Samsung Gear 2 evaluate: a lot improved, however that does not imply you should purchase it
2013 was the yr of the smartwatch. In promise, anyway — perhaps not supply. Of the many, many totally different, colourful and uncommon timepieces that might populate our blogroll, it was maybe Samsung’s Galaxy Gear that made probably the most headlines. Why? Partly as a result of it was a brand new product from considered one of know-how’s largest gamers, and partly as a result of it was simply so dangerous. Poor battery life, an unpopular design and restricted apps meant that the $300 accent by no means had an opportunity of catching on. However, resilient as ever, Samsung is having one other crack at it. In reality, it is having one other three cracks at it with the discharge of the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Match smartwatches. The large query this time round: Is the second-gen Gear any higher than its predecessor? Spoiler alert: Sure, it’s. However sufficient that you simply may truly need one? That query is a bit more complicated.
- Longer battery life
- New coronary heart fee monitor and IR blaster
- Improved design
- Only a few apps
- Some software program options really feel superficial
The Gear 2 is usually a strong enchancment over the unique, with a nicer design and longer battery life. Even so, it does not carry out nicely sufficient to completely justify the $300 asking worth.
For those who have been hoping for an entire redesign, it is time to put in your disappointment pants. So far as aesthetics go, the Gear 2 is merely an evolution of the unique. The primary physique is as soon as once more common out of brushed metallic, whereas the strap is manufactured from an identical plastic materials as earlier than, with a close to-equivalent clasp mechanism. I say “close to,” because the microphone is not housed on this part, so the a part of the clasp the place this was is now thinner. The affectionately titled “wart” digital camera not resides within the strap both; it is again up in the primary watch housing, the place it ought to have been all alongside. The result’s that the strap is now simply “dumb” plastic; there is no know-how inside like earlier than. That is excellent news, because it means you possibly can exchange it with a number of fancy shade choices — there’s even a tiny launch lever on the underside to make swapping a cinch. The mannequin I examined had a chocolate-brown strap that really enhances the remainder of the watch fairly properly. So I’ve no urge to vary it, however it’s nonetheless good to have the choice.
Different minor, but welcome beauty modifications embrace the removing of the seen screws from the highest of the watch’s face. In the meantime, the only button now sits beneath the 1.sixty three-inch, Tremendous AMOLED show, identical to on Samsung’s telephones. I do not suspect anybody buys a smartwatch based mostly on its silicon, however in the event you should know, there is a twin-core 1GHz chip in right here, together with a 300mAh battery. Whereas the Gear 2’s hardware is clearly just like the unique, it feels extra refined, extra cohesive. Actually, I might go as far as to say that the primary iteration was a little bit of a rush job; the results of a scramble to place one thing out. The Gear 2, nevertheless, feels quite a bit like what the unique ought to have been.
Past the superficial modifications, there are a few inner additions that considerably increase the performance right here. These embrace an optical coronary heart price monitor (very similar to the one discovered on the Galaxy S5), an IR blaster and IP67 mud-resistance and waterproofing (meaning complete mud safety, and being waterproof to at least one meter for half-hour). Immediately, then — a minimum of on paper — the Gear 2 is a extra strong, and probably extra helpful system. In fact, that is if the software program (or apps) are there to comprehend that potential — a query we’ll return to later.
In the meantime, a lot of the different key hardware has remained unchanged. Meaning Bluetooth four.zero, 4GB of storage, a microphone and an accelerometer. Oh, and keep in mind that bizarre charging cradle? Nicely, that is principally gone. I say “principally,” as there’s nonetheless a proprietary adapter you will have to plug a micro-USB cable into, however it’s smaller and sturdier than the fragile cradle (with its shifting elements) you needed to cope with final time. It is nonetheless not ideally suited — for those who lose it, you are screwed — however it’s a particular enchancment nonetheless.Software program
The very first thing you will have to do when you pry the Gear 2 out of its fake-pine field (what’s it with Samsung and fake… stuff?) is join it to one of many 17 suitable handsets. (These are listed right here, however principally, it consists of most up-to-date and flagship-caliber Samsung units.) Sure, you continue to have to have a suitable system, however at the very least there is a decently sized listing to select from this time.
