Hands-on: Samsung Gear S smart watch

Hands-on: Samsung Gear S

Promising Smart Watch from Samsung

Besides sporting a larger display, the Samsung Gear S also has a slightly different way of interface navigation.

Samsung is no stranger in the wearable space. Including announcements from today, it has launched a total of six wearable devices to date; the Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Gear S and Gear VR. Apart from the Gear VR, the Gear S is probably the most exciting wearable to enter this category this year. Let’s find out why in this hands-on article.

Design & Hardware

The Samsung Gear S seen beside a conventional watch.

We are glad to see Samsung replicating the same design formula it used for the Gear Fit for the Gear S; the curved Super AMOLED display wrapped around our wrist very comfortably although consumers with smaller wrists may be turned off by the larger 2-inch display. However, the extra screen estate provided more room for navigation and reading content on the smart watch.

Like the Gear Fit, the Gear S consists of a removable core module and an interchangeable rubber strap. Little effort was required to remove the core module from the rubber strap, so consumers who like to switch straps regularly should not feel inconvenienced.

The core module of the Samsung Gear S is easily removed from the rubber strap.

There is a nano-SIM card slot on the rear of the Samsung Gear S.

Similar to the Gear 2 and Fit devices, the Gear S is certified IP67 water and dust resistance. It also has a heart rate sensor located on its rear. Just above and to the left of the heart rate sensor is a SIM card slot. Yes, you read that right – you can insert a nano-SIM card on the Gear S to make/receive calls, notifications and read content. You will however need to pair with a compatible smartphone to sync data first before you can use the Gear S as a standalone device.

Software Features

Unlike the Android Wear-powered Gear Live, the Gear S runs on Tizen OS. If you swipe right from the clock face, you access the Notifications panel on the Gear S. This is where you view all incoming notifications on the Gear S. There is a number ticker on each item (e.g. Messages).

This is where you view the notifications on your Samsung Gear S.

You can view and reply to these notifications right from your wrist. Besides using voice dictation, the Gear S now comes with an on-screen keyboard for you to type. Consumers with bigger hands (and fingers) may find the keyboard a little too small to type comfortably though. Fortunately, the keyboard has predictive text input to minimize typos. During our short hands-on session with the Gear S, we faced no issue typing on the Gear S. The experience was smooth and similar to that of a smartphone.

While typing, the on-screen keyboard takes up the bulk of the screen face on the Samsung Gear S.

If you swipe left from the clock face, you access the widgets section where you can customize which widgets to appear first. One of the main widgets you will see is S Health, where you get to see a record of your exercise statistics. After an exercise, you can view a graph showing your heart rate during the duration of the exercise on the Gear S.

Similar to the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge, the Gear S has a UV sensor on the front panel to measure UV levels. Having said that, we were unable to test out this feature as we were trying out the Gear S indoors.

You can view other widgets such as a news feed from a number of content providers like Associated Press (AP), The Financial Times and Facebook. You can scroll through the list of articles from a content provider and then tap to read a particular article that you are interested in.

Individual articles from the content providers support both images and text.

Scrolling was fluid and straightforward on the 2-inch cuved display of the Samsung Gear S.

There are a host of other widgets and apps you can access such as HERE. Thanks to its 3G, A-GPS and GLONASS connectivity, you can enjoy turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation on the Gear S without relying on your smartphone. Based on your location, you can key in the destination on the Gear S and it will provide you with both visual and text directions.

A swipe up from the bottom on the clock face brings you to the main menu on the Gear S where you see Phone, Contacts, Messages, Email, Calendar and Settings. A swipe in the opposite direction will put the Gear S in silent mode.

This is the main menu of the Samsung Gear S.

Bursting with new and useful features, the Gear S is stated to last up to two days with typical usage on its 300mAh battery. With the Gear 2 devices needing a recharge after three days, the Gear S may need a recharge more frequently especially if you are using it to make/receive calls and navigate.

Samsung states that the Gear S will be available globally in phases through its retail channels, e-commerce websites and telcos from October.