The Gear S2 – Samsung’s Best Smartwatch Yet
Over the course of this year, smartwatches have made the jump from a novelty for early adopters to 2016’s must-have tech and fashion accessories. I’ve had the opportunity to use and review some of the best smartwatches on the market including the Moto360 and Samsung’s previous Gear S model. With Samsung’s latest entry, the Gear S2 shows that they’ve been paying attention to user feedback on their previous devices, as this is by far the best-looking, most useful and intuitive smartwatch they’ve ever produced. With its sleek round face and seamless UI, the Gear S2 has taken some of the best stylistic and UI elements of its predecessor and competitors to create an amazing device that is sure to be popular with smartwatch enthusiasts throughout 2016.
It’s All About the Bezel
If I have to choose just one killer feature that separates the Gear S2 from other smartwatches, it is without a doubt the intuitive bezel control. While most smartwatches on the market use a combination of touch screen and button controls you’d find on larger devices, the S2 introduces a unique rotating bezel that allows the user to easily navigate between the robust selection of apps, widgets and menu choices. Unlike the vast displays of today’s smartphones and tablets, it can be a challenge for some users to swipe and type on a smartwatch screen that isn’t much bigger than their finger tips. I found that the simplicity of the bezel control made it easier and quicker to access many of the functions that it would have taken multiple screen swipes to find on other smartwatches. As a result, I use those features much more regularly, resulting in a much richer experience.
More Compatible, More Apps, More Useful
One of the limitations of the otherwise spectacular original Gear S was that it was only supported by newer Samsung devices. With the Gear S2, Samsung has opened up its proprietary Tizen OS to support many of today’s most popular Android devices running Android 4.4 Jellybean or higher. While the Gear App store is still not as robust as competing smartwatch platforms, Samsung has significantly closed the gap with some key software partnerships that Samsung is calling “Timeless Partners”. Finding an Uber ride has never been more convenient than with the Gear S2’s dedicated app. You can check news, stock and sports headlines right on your watch with dedicated apps from CNN, Bloomberg and ESPN. You can even browse Yelp restaurant reviews or your standing in a competitive eBay bidding war. Partnerships with auto manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen turn the Gear S2 into a remote control, navigation and diagnostic tool for the new age of connected cars. And some of coolest applications are still to come as Samsung rolls out new functionality that will allow you to tap your watch to pay in stores and even unlock the door to your home.
Health on your Hand
Samsung has always delivered one of the best health/fitness experiences on mobile through the S-Health app and the Gear S2 brings more of those features to your wrist than ever. A step counter and motion detector will let you measure your activity and give you helpful reminders to take a walk when you’ve been stationary for too long. While heart-rate sensors have been a feature of previous smartwatches, the Gear S2 delivers the most accurate readings I’ve ever seen and will check your pulse several times per day by default. The S2 supports the Diet and Sleep functions of S-Health respectively with custom widgets to let you measure your water and coffee intake and a sleep tracker to tell you whether you’re getting enough rest. Beyond the Samsung eco-system, the S2 also supports third party fitness apps like Nike +, dieting apps like Happie and even golf apps like Golf Navi+.
Smart and Beautiful
Not to sound superficial, but none of the smart features above would matter much if the Gear S2 didn’t have the looks to earn a place on your wrist. Luckily Samsung’s first round-faced smartwatch is also the most beautiful member of the Gear family and could easily be mistaken for a more traditional luxury watch before its brilliant 1.2-inch AMOLED screen lights up. A huge selection of pre-installed and downloadable watchfaces let you customize your look with minimalist, ornate or futuristic displays to suit your individual fashion sense. The Gear S2 uses a non-standard watch band designed for easy swapping so you can quickly update your look. Samsung has arranged creative partnerships with a variety of designers to bring owners a variety of options ranging from funky and colourful silicon bands to more luxurious leather options.
Even some of the most tech forward people have been holding off on buying their first smartwatch, waiting for a device that delivers on the promises of utility, ease of use and fashion. With the Gear S2, Samsung has created a smartwatch that delivers all three. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the fashion-forward techie in your life (or better yet for yourself!) you can get the Gear S2 from Bell in one of our stores or online.
Dan Flatt is Bell Canada’s Senior Manager of Social Media Strategy & Intelligence.