When you’re related over Bluetooth, you will have to obtain the Gear Supervisor app from Samsung’s personal retailer, and then you definitely’re good to go. As a warning, you will be hanging out within the Gear Supervisor app lots for the primary few days. It is the place you’ll be able to change the watch face, modify just about all of the settings and obtain apps. Typically, it is faster to vary a setting by way of the app than to do it on the watch. Thoughts you, it isn’t troublesome to vary settings immediately on the Gear; it is simply that you simply may really feel extra at residence in your handset.
The Gear Supervisor half is comparatively unchanged the second time round. The large deal in terms of software program is Samsung’s determination to have the second era of Gear units run on Tizen, moderately than Android. What does that imply past the shortage of “Galaxy” branding? Firstly, it means any apps you have been utilizing on the unique Gear are not any good right here. That is an enormous deal. Not simply because it causes a fracture within the consumer expertise, but in addition within the ecosystem as an entire. One of many largest issues dealing with the Galaxy Gear was the dearth of third-social gathering apps — a state of affairs that improved solely barely within the months after it launched. With the introduction of Tizen, nevertheless, what tiny progress that was made has principally evaporated. As of this writing, there have been simply 10 third-celebration apps for the Gear 2 (that is 22, technically, however 12 are simply watch faces.)
For these questioning what the OS change means for the consumer expertise, the answer is truly little or no. In case you’ve used the Galaxy Gear, and somebody gave you a Gear 2, there’s nothing within the UI to recommend one thing new is operating beneath the hood. The font, icons and menus are virtually similar to the Android version. This implies it is nonetheless a reasonably primary, selfmade-wanting interface (very similar to Samsung’s TouchWiz telephone UI, to be truthful). That stated, it is useful, tidy and straightforward to make use of.
One space the place the software program has improved is within the variety of native apps. When you look forward to Fb and Twitter to construct apps for the Gear 2, there is a host of instruments on the watch that go some option to making the watch helpful proper out of the field. These embrace issues we have seen earlier than, reminiscent of a stopwatch, telephone dialer, a media controller and entry to contacts and name logs. There are additionally a couple of new additions comparable to: Train, Coronary heart Price Monitor and a self-contained media participant (which performs music regionally from the watch, not by way of the telephone). Most of them are pretty self-explanatory. The Train app, particularly, is principally a stripped-down model of Samsung’s S Well being app. Which is to say, you’ll be able to inform it you are about to go for a run, do some strolling, journey a motorcycle or go on a hike. In case you’re doing something extra unique, or simply knocking out your weekly dose of Madness/Zumba (Zumbanity?), you will want to select no matter’s the most effective match.
This primary function set seems to be rising at a quick clip. About two days after I obtained the system, the Gear 2 acquired a few firmware updates, and never simply bug fixes, both. One in every of them included an entire new app for monitoring sleep. It is a pretty easy affair (principally you inform it you are about to sleep, and let it know once you get up) besides, it is a aid to see that new options are being added. I am not totally positive I need to be sporting this in mattress, although, however hey, I am going to take new options the place I can get them.
One other space that appears to be improved in model two is notifications. For a lot of, that is what a smartwatch is all about, permitting you to look at tweets, calls and messages out of your wrist. The unique Gear was a bit hit-and-miss on this regard. For instance, in the event you used Samsung’s personal e mail shopper, it might ship a reasonably helpful notification to the watch. However with Gmail notifications, all you bought was a principally ineffective alert letting you already know that e-mail had arrived. Thanks! The Gear 2’s Gmail notifications are a lot better, with an honest snippet of the message included within the alert. It is often sufficient so that you can decide whether or not it is a message you need to cope with now or later. The record of apps for which you will get notifications can also be surprisingly in depth, and consists of just about each app in your telephone. By no means need to miss a Sweet Crush message once more? Not an issue; have them despatched proper to your wrist (in your personal sanity, please do not).In use
Let’s get it out of the best way proper now: The present lack of compelling apps means you are restricted to notifications, timekeeping, taking calls and some new options that Samsung launched within the Gear 2. As talked about earlier, the notifications are a transparent enchancment over the unique Gear. There are nonetheless some limitations that we would like to see addressed, nevertheless. For instance, once you obtain a Gmail notification, you’ll be able to learn a few of the mail, however there is no approach to reply with out getting your telephone concerned. You can reply to textual content messages with both templates or S Voice, which is a bit hit-and-miss. General, although, I am glad to see the notifications are usually extra helpful.
