Samsung wants you to forget what you think you know about smartwatches.

It's ditched the plastic fantastic for 2016, turning the Gear S3 into a metal marvel you'll actually want to keep on your wrist. This seventh-generation wearable crams in the extra features, but it's the stylish new look and build quality to keep watch snobs happy that make all the difference.

Sticking to the tried and tested twisting bezel is a great move too - it's what made us big fans of last year's Gear S2.

After the briefest of previews with one strapped onto my wrist, I walked away impressed.

Here’s why you’re going to want one.


Just like last year, there are two models to choose from - only the Gear S3 doesn't have a basic plastic version. That has been put out to pasture. Instead, you've got the choice of S3 Classic or S3 Frontier.

The Classic is all leather and stainless steel, with a polished silver look that won't appear out of place under an Armani suit sleeve. Two metal crowns act as back and home buttons.

That gorgeous circular AMOLED screen reappears, with the same 360x360 resolution but a slightly larger 1.3in panel. It doesn't sound like much, but makes all the difference on your wrist - it's easier to read at a glance, and there's more space for tapping with a finger if you don't want to give the bezel a spin. But why would you not? it's ace.

The S3 Frontier is even bigger, with a chunky bezel and matte black finish. It feels a lot weightier than the Classic - reassuringly so, like the tech you've just tied to your wrist is actually worth the cash you splashed on it. It definitely makes a change from other, cheaper-feeling smartwatches.

The crowns get swapped for buttons here, so you'll be able to keep using it when you're wearing gloves.

Both watches are rocking industry-standard 22mm lugs, so you’ll be able to swap the stock strap for something a littlee more personal if you like. Naturally Samsung's got a few of its own you'll be able to snap up too.


The screen might be bigger, but that spinning bezel is still the best way of actually getting a smartwatch to feel, well, smart, that we've seen. It's reassuringly responsive, clicking mechanically on either watch whenever you give it a twirl, but the Frontier definitely wins out for me.

It works so well because Samsung's Tizen UI is completely designed around it. Forget square screens - circular interfaces are the future for smartwatches, and the rest of the world needs to catch up quick.

Apart from a few (admittedly stylish) new watch faces though, the general look and feel hasn't changed all that much from the Gear S2. That's no bad thing, though: Android Wear might have better app support, but the Gear S3 can do most jobs straight out of the box, with easy-to-read notifications and genuinely useful apps.

You aren't tied in to a Samsung phone with a Gear S3, either. Both watches will play nicely with any Android phone running version 4.4 or higher, although you'll still need some kind of Galaxy in your pocket to use Samsung Pay. 

The new watches both have NFC and MST wireless tech, which covers practically every kind of contactless payment, so if you're in a country that's onboard with Samsung Pay, it would be a shame to miss out.


The new look is great, but the Gear S3 has a few neat tricks on the hardware side, too. 

The Frontier is packing an altimeter and a speedometer, on top of the accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart rate monitor and ambient light sensor that showed up in the Gear S2. Something skiers and snowboarders might find handy when they’re on the slopes.

It’s IP68-rated for dust, water and temperature too, so won’t give up on you when the going gets tough. Gorilla Glass designed specifically for wearables should keep that stunning face scratch free as well.

Only the Frontier has built-in LTE for proper phone-free calls - the Classic stays tethered with Bluetooth.

That extra tech shouldn’t come at the expense of battery life, though. Samsung has squeezed in a 380mAh battery into each watch - a huge improvement over the teeny 250mAh cell in the Gear S2. It should mean three to four days between charges - so you won’t need the docking cradle for overnight trips any more.

Even better, you won't have to tap it whever you want to check the time. Samsung has ported the Always-on display mode from the Galaxy Note 7, only in full colour - so there's always a dimmed version of your chosen watchface visible at the flick of a wrist.

Samsung Gear S3 Initial Verdict

The Gear S2 was a fantastic wearable OS trapped in a naff plastic case. The S3 Classic and S3 Frontier finally set it free, with two very different but very drool-worthy designs that you won't be ashamed to wear.

Feeling active? The Frontier is reinforced and fully equipped in all the right places. It's got some serious heft to it, but you probably won't mind when it means an extra day or two between recharges.

Want something a little classier? The Classic doesn't dominate your wrist as much, but keeps premium materials like metal and leather. Either way, it looks like there's finally a top-notch watch that can do Tizen some real justice.

I can't wait to strap one on for a full review.