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(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has ramped up its design game for the Galaxy S6 already, now it's doing the same with its smartwatches. The Gear S2 Classic is the premium version of its latest Gear S2 smartwatch.

Featuring a slimmer rotating bezel than the Gear S2, this is the model aimed at those that want the best looks. It also comes with a premium leather strap for top notch quality.

So with new controls that work with apps as well as bumped up battery life, is the Samsung Gear S2 Classic the watch to go for?

New apps, new fitness integration and NFC smarts could make this a serious contender for your wrist space. Along with style and leather class looks this could be Samsung's answer to Apple's Watch.

We went hands-on with the new Samsung timepiece to find out more.

Gear S2 Classic design and hardware

The Gear S2 Classic is noticeably smaller than its predecessor from Samsung. In fact it's a lot smaller than plenty of the Android competition. But of course this is Tizen operated.

The new bezel on the Gear S2 Classic acts as a control system. Not only does it look attractive but it also offers the ability to control the watch without touching the screen. We found this to be natural with some apps easier to swipe and others lending themselves to a bezel twist.

Pocket-lintsamsung gear s2 classic hands on image 4

Watch faces can be styled by changes to the arms of the clocks as well as the backgrounds themselves allowing for hundreds of iterations of faces. Then you add third-party faces and the possibilities get even greater.

The strap uses a button for quick removal allowing for attachment of a variety of other straps to offer individuality for each wearer. Third-parties work with Samsung to offer a selection of straps and we expect more to arrive in the future.

Finally, the Gear S2 Classic is IP68 rather than IP67 rated meaning slightly less protection but still enough for anyone not deep sea diving, essentially.

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Battery life, from the 250mAh battery, couldn't be tested here but Samsung says two to three days of usage can be expected. Charging is done using a magnetic wireless charger much like Apple has with its Watch. This attached easily and when the watch was side on the time flips so it could be used as a bedside clock.

We did notice a power saving mode option so perhaps that longer battery life is based on using it in this black and white, limited mode.

Gear S2 Classic Activity tracking

The big new sell on the Gear S2 Classic is smarter activity tracking. This should result in a watch that offers more for those looking for a notification-friendly smartwatch that also acts as a fitness tracker.

Pocket-lintsamsung gear s2 classic hands on image 13

The new 24-hour activity log measures everything the wearer has been doing. It also introduces auto recognition meaning the watch can spot the difference between a run or a walk. So if you start a run the heart rate interval time will drop for more feedback compared to sitting mode. That should mean more efficient battery use while still offering plenty of data – though we didn't get long enough to test this properly.

To encourage activity, watch screens change as you move. As you move more the screen changes or even alerts the wearer to keep him or her doing more. So on a screen with stars in the background more appear as more activity is achieved, for example.

Gear S2 Classic connectivity

NFC is built-in so that Samsung Pay can be used as well as transportation and loyalty cards in the near future.

Samsung says it's looking into expanding the use of this NFC over the next year. Unlocking cars and house doors are some things on that list as well as controlling home heating and more using smarthome devices. Combined with Samsung SmartThings perhaps?

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It's worth noting though that the Gear S2 Classic does not use the magnetic system like on the Galaxy S6 meaning it'll only work where NFC payments are accepted, not with the magnetic strip on non-contactless payment terminals.

The Gear S2 Classic uses Bluetooth primarily but thanks to Wi-Fi, via the Samsung cloud, connection can be made from the phone using Wi-Fi to update apps.

Gear S2 Classic apps

Initially the Gear S2 Classic, running Tizen OS, will launch with up to 1,000 applications.

Pocket-lintsamsung gear s2 classic hands on image 8

This includes the likes of Twitter, Nike Running, Uber, BMW, Groupon and more. These will take advantage of the new bezel control interface as well as allowing the OS to work with any phone.

The Gear S2 Classic compatibility is being expanded to work with any Android device with Android 4.4 or above with 1.5GB of RAM. Some models might not support it but Samsung says the vast majority should. This is exciting as it offers an alternative to the limited Android Wear OS. 

First Impressions

The Samsung Gear S2 Classic is a giant leap forward for Samsung. Not only is the watch slimmer and more attractive but it also has a better user interface.

The rotating bezel frees the user in ways the older models could only hope to do. The new OS that works with most Android phones will make this a more attractive Android-friendly smartwatch than most alternatives.

Battery life is still limited to a few days but with wireless charging that shouldn't be much of an issue.

For those wanting 3G and GPS there is a variant for that but at the cost of battery life and money, many will be more than happy with the Gear S2 Classic offering.

Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 3 September 2015.