There are some third-get together apps, nevertheless, with the RSS reader Feedly being a favourite of mine. Feedly, in the event you recall, was fast to decide up new customers when Google Reader shut down. It is one thing I exploit day by day on the desktop, so the thought of with the ability to entry it on the Gear 2 was immediately interesting. The truth is not fairly what I might hoped, although. To start with, that you must add the app to the telephone as nicely. No main hardship, and one thing I might in all probability do anyway on this case, nevertheless it all provides to the sense of being “tethered” to the telephone. I feel I probably had an expectation that the watch model of the app is perhaps configurable by means of Gear Supervisor with my account credentials, however alas, no.
The consumer expertise itself is not completely good, both (which is disappointing, as Feedly’s net app is nicely-designed). You’ll be able to browse your foremost feed on the watch, swiping tales as you go. As soon as you discover one thing of curiosity, you possibly can swipe as much as learn on the telephone, or down to reserve it for later (additionally on the telephone). The irritating factor is that selecting “learn on the telephone” does not wake, or open the app — you continue to need to unlock the handset — at which level will probably be there ready. A small element, however one which underscores how the Gear 2 is actually simply an adjunct to go together with the telephone.
One good addition that does not depend on the telephone is the brand new music participant app. When you have some tunes in your telephone or desktop, you possibly can load them immediately onto the Gear 2 and play them by way of a Bluetooth headset/headphones. So, when you’re going for a jog, or perhaps simply need to depart the telephone at house, you need to use the Gear 2’s 4GB of onboard storage for storing some music. What you get then, is exactly what I’ve all the time needed: a wire-free, wrist-worn media participant.
Now looks like an excellent time to speak about battery life. This was an enormous sore level with the unique Gear, which solely lasted a few day on a cost. I am unsure what voodoo the Korean agency has carried out, nevertheless it’s someway made a barely smaller battery (300mAh, in comparison with 315) final almost 3 times as lengthy. I persistently acquired three days between costs with what I think about is common, or barely larger-than-common use (it is my job to play with this stuff, in any case). This can be a particular plus. If the battery had been much less succesful, it in all probability would have sealed the watch’s destiny. Three days continues to be not as a lot as I might like, nevertheless it’s strides higher than earlier than.
Maybe a few of the extra compelling options are these new health credentials — i.e., the guts fee monitor and the train app. (The pedometer is identical one used on the unique.) I am glad to see these new additions, in fact, however the execution is poor. The guts fee monitor falls someplace between “not dangerous” and “irritating.” Which is an identical expertise to the one we examined on the Galaxy S5. When it needs to play alongside, it provides a studying shut sufficient to what devoted sports activities bands supply. However in case you a lot as transfer your wrist, or make a noise (the watch warns you to stay nonetheless and quiet!) you must attempt once more. When it does work — assuming you’ve got arrange S Well being in your host telephone — your newest pulse studying might be despatched instantly over to the app.
The identical goes for the train app. Pull it up on the Gear 2; inform it you are off on a stroll; and do your factor. When you’re achieved doing that, let the app know and it will shimmy that info over to S Well being too. What we could not get to work was the pedometer. It counts steps simply superb, displaying the quantity on the show. Whereas imperfect, it is shut sufficient, if maybe just a little optimistic in comparison with devoted health trackers. However, for the love of all issues sensible, I have been unable to get it to sync with the telephone. There is a menu in Gear Supervisor for S Well being with a “Switch Now” choice. I chosen it numerous occasions, and acquired a “success” message, but the step rely on the telephone’s S Well being app merely will not budge from zero.
This did not appear proper, so I paired the Gear 2 with a unique telephone — a course of that requires a manufacturing unit reset of the watch and a load of software program updates. As soon as I used to be accomplished pairing, I used to be introduced with a devoted “Health with Gear” app (fairly than S Well being) that was virtually studying the variety of steps from the watch earlier than I even knew what was occurring. Weirdly, I then went into S Well being on the telephone, and it acted prefer it had by no means met me earlier than, taking me by way of the entire setup course of from scratch. Hardly a seamless expertise, particularly in the event you’re making an attempt to foster an ecosystem. However, the options are there, and if you’d like a little bit of a excessive-degree health device, it’d do the job. All advised, the hardware elements appear to work fantastic, however the supporting software program from Samsung leaves quite a bit to be desired.
