Hands-on: Samsung Gear S review

Samsung isn’t shy of releasing a smartwatch or two. Indeed it’s been putting them to market by the bucket load, but in so doing the company has been slowly refining its wearable offerings.

The latest Gear S, which was already unveiled ahead of Samsung Unpacked 2014 in Berlin, looks to be the strongest and most stylish solution yet. Pocket-lint got to handle the watch to dig a little deeper in what it has to offer.

First impressions, as with so many smartwatches, is that it’s a rather large device. The 2-inch curved AMOLED screen does sit flush with the wrist, though, which diminishes the scale and makes for a comfortable fit. After just a short period of wear we though it felt somewhat hot under the strap though.

The Gear S has a removable strap should you want to swap it for a replacement, but as the central unit is so distinct and the strap wraps around it you’re limited to Samsung’s range only.

As with the latest Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the Gear S runs on the Tizen platform, so has a familiar feel. But there are user interface updates, as the colourful 320 x 320 pixel display now offers new full screen widgets with a swipe to the right such as a news feed and more (which is, unfortunately, not customisable according to Samsung).

Swipe to the left for notifications or swipe down for the main menu of controls. It all feels intuitive and we like that it’s not just restricted to Voice control like Android Gear. The look and feel of the UI is more aligned with the company’s Android phones and tablets, with a sense of Magazine UX about it in a more compact form.

Other significant additions include Here maps, for real-time GPS navigation that’s ideal for finding your way around, navigation or exercise activities.

And because there’s a separate SIM slot on the rear of the phone you don’t necessarily have to go running with your Samsung smartphone paired to the Gear S. Instead it can operate independently should you wish and can achieve up to 3G speeds. We doubt many people in the UK will operate with the two-SIM design, but the option is now there.

As with other recent Samsung devices the inclusion of a heart rate monitor means you can sync the device with your Samsung smartphone - and only Samsung need apply - for S Health tracking and recording of activities.

But it doesn’t cease at that. We were shown a glimpse of the Nike+ app in its Tizen form, which connects with your existing account (if you have one) so you can continue to collect Fuel Points. No need to be tied in to just Samsung’s systems any more.

There’s a cool adjustment to battery life too, with a similar cradle charging unit as with the Gear 2 included, but this one has an internal battery that can recharge 50 per cent of the Gear S’s juice when out on the go. You’ll have to take the watch off to do this, but it’s a good idea and a step forward. Whether the S will survive for its claimed “two day battery life” is something we’re yet to see.

Overall the Gear S is the strongest Samsung wearable we’ve seen yet. It still has Samsung-device-only restrictions, which may limit its audience, and Tizen apps are in their infancy, but it’s otherwise a good-looking, well made watch. However, the default virtual watch face isn’t very attractive in our opinion and the large watch straps are something that we would change too.



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