Samsung announced several new wearables in August. Its new Gear Fit2 Pro ($199) is an upgraded version of the company’s previous GPS sports band, the Gear Fit2; it now monitors sleep and nutrition, and adds a coaching feature to motivate you into shape. And last year’s IconX wireless earbuds were phased out in favor of a next-gen model with the same name, which now boasts a better battery life, fast charging, Bixby integration and the ability to track workouts without your smartphone nearby. The most notable among Samsung’s announcements, however, was the Gear Sport smartwatch, which is a real competitor to Apple Watch Series 3 (without LTE).
The Gear Sport smartwatch is both a serious smartwatch and serious fitness tracker. In many ways, it combines the best of the past year’s rugged Gear S3 smartwatch and this year’s Gear Fit2 fitness band. It’s much lighter and smaller than the massive Gear S3 and it can go up to four days between charges. You can use it to send texts, answer calls, control smart-home devices, stream music to your Bluetooth headphones and talk to Bixby. It also lets you use Samsung Pay without your phone.
The smartwatch can do everything your Gear Fit2 Pro can do, too. It has an improved heart-rate sensor and will automatically track your workouts — no more pressing “Start” if you don’t want to. It’s also completely swim-proof. Maybe the coolest feature of the Gear Sport is that, thanks to a partnership with Spotify, you can download playlists to the smartwatch (it has 4GB of internal storage for up to 1,000 songs) and listen to them whenever, without your phone nearby. The Gear Fit2 Pro also shares this ability, and they’re the first two wearables to do this.
Essentially, the Gear Sport and Apple Watch Series 2 are very similar in terms what they can do. And both are heavily tied to Samsung’s or Apple’s ecosystem of apps. If there’s a differentiating factor, it’s in the looks department. The Gear Sport is beautiful, in my opinion. Unlike the square face of every Apple Watch, it has a round face that looks more like something Swiss made, and it’s compatible with any 20mm watch band. The Gear Sport also boasts the same rotating bezel that made the Gear S3 so intuitive.
Unfortunately, there’s no LTE model of the Gear Sport. If you want to go completely sans phone to answer calls and such, your best option might be the Gear S3. No Apple Watch supports LTE either, but that’s expected to change with the third generation.
Update: As of October 30, the first reviews of the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch are out. Here’s what they are saying.
• “Ultimately, the Gear Sport is almost as robust a fitness tracker as it is a smartwatch, and is one of the most versatile in the category, especially for those who already own Samsung’s phones and TVs. Plus, its unique rotating bezel continues to stand out as the best way to interact with a smartwatch. Despite its ambitious array of helpful tools, it still manages to squeeze out impressive battery life. Samsung’s fitness-tracking features may not be as accurate as the competition, but the Gear Sport does enough to satisfy casual gym-goers.” — Cherlynn Low, Engadget
• “Samsung’s dedication to the Tizen operating system has also surprisingly paid off. The company has really made the Linux off-shoot its own. It’s clean and easily navigated with an orderly circle of apps that line the edge of the screen. Navigation is smooth and I didn’t run into too many issue with the phone, though I got a number of false positives with the phone triggering voice control at random interval — something the company tells me it’s looking into.” — Brian Heater, TechCrunch
• “As a whole, though, the Gear Sport doesn’t move the needle forward as much as I’d have hoped. Though it has a very intuitive interface, complete with a rotating bezel for navigation, many parts of the experience are still half-baked, whether that’s the pathetically anemic selection of apps or the hopelessly useless S Voice digital assistant.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge