Samsung has announced the latest iteration of its flagship smartwatch, dubbed the Samsung Gear S2.
The Korean hardware giant’s latest offering now features a fully circular screen, in contrast to the blocky square designs of its predecessors, as well as the choice between the more utilitarian S2 Sport and the classier S2 Classic.
Samsung’s newest Gear watch is a clear attempt to move away from its pioneering predecessors into the more mainstream market now dominated by Apple and Motorola. So how does the Gear S2 stack up to what’s currently on the market?
Let’s start off with the important info: the Gear S2 has a 1.2” circular touchscreen with a 360 x 360 resolution, and both models weigh less than 50g. The watch’s new circular face features a rotating bezel that can be used to scroll around the display and select different apps or commands, as well as Home and Back buttons for easy menu navigation.
The watch features all the connectivity hardware we’ve come to expect, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC, and it even comes with an inbuilt heart rate monitor like many fitness trackers. Samsung promises a battery life of four days, with charging being a simple process of placing your watch on the included wireless charging dock.
On the software side, the Gear S2 runs Samsung’s proprietary Tizen OS, which is being rolled out on an increasing number of Samsung products as the company seeks to reduce its reliance on Android. Despite this, the big news for Android owners is that the new Gear can now pair with any Android phone – rather than exclusively with Samsung phones like its predecessors.
To wrap it all up, the entire watch water and dust-resistant to the IP68 standard, meaning it’s a lot less fragile than most consumer hardware. With the Sport starting at $499 and the more premium Classic at $599, it certainly isn’t cheap, but then Samsung intends to compete with the market’s heavy hitters. So, how does the Gear S2 differ from its main competition?
The obvious incumbent at the top of the smart watch market is the Apple Watch, and other strong contenders (especially considering their circular screens) include the updated Moto 360 and the LG G Watch Urbane – all three of which are comparable in price and processing power to the Gear S2.
For starters, the Apple Watch runs Apple’s own Watch OS, whilst the latter two both operate on Android Wear. One of the biggest points of difference in the software is fitness tracking capability: the Apple Watch lacks a heart rate monitor, but it also has access to a large and ever-expanding range of fitness apps, as do the Android watches – the Samsung Gear S2, on the other hand, has to make do with Samsung’s S Health app.
This is a problem which extends to the rest of Samsung’s Tizen OS. The Gear watch’s competitors run operating systems which are supported by two huge app ecosystems – Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play Store. Each features hundreds of watch-optimised apps for fitness, communication, customisation and so on, with many big-time apps such as Tinder and Google Maps having watch support. Tizen, by contrast, has no third-party app support, only the apps that Samsung installs on it.
With the price and power of the Gear S2 being comparable to the top dogs of the smart watch market, the verdict will have to come down to the software experience along with the quality and ergonomics of the watch itself. The Samsung Gear S2 represents welcome new competition to an increasingly relevant technology market, and it’ll be interesting to see how it competes.