Samsung has given its Gear smartwatch a refresh with new design and more features. Gear S3 carries forward all the best of its predecessor so I won’t bore you by rehashing it all. If you need to jog your memory, you can read my in depth review of the Gear S2. This post will cover the notable differences between the two models and examine whether or not the improvements support investing in an upgrade.
The first thing I noticed is that the circular display on the Gear S3 is bigger, measuring 1.3 inches as opposed to 1.2 inches on the Gear S2. It’s only one tenth of an inch larger but it makes a huge difference in my little wrist. The larger profile looks more masculine but on the upside, it makes viewing things and using the touch screen easier. The second thing I noticed is that the Gear S3 Classic looks more like an actual piece of jewelry. The circular bezel made from premium stainless steel makes navigation effortless and also adds to the aesthetics of the watch.
Samsung boasts that the battery in the Gear S3 gives you four days of use and well, they’re not far off. I put the fully charged watch on at around 4:30 pm on a Saturday. I received my first ‘low battery’ notification on the following Tuesday at around 12 pm. There’s was 20% battery left. Instead of charging up, I decided to run it all the way out. Within a couple of hours the watch prompted me to put it in power saving mode to preserve battery life. I did and the screen went black, gesture control was automatically turned off and the watch no longer displayed the watch face when I lifted my arm. Notifications stopped coming through as well but I could check the time when I hit the Home button. With heavy social use and tons of notifications per day, on average I get about three days of battery life per charge.
Managing the watch with the Samsung Gear app is a bit more intuitive. I breezed through the steps to pair (with a Galaxy Note 5) and setup the watch with no problem. I appreciate that the opening screen in the app gives usage data like battery consumption, remaining battery life, storage usage and RAM, at a glance.
I’m still in awe of the variety of watch faces available for Gear S3 – a clear advantage over the slim offerings for Apple Watch. I do enjoy choosing and switching watch faces often. Business must be going well for Tizen developers too as I see more paid options than free ones now.
You don’t have to store media on the Gear S3 to stream it from the watch. I like that I can play a song that’s stored on my phone through the speaker on my watch. And, it’s simple enough to switch the music source by simply pressing an icon in the music app on the Gear S3.
Speaking of speakers, Gear S3 has delivered speakerphone! I’m thrilled with the ability to initiate and take calls from my wrist; a feature I’ve long appreciated on the Apple Watch and pretty much begged Samsung for in my review of the Gear S2. On the Gear S2, you can only initiate a call and then switch over to your phone to actually have a conversation. Now, Gear S3 gives you complete access to contacts stored on your phone and a full (circular) phone pad. The only hitch is that calls made and taken from the watch are still active on your smartphone too. It’s not a true transfer from one device to the other. Not a deal breaker; more of an opportunity for refinement in the next generation of the device.
If you’re new to wearables and looking to purchase your first smartwatch, the Gear S3 is a smart choice; especially if you already own a Samsung Galaxy device. It doesn’t hurt that Gear S3 is compatible with other smartphone brands too (see table below for specifics) which gives you a lot more flexibility. If you already own an earlier version of the Gear and are considering an upgrade…do it! I think the addition of speakerphone makes it totally worth it.
At a Glance: Gear S2 vs Gear S3