Technology is smarter than ever, yet we’re working through an age of endless compatibility conundrums. Sonos speakers only work with other Sonos speakers, and the new Google Home can’t stream Amazon Prime Music or Apple Music. Then, there’s Samsung, whose Galaxy line of devices, including the Gear Fit2, IconX earphones, Gear 360 action camera and Gear VR, were all designed to work with Galaxy smartphones.
The Note 7 recall spelled catastrophe for that whole system. Not only did it deprive people of a potential iPhone killer, but it also made it likely for Samsung’s other devices to take a hit. Fortunately for Samsung (and Android users), the company’s shares, after an initial plunge, bounced back. Samsung still has two of the best Android smartphones of 2016, after all, in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. And its new Gear S3 smartwatch, which started shipping in November 2016, is possibly the best smartwatch to come to market.
The Gear S3 is the next generation of Samsung’s highly praised Gear S2 smartwatch from 2015. It has the same rotating bezel as its predecessor, making it easy to scroll between apps, of which there are thousands to choose from; an IP68 waterproof rating; a built-in heart-rate monitor; a GPS tracker; and last but not least, an improved battery that can last three days between charges, which can also charge wirelessly. The Gear S3 also supports Samsung Pay, which is new. But the real difference is its size and design.
Display: 1.3 inches
Connectivity: 4G LTE, Bluetooth
Fitness Features: GPS, barometer, accelerometer, pedometer, altimeter
Battery: 3 Days
With the right customizable face (which you can choose directly on the Gear S3, instead of on the phone), the Gear S3 has the look of a legitimate mechanical timepiece. It’s significantly larger, with a 46mm diameter (compare with the Gear S2’s 42mm diameter), and could probably pass for a dive watch. There are two Gear S3 models that you can choose from: the Classic and Frontier. Both have the same diameter, but the Frontier is the more rugged-looking, slightly heavier option.
While the Gear S3 is beautiful and works brilliantly, it’s not for every customer.
While the Gear S3 is beautiful and works brilliantly, it’s not for every customer. It has everything you’d want to track your health with Samsung’s S Health app, but not everybody wants to run or work out with a watch this big. And as for design, many looking for a new smartwatch specifically want a watch that doesn’t look like a venerable Omega, Victorinox or Citizen. They want something that looks like the future — e.g., the Apple Watch 2.
And finally, there’s compatibility. Beyond the Galaxy line, the Gear S3 will work with any Android 4.4 smartphone, such as the Google Pixel. But some features like call forwarding, messaging and Android Pay will, according to Samsung, have “limited compatibility” with the S3. Samsung also said the watch will eventually work with iPhones, but the timeline is uncertain. Not to mention, Samsung also promised to make the Gear S2 compatible with iOS software, and that still hasn’t happened.
The Gear S3 excels in its simplicity and ease of navigation. The bezel truly works wonders. But the smartwatch has to be the right fit for you, the user — meaning you like its style, compatibility and functionality as an all-in-one watch, smartphone and fitness tracker. In that way, it will only be a partial savior for Samsung — whereas if the Note 7 hadn’t crashed and burned (literally and figuratively), people would have been inspired to adapt to it, not the other way around.