Samsung has come full circle with the design of Gear S2, their flagship wearable which features a 1.2 inch round face and rotating bezel. The smartwatch is available in two variations, Gear S2 Classic and Gear S2. My review is based on the latter, which has a stainless steel case and a removable rubber watchband. There are two buttons, a Home button and a Back button, on the right side. The watch looks good; more like a fashion accessory than a gadget and it fits comfortably on my wrist.
Gear S2 runs the Tizen operating system which works well. The UI is intuitive and vividly displayed on the sAMOLED, touch screen display. I liked using the combination of the rotating bezel and touch to interact with the device; my process…scroll using the bezel and select via touch. Pairing is simple. Gear S2 pairs with Samsung smartphones running Android 4.3 or higher and any other device running Android 4.4 or higher. I use it with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The devices sync whenever they are in proximity to one another. There’s only been one time in six months where I encountered an issue with sync. The Gear app was showing the devices as connected but I couldn’t not download a watch face because the devices weren’t actually paired. After restarting both the watch and the phone and then re-establishing the connection, the problem was fixed.
My primary reason for wearing a smartwatch is notifications; it’s an easier way for me to get and respond to them. Gear S2 received notifications within seconds of them hitting my phone. Sometimes the delay was a little longer when received over data as opposed to Wi-Fi. As a busy person with two small children I can honestly say, I’ve missed fewer calls by wearing the watch. I’m a heavy social user so I regularly receive notifications from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I can’t respond to them however. The notification only allows me to open it on my mobile. I’d like to see a little more flexibility here like I have with SMS/text messages. I can save short, canned responses or use the full keyboard to reply. Yes, Gear S2 has a full keyboard. The one time I used it – and I mean once because I never used it again – was time consuming. This task transported me back to the times when we had to push a single key up to three times to choose an alphabet. Brutal! But the smartwatch isn’t intended for that. If you’re going to text from it, brevity is key and it handles short messages well.
Although Samsung dropped Android Wear in favor of Tizen, I haven’t found there to be a shortage of apps. I have everything I need including a scheduler/calendar app, weather, music and health apps. S Health works with sensors that track your steps and even your heart rate. I’m not a health fanatic who clings to metrics but I do like tracking my steps. One day, after the watch had battery had been depleted for the first time, the pedometer stopped working. The device also stopped responding to the wake-up gesture. After trying basic troubleshooting, I googled and found that I wasn’t alone with regard to this issue. It took a factory reset to get the sensor working properly again. It only happened that one time and it’s been smooth sailing ever since then.
Apps that I love…S Voice and the Music app. S Voice allows you to control Gear S2 using voice commands. For example, “Call Bill”, is an actionable command. Gear S2 accesses the contact on your mobile device to initiate the call but, it has a deeper level of artificial intelligence. If the contact, has more than one number associated with it, Gear S2 will ask which one you want to use and display the options. You’d follow with a voice command to call Bill at “home”, “work” or whatever the appropriate qualifier.
You can store up to 300 songs on Gear S2 and you can transfer them to the device via Bluetooth. I paired my Level U Bluetooth headphones with the Gear S2 for playback which allowed me to easily access my music, without my phone, during walks with the kids.
What I love Fast Charging Gear S2 comes with a wireless charging dock. It’s a petite little watch stand that packs a lot of power. Combined with Samsung’s fast charge technology, it can gain 50% charge in an hour. Water resistance Gears S2 is rated IP68 for water resistance. It can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes and make it out alive. This may not mean much to most people but as a mom with two small kids, I can’t tell you how many times my heart beat shot through the roof when I looked down and saw my wrist submerged in the bath tub to retrieve a rubber duckie that was floating away. But, I’d quickly remember this feature and get myself together – and also remove my watch. I’m happy to have this feature when I really need it but I’m not pushing it.
I did it! I took the plunge and kept my #GearS2 on for my post workout shower. Happy to report that it’s functioning like normal. This device is rated IP68 making it water resistant. Another feature to love about #MyGear. #Samsung #Smartwatch #reviews #tech #waterresistant #TamTalksTech A photo posted by Tamara Clarke (@theglobalgazette) on
Customization. That’s the name of the game. If I can’t customize a wearable, I don’t want it. Through the Gear app, you can choose from hundreds of watch face designs and even modify some of them to fit your personal taste. I’ve had a leopard watch face to match my outfit and even donned a Batman design which totally impressed my kid. Even better, Samsung releases official watch faces to mark certain holidays and special occasions. For example, I rocked a festive holiday design for Christmas and I regularly switch between the Snoopy designs that were released to commemorate the Peanuts movie. The choices are endless.
Customization extends to other areas of Gear S2 as well. There’s a plethora of watch bands to choose from which come in two sizes, small and large. The bands are made from the same high grade rubber and come in solids as well as patterns. Samsung’s collaboration with Alessandro Mendini turned out some striking designs fit for anyone who wants to make a unique statement. The only issue I have with the bands is availability. In my region, the ‘designer’ bands are hard to come by. I’ve shopped Samsung experience stores and other retailers like Virgin Megastore across both Abu Dhabi and Dubai and finding the design I want in a size small has been impossible.
What I Loathe
No Speakerphone or Camera
Gear S2 is not Samsung’s first foray into the world of smartwatches. They helped usher in this era with the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Gear – a rectangular model that had everything and the kitchen sink. Well, sadly, they abandoned some features and speakerphone was one of them. I had fantasized about talking into my wrist like a modern day Mrs. Inspector Gadget but my day dreams were dealt a crushing blow the first time I tried to make a call from my Gear S2. Now, you can initiate and accept an incoming call on the Gear S2 but you must use the phone to have a conversation. I need speakerphone in my life. My husband has it on his Apple Watch, so right now, life just isn’t fair. Furthermore, there is no camera. Now, this is not a huge issue at all. And let’s face it, the picture quality wouldn’t be that great but if V-Tech can put a camera on my son’s smartwatch, then Samsung – you can do it too. Come on. Beef up next year’s model and don’t let these boys have better wearables than me.