Samsung Gear S photo © Smartwatchcity.com
Overall impression – A great, futuristic offering replete with functionality and is the nearest thing to a consummate smartwatch out there. However, with this comes a very large device which will never have the subtlety of a traditional watch.
Pros: Does almost everything (no camera yet), very usable screen due to its large size – a true mobile replacement, good battery life
Cons: Large size, not very watch-like, reports of it getting a little hot on the skin and expected to only work with more recent models of Samsung phones
Price: £329 / $399
A very futuristic-looking device, the latest issue from the Samsung stable is very beautiful in its own way. The curved display does bring a touch of elegance to what would have essentially been a small mobile phone strapped to your wrist. With Samsung opting to use yet another one of their self-developed operating systems, Tizen (in much the same way that they had done when they entered the world of smartphones – who can ever forget the funkily named ‘Bada’), they have tailored the interface to their uniquely versatile device. Android Wear would just not have been able to cut it, what with the options to make calls directly from the watch, use the on-screen keyboard, and cater for that massive 2″ screen.
The watch body itself sits very neatly within its rubberised band (plus giving you the option to choose from a range of cool colours), and will come with a choice of 6 ‘always-on’ watch faces. The choices are not very inspiring, but do come with a neat element of functionality and interactivity depending on your choice. Comes with the now standard IP67 water and dust resistance rating. And quite innovatively, for sun-worshippers it has a neat little UV sensor feature which very helpfully lets you know when you should get out of the rays.
There will be some however, especially those with delicate forearms, for whom this will be just too big to carry off. Given that Samsung is firing smartwatches out of its production department like there’s no tomorrow, they might have done well to take a page out of Apple’s design book and considered making a smaller option.
There is also a slightly disconcerting warning on the Samsung US site for this product – “WARNING: If you feel discomfort while using the device, stop using it and remove it from your wrist. To avoid device malfunction, skin discomfort or damage, and battery draining, an initial warning will appear on the device if it reaches a specific temperature. If the device temperature continues to rise, a second warning will appear, and all device functions except outgoing 911 calls will be turned off. If you are on a call with 911 when the second warning appears, the call will remain active until you end it. If the device temperature rises further, a third warning will appear, and the entire device will shut down. Any 911 call that is connected at the time will remain active until you end the call. However, no new calls, including 911 calls, can be made until the device cools down to a specific temperature.” – and this seems to tally with reports of it getting a little hot on the skin.
Display: Rectangular, 2″ curved AMOLOED, 360 x 480, 300ppi, ambient light sensor
The first thing that will strike you about the Samsung S display is that it is HUGE. It’s so big, it even has a functional on-screen keyboard for typing. Now, smartwatch screens are usually small for a reason, and no one relishes the idea of carting around a small tablet PC on their wrist. But in giving their watch a gently curving display which follows the contours of your wrist, the actual feel of the watch is surprisingly comfortable. It actually sits quite snugly and doesn’t look at all bulky.
And it’s a great display too, the S-AMOLED technology producing bright, vibrant colours (even in daylight) and a very respectable 300ppi of sharpness giving it incredible detail as well. All said, the sheer size of its display puts this watch high up in the usability stakes. It has an ambient light sensor which dims the always-on display when not in use.
Performance: Dual-core, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB, 4GB
Despite the magnitude of processing this phone-come-watch requires given all the additional functions it has to handle, it acquits itself very well indeed. The interface is sleek and smooth with no signs of any stutters or hiccups despite the size of the screen, and all commands are promptly and faithfully carried out.
Connectivity: 3G, SIM slot, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.1,
This is where the Samsung Gear S comes into its own. As with its earlier incarnations, this smartwatch doubles as a fully fledged phone, boasting 3G network connectivity allowing you to make calls and text without having your mobile at hand. There is a slot for a SIM on the underside, and this does give the ability to have a dual-SIM-style setup if you have your phone along too. Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi also means that you will be able to go for that jog and leave your phone at home. However be warned; it appears that due to the fact that the initial setup requires syncing to a phone, this device is just a whisker short of being considered truly stand-alone.
Battery & Charging: 300mAh battery, micro-usb cradle with its own built-in battery
A decent-sized 300mAh battery is on-par with other watches in its class. The battery is said to last up to 2 days, and it does appear to hold up to that estimate well. It comes with a micro-usb charging cradle which has its own 300mAh battery built-in, giving the option of charging on the move, a useful little feature being seen on an increasing number of watches out there.
OS and Apps: Tizen OS, Nike+, upwards of 1000 apps
Like other watches in Samsung’s ‘Gear’ range, this too comes loaded with its propriety Tizen interface. Very similar in function to Android Wear, being mainly notification-driven, Tizen is a well-thought through, smooth and efficient interface. Bundled in is Nike+ for fitness which works with the now ubiquitous optical heart rate monitor on the underside and there is the Nokia Here map package with step-by-step directions to your destination. For a hardware manufacturer Samsung are very big on the apps scene, with a large number for their range of mobiles and smart TVs, and now they are boasting 1000+ for their smartwatch range too.
Control and interface: Touchscreen, single home button, gesture swipes, voice control and soft-keyboard
As discussed, Tizen, the interface for the watch is very smooth and easy to use. Most actions are effected through screen taps and swipes, however Samsung’s propriety S-Voice does a good job for voice-commands and text entry. Uniquely, due to its huge display, this watch also benefits from an on-screen keyboard which, although a little fiddly, is effective nonetheless. There is also a small home button below the screen, a-la Samsung’s Galaxy range of devices, which accesses the various programs and returns you to the main screen. Another great feature is being able to “drill down” to more detailed information by tapping the display, such as with the weather home screen.
Compatibility: Likely to only work with recent Samsung phones running Adroid 4.3 Jelly Bean and above. Not compatible with Apple phones