Samsung Gear S evaluate: an formidable and painfully flawed smartwatch

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Samsung’s wearables technique appears to be: “Throw all the things at a wall and see what sticks.” In just a little over 12 months, the electronics big has launched six — sure, six — totally different smartwatches, every with its personal distinctive character. The newest is the Samsung Gear S, and its specific declare to fame is perhaps probably the most formidable but: It is the primary Gear watch that allows you to make and obtain calls out of your wrist, no telephone required. Yep, the Gear S truly has a 3G modem inside it, together with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS radios. It is principally a watch that is additionally a telephone. You possibly can even reply to emails utilizing a tiny onscreen keyboard. However, at $350 a pop, can it substitute your telephone? And extra importantly, would you need it to?

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Samsung Gear S evaluation

sixty five
Samsung

Gear S

Execs

  • Works as a standalone telephone
  • Colourful AMOLED show
  • Respectable battery life
  • Comes with a cradle that is additionally a transportable charger

Cons

  • Nonetheless wants a telephone for activation and loading apps
  • Restricted app choice
  • Cumbersome design with proprietary wrist straps
  • Costly

Abstract

The Samsung Gear S is a smartwatch that is additionally a telephone. Nevertheless it nonetheless wants a telephone — and a Samsung telephone, at that — to be of any use. That, mixed with its cumbersome design, small app choice and $350 asking worth, makes the Gear S troublesome to advocate.

Hardware

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Once I say that the Samsung Gear S is sort of a telephone on your wrist, I do not imply simply functionally — it seems prefer it too. Positive, most smartwatches are typically cumbersome anyway, however the Gear S takes it to a different degree. With a 2-inch curved AMOLED display framed by metallic sides, the Gear S seems to be like somebody took a shrink ray to a Galaxy S5, bent it and wedged it right into a plastic strap.

The result’s a monstrosity of glass and metal that appears, frankly, fairly ridiculous when strapped to my dainty wrist. The thick housing, chunky metallic clasp and rubbery strap materials do nothing to raise the watch’s fashion quotient both — the design right here is decidedly extra geek than stylish. It does match underneath lengthy sleeves comfortably although, so you’ll be able to cover it in the event you discover it embarrassing. There are additionally noticeably thick bezels above and under the show that make the display appear a lot greater than it truly is.

Nonetheless, that is to not say the watch is not snug to put on. It is definitely on the hefty aspect because of that cumbersome display, however its curved form transitions seamlessly to that plastic strap so it wraps easily across the wrist. Although it does not precisely exude the premium really feel of a luxurious watch, it does really feel surprisingly snug for such a chunky system. Nonetheless, it is unlucky the wristband is proprietary and if you wish to swap out straps, you will want to make use of Samsung’s personal choices. Proper now you possibly can select amongst blue, black, purple and white choices.

Moreover, although I have been moaning concerning the measurement of the show, that additional display actual property does have its deserves. We have complained in earlier smartwatch evaluations about how robust it’s to navigate menus on such a tiny display. That is not as a lot of a problem with the Gear S. Tapping on choices and swiping via the totally different widgets and apps felt clean and intuitive, and I appreciated with the ability to see so many menu choices at a look.

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

In fact, that huge show actually is useful once you’re coping with visually dense apps just like the Opera Mini browser, the place an on-display keyboard made even a 2-inch display really feel restrictive (extra on this in a second). The show’s 480 x 360 decision (300 ppi) can also be fairly straightforward on the eyes — textual content was straightforward to learn and pictures usually seemed shiny and colourful. It is barely much less saturated than the S5, however that does not matter an excessive amount of on such a small display. The blacks look actually black, and the darkish background seems virtually indistinguishable from the encompassing bezel. It does look fairly washed out in direct daylight, however not a lot that it is unreadable.

When it is merely sitting there in your wrist, the show stays darkish more often than not. The one time it lights up is when there is a notification like an incoming name. Additionally, because of the interior accelerometer, the watch face mechanically comes on whenever you carry your wrist as much as learn the time — a standard function for many smartwatches. There’s additionally an ambient mild sensor, so the display will regulate its brightness mechanically relying on the obtainable mild. In case you depart it alone for a couple of minutes, the watch does return to a dimmer mode earlier than going darkish once more.

Beneath the show is a bodily residence button together with the ambient mild sensor and a UV detector, whereas the guts fee monitor and charging pins are on the watch’s rear. Our specific Gear S runs on Dash, so it does not have a nano-SIM card slot, however in GSM fashions, you will discover one situated above the guts fee sensor. By default, a double-faucet on the house button brings up S Voice, Samsung’s voice-dictation service, whereas an extended-press will convey up fast choices like powering it off, restart, mute, WiFi and airplane mode.

Bundled together with the Gear S is a transportable charging cradle — the one means you’ll cost it, because of the watch’s proprietary pins. The cradle itself fees by way of a micro-USB cable. Having to hold this additional little bit of gadgetry round irritated me, however fortunately the dock additionally homes a 350mAh battery, which suggests it may be used as a backup charger (the watch itself solely has a 300mAh battery inbuilt). Different inner specs embrace an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a twin-core 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS and, in fact, that 3G modem.

