is ramped up to full brightness, as its surely burning a significant amount of energy when its fully dialled up.

4Gear S2 Battery Life

This segways us nicely into an analysis of the battery life on this Samsung device. The battery life of the S2 watches typically lasts somewhere between 2 and 3 days before the watch needs to be recharged. However, the longevity of the battery is significantly dependent upon how often and for what purposes the watch is used. To help sustain battery life, the S2 comes with a built-in low-power mode. Furthermore, S2 watches come with a wireless charger, for on the go needs. So basically, the more apps and functions that you’re running, the more your watch battery will suffer. This is of course absolutely no different to your smartphone, and the technology used in the batteries is almost identical, not to mention the operating systems. So much like your phone – if you’re using it all day, especially using apps which tap into the GPS and thus constantly ‘ping’ your location, then you’re going to kill the battery much much faster. However, if you take precautions like closing apps when you’re finished with them, and let the watch go into its low power mode for good chunks of the day, then you’re likely going to find that the battery lasts quite well. Either way, a 2-3 day run is likely much more impressive than what your smartphone can manage.

5Gear S2 for Health & Fitness – does it compete with more dedicated fitness technology?

One of the several features of Samsung’s smart watch is its ability to monitor health and fitness – an increasingly ‘must have’ smart watch feature, especially for readers of websites like BurnTech which focus on fitness and health technology. Frankly, I would not replace a dedicated fitness band or watch, IE your Fitbit/Jawbone and other HRM sports watches with this device.

However, the Gear S2 does perform many of the essential fitness monitoring functions that we have come to expect from the lower end fitness bands, with the more basic toolkits. The smart watch has an accurate step counting tracker, and will notify users when his or her goals are reached. Nike+ Running is preloaded onto the S2 to give users a more accurate picture of distance, pace, and time while out for a jog. The S2 also estimates the number of calories burned, and monitors heart rate. So on the surface of things, it actually covers the health and fitness space well. Not least by having the pleasant inclusion of heart rate tracking. However, the overall package is not as good as the sum of its parts in our opinion, and we were left a little disappointed with the devices capabilities whilst running. Whilst the must haves are certainly there, I sense an overall inaccuracy in the watch, and i am especially sceptical of the heart rate readings. These are notoriously ‘off’, but I sense that this is off by a bigger than normal (for wrist reading), and this negates big chunks of the value.

6Cellular & Bluetooth

The Samsung smart watch supports both Bluetooth pairing and WIFI. Additionally, Samsung is planning to release a 3G smart watch, capable of standing alone as its own device. Currently, Samsung smart watches are compatible with most Android phones. Once paired to a phone, the standalone functionality allows users to make and take calls directly from their wrists. The smart watches built in microphone and speaker also allows users to communicate without using his or her cell phone.

7Music, Apps, & Other Features

The Samsung Gear S2 is packed with a variety of features including music, games, maps, and other third-party applications. Firstly, the music functionality of the watch is terrific. The watches volume and music controls are simple and easy to use, and most ear buds have controls of their own, too. Watch settings are easy to navigate, and users can customize certain functions to their likings. Mapping, location, and directions are handled by HERE. Although, not as accurate as Google Maps and slow to load on the watch, HERE manages to get the job done. Samsung Pay, Samsung’s mobile payment service is also available for use on the smart watch. Furthermore, the S2 is preloaded with apps for date, weather, incoming calls, notifications, messages, and several other “usual suspects.” As for third-party applications, The Samsung Gear App store has partnered with names such as Nike, CNN, Twitter, and multiple others brands, providing more than 1,000 third-party applications available for download.

The Gear S2 may be Samsung latest design in wearable technology, but it is certainly not the last one, especially for the smart watch. As breakthrough technology is discovered and news ways of innovating old products are found, companies will compete for the top spot in ever industry and niche available.