It is this disjointed expertise that just about sums up the Gear 2, and maybe Samsung usually. All of the issues you would probably need are there. There is a digital camera, name dealing with, step monitoring, coronary heart price monitoring, a microphone, a speaker, media-management choices, calendar-dealing with alerts and notifications. Most of this stuff the Gear 2 does pretty nicely, however you’ll be able to by no means shake the sensation that it is field ticking, or a “lite” model of the function or perform you actually needed. We might like to see hardware and software program working collectively rather more intently. Perhaps for third-social gathering app builders to be invited in and make use of their experience — or, on the very least, coerced into making an app for the Gear 2 within the first place. There’s undoubtedly potential; it simply appears principally unrealized.Digital camera
There’s, in fact, a digital camera. It is a 2-megapixel affair, a negligible enchancment over the 1.9-megapixel shooter from the primary version. There’s the identical 720p video capturing, and, nicely, not so much else. A digital camera is likely one of the much less widespread options within the smartwatch world, so it is a differentiator if nothing else. Once I first performed with the unique Gear, I could not think about a time you’d go for the watch digital camera over the a lot better one simply inches away in your pocket. However I used to be flawed: I’ve used it quite a bit. Not likely for pictures I might ever need to look at, however for fast “scrapbooking” of issues I see, or need to keep in mind. Maybe to remind myself to Google one thing once I get residence. That’s, in fact, the very same expertise on the Gear 2. I can not actually inform a lot distinction between the previous and new digital camera, nevertheless it serves a objective, and is all the higher for being housed inside the watch’s physique (and never the strap). In the event you’re curious, there is a gallery under so you possibly can see the standard for your self.
The place to start out? It is truthful to say the dance flooring on the smartwatch disco is positively bustling in comparison with even just some months in the past. Because of its current makeover, the Pebble Metal ($250) continues to be a robust favourite with many. In fact, the Pebble does not have a colour display, nor does it have a digital camera, if these issues are essential. (For what it is value, I am unsure they’re.) Then once more, it provides an excellent number of apps, and lengthy battery life, too.
Two different rivals I really feel compelled to say are the Qualcomm Toq ($250) and Sony’s SmartWatch 2 ($300). Each have their strengths, however have but to make an enormous splash with consumers. Actually, this competitors part must be extra about what’s about to be launched. Android Put on is about to shake up the smartwatch market, and with LG and Motorola on board, it is clear the smartwatch disco is about to get much more crowded.
Within the meantime, if you would like a watch with health cred, I nonetheless love the Adidas Sensible Run ($four hundred), in addition to Garmin’s Forerunner 620 ($four hundred) — however these are devoted units, so you will not get notifications or calendar options, et cetera. This may need additionally been an excellent time to say the Fitbit Pressure, however that was just lately recalled after some customers reported pores and skin irritation from the plastic band.Wrap-up
The excellent news is that Samsung has addressed a few of the main points that plagued the unique Galaxy Gear — specifically, the brief battery life. However, the corporate additionally deserves credit score for squeezing extra hardware right into a smaller area, and usually sprucing the design. The Gear 2 appears higher and performs higher than the unique in each attainable approach. However this is the rub: Of all of the issues it does, it does not do any of them nicely sufficient to justify the worth. It nonetheless seems like one thing of an government toy. Positive, there can be these for whom the Gear 2 is a superb match (no pun meant), however until you are a loyal early adopter, there is not a compelling cause to put down the $300 asking worth. And that is not least due to the small app choice. If Samsung can lure sufficient builders over to Tizen, it’d grow to be a extra interesting prospect. However, till then, you may need to wait and see what Google’s Android Put on platform brings to the desk.
- Key specs
- <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/samsung/gear/2/” title=”Samsung Gear 2 critiques” goal=”_blank”> Evaluations • 7 </a>
- Type issue Different
- Working system Different
- Display measurement 1.sixty three inches
- Storage sort Inner storage (four GB, Flash)
- Digital camera (built-in) 2&#one hundred sixty;megapixels
- Dimensions zero.39 x 1.forty five x 2.three in
- Introduced 2014-02-22
<a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/linux-basis/tizen/”> Linux Basis Tizen </a>