Software program

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Identical to the Gear, Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the Gear S runs on Tizen, Samsung’s personal Linux-based mostly working system. When you’ve used any of these watches, you will probably really feel proper at house with the Gear S. The navigation language is identical — from the watch face, you swipe proper for notifications, left for widgets (you rise up to 5), right down to entry fast settings like quantity and brightness and as much as entry the complete app drawer. Should you’re in an app, you’ll be able to again out by swiping down.

Very similar to these different watches, the Gear S comes preinstalled with a number of apps, together with Samsung’s S Well being, a music participant, one which exhibits the newest information headlines, one other for the climate and so forth. The Gear S’s primary declare to fame, nevertheless, is that it additionally comes with a telephone dialer and an app for textual content messaging. The dialer app is as you’d anticipate, consisting of a quantity keypad and entry to current name logs. For textual content messaging, you should use S Voice to dictate your messages. I discovered it to be fairly correct — it even acknowledged instructions like punctuation marks and “all caps” for once I felt like yelling.

However in case you really feel a bit of daring, you can too use an precise on-display keyboard, which can also be utilized in e-mail and different apps that require textual content entry. The keyboard takes up an enormous chunk of the watch’s display actual property, leaving solely a sliver of area on the prime to see what you’ve got typed. You possibly can enter in textual content by way of the standard hunt-and-peck technique or by way of dragging strains by means of letters à la Swype. Surprisingly, I discovered this to be principally correct, particularly with the Swype method. Pecking is a bit of bit extra hit-or-miss, with the autocorrect not all the time guessing my phrases appropriately. In follow, nevertheless, I discovered typing on a watch far too tedious for something longer than only a fast reply. You’ll be able to’t see all of what you’ve got typed at a look, and continually having to backtrack and proper phrases is a ache. I might select S Voice over typing any day.

As for loading new apps, properly, you will need to pair the watch to a suitable Samsung smartphone and obtain the Gear Supervisor app with a view to do this. The Gear Supervisor app is essentially unchanged from once we final reviewed the earlier Gear watches. As soon as related, you can’t solely use it so as to add and take away apps, but in addition customise the watch’s wallpaper and watch face. You will even have to make use of Gear Supervisor with a view to switch media information like photographs or audio, and sync up your health knowledge to the telephone’s S Well being app.

In use

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Maintain on, you are saying. Is not the Gear S additionally a standalone telephone with its personal telephone quantity? Why do I have to pair it with a telephone so as to get apps onto it? Is not the entire level of getting a telephone constructed right into a watch so that you simply need not join it to a telephone?

Properly, in case you requested these questions, you then’ve stumbled onto precisely the primary drawback I’ve with the Gear S. Not solely do you’ll want to pair it with a suitable Samsung telephone to be able to load apps onto it, however you additionally want to take action in an effort to begin utilizing the Gear S in any respect. That is proper: If you initially begin up the Gear S, the very first thing it’s going to ask you to do is join it to a Samsung telephone with the Gear Supervisor app put in. Probably the most you are able to do with the watch earlier than then is make an emergency name. That, to me, defeats the aim of the Gear S virtually completely. I’d as properly have spent rather less and purchased a daily ol’ smartwatch — or maybe one other telephone — as an alternative.

That stated, after you’ve got taken the trouble to pair the Gear S, you’d have then “unlocked” the watch’s telephone properties. Eventually, you are capable of utterly divorce it from the telephone in the event you so select. As I discussed above, the watch has its personal telephone quantity. When related by way of Bluetooth to a telephone, the Gear S will routinely make and obtain calls utilizing the telephone’s quantity as an alternative. It is admittedly a bit odd to have units with two totally different telephone numbers like this, however you’ll be able to allow name forwarding so that each one calls made to your telephone’s quantity will redirect to the watch with or with out that Bluetooth connection.

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

So, what’s it wish to make calls? This may sound like a cliché, however I liken it to these Dick Tracy exhibits of yore — I merely held my watch as much as my face and talked into it. It feels just a little goofy holding my wrist to my mouth like that and I can not see myself doing it too typically, nevertheless it does work. Callers had no issues listening to me, and the audio high quality from the watch itself is fairly good. I did not have to carry the watch too near my mouth when indoors for them to listen to me loud and clear — about chest-degree peak was wonderful — however I did need to convey it nearer to my lips once I was outdoors on a busy metropolis sidewalk. The speaker is definitely loud sufficient to listen to in a quiet room, nevertheless it’s additionally received sufficient quantity for me to listen to callers once I’m outdoors. If you would like, you may as well pair the watch with a Bluetooth headset and use that as an alternative.

I also needs to observe right here that in the event you do need to use the Gear S as a telephone, you will should pay a further month-to-month payment on prime of your common telephone invoice. Each Verizon and T-Cellular cost $5 per 30 days whereas AT&T and Dash needs $10 a month. In the event you’re getting your Gear S by way of Dash and your plan has 20GB knowledge or extra, then the service will waive that charge by means of December 2015.

As for the Gear S’ health options, properly, they’re sadly quite unreliable. The S Well being app comes full of 5 totally different options: a pedometer, an train function that tracks your coronary heart fee and site if you go for a run (or a stroll, a motorcycle journey, or a hike), a standalone coronary heart fee monitor, a sleep tracker and a device that tells you what the UV index is if you’re within the nice outdoor. When it really works, it really works properly sufficient — the pedometer counted my steps simply superb and the guts price monitor confirmed me beats-per-minute numbers that appeared on par with different health devices (I in contrast it with a Withings scale and the S Well being app on the telephone). Nevertheless, there have been occasions when the app simply failed to reply. The guts price sensor particularly typically does not work in any respect, stating that it is unable to seek out any measurement, even after I sat completely “nonetheless and quiet” as per directions. I typically needed to restart the Gear S to have all of it working easily once more.

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

There nonetheless is not a lot in the best way of apps from Samsung’s personal Gear Retailer both. There isn’t any devoted Gmail software, for instance, and no Fb or Twitter both. In fact, if you’re related to the telephone, you are capable of get notifications from these apps on the watch. However if you wish to use the Gear S by itself, you are out of luck. I did discover a number of respectable apps that I appreciated — the calculator is a must have and lets me fake the Gear S is a retro calculator watch. The preinstalled Navigator app (which is actually Nokia’s Right here maps rejiggered for the watch) is actually useful for flip-by-flip strolling instructions, and although browsing the online on the tiny Opera Mini browser is a bit ridiculous, the watch’s display does work properly for studying brief information tales whereas on the go.

Final, however definitely not least: Let’s handle the query of battery life. From my two weeks utilizing the system, the Gear S appears to final rather less than two days with mild to average use. Meaning utilizing it principally as a watch, with notifications turned on. Once I taxed it a bit extra by making fixed telephone calls and utilizing the navigation app a few occasions, it lasted a few day and a half earlier than needing a cost. Underneath actually heavy use — accessing e mail, shopping the online, testing the train app and utilizing the navigation app to stroll round city — the Gear S lasted a few day earlier than needing a cost. To increase it even longer between costs, you’ll be able to select to toggle an influence-saving mode, which solely leaves the essential time-telling and telephone features.

The competitors

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

Despite the fact that the smartwatch area is comparatively younger, the Gear S already has loads of competitors. There are Android Put on watches just like the Moto 360, the LG G Watch R and Samsung’s personal Gear Reside. All the Android Put on units available on the market at present are cheaper than the Gear S, and a few, just like the Moto 360 and the G Watch R, are extra trendy too. There’s additionally one thing to be stated for the Android Put on ecosystem and its help for a greater variety of apps than Samsung’s personal Galaxy. Nonetheless, the Gear S does allow you to depart your telephone at house when going out on a jog, and its battery life compares favorably to different smartwatches. Most Android Put on watches, for instance, final a few day between costs, although the current LG G Watch R broke the mould by stretching it out to 2.

As for watches which are additionally telephones, nicely, there aren’t that many to select from, however the Gear S does face some competitors from upstarts just like the Neptune Pine. In contrast to the Gear S, the Pine actually is like an Android smartphone shrunk down into watch type. It has a hefty 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 processor in it; plus the interior storage begins at 16GB for less than $349 (you will get it for round $300 from Amazon). That is undoubtedly much more palatable than the Gear S’ paltry 4GB and $350 price ticket. And, in fact, the Pine does not really need a smartphone to get began making calls in any respect. All that energy does come at a price although, because the Pine solely has sufficient battery life to final by means of a single day.

Wrap-up

Samsung Gear S review: an ambitious and painfully flawed smartwatch

The Samsung Gear S is a tool that does not make an entire lot of sense. Positive, it is nice that it might act as a standalone smartwatch and does not want a telephone to make or obtain calls. Besides, nicely, it does. Not solely does the Gear S must be paired with a telephone to be activated, however that is additionally the one option to set up or take away apps and the one approach to get notifications from providers like Gmail and Twitter. Definitely, the Gear S works nicely sufficient in the event you do not thoughts its chunky measurement, small app choice and infrequently buggy software program, however $350 is simply an excessive amount of to pay for a smartwatch with this many shortcomings.

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<a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/samsung/gear/s/”> Samsung Gear S </a>

  • Key specs
  • <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/samsung/gear/s/” title=”Samsung Gear S evaluations” goal=”_blank”> Critiques 1 </a>
  • Costs
  • Discussions
  • Type issue Different
  • Working system Different
  • Display measurement 2 inches
  • Introduced 2014-08-27

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6common consumer score
  • Options 6
  • Show eight
  • Battery life four
  • Ease of use eight
  • Storage capability zero
  • Design and type issue 6
  • Portability (measurement / weight) 6
  • Sturdiness four

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