Get ready for some slick tracking and wearable smarts, this might just be the best fitness watch around.
Samsung launched the Gear Sport which looks almost identical to last years Gear S3.
This is an all-new sporty version of the Gear S3 which also undercuts it by a good price margin while making it waterproof for some pool time.
After many hours of unwilling workouts and flapping around in swimming pools, we’re impressed by this wrist-hugging fitness buddy.
Design and build: rotating around
There’s not much difference between the Gear S3 of last year and the Gear Sport of today but upon closer inspection that Gear Sport sheds some weight and is a tad bit smaller than its predecessor.
I really like how it looks and the design isn’t purely aesthetic. It carries that rotating bezel of the Gear S3 and still feels wonderful to use. The screen size is now 1.2in as opposed to the 1.3in of the Gear S3 but the whole watch isn’t exactly round like the Gear S3, the lugs are a bit squarish. I didn’t find the watch massive for my hands (I am 5.8ft tall) but shorter people with smaller hands might want to wear it before purchasing.
You can literally walk into any regular watch shop and have your strap changed to your liking because it uses standard 20mm pins. That really opens a bunch of customizing options and Samsung deserves a cookie for not pushing its own straps down our throats like some fruit named company.
However the bundled silicon strap is perfectly suited for workouts and craves dunking even if it's your usual Mumbai pothole. Why subject it to such atrocity? Because son, this has military-grade durability to look down upon G-Shock users as well.
Screen: Tied to Zen
Samsung did what Samsung does best - make beautiful displays. The Gear Sport has by far one of the best looking displays I’ve ever seen. It’s bright, vivid and pleasing to look at.
It's got Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection to save it from damage when you slip on a banana peel and the 360x360 resolution certainly looks crisper than your makeshift potato chip cereal. Checking your notifications between afternoon chai breaks while the sun is blasting over your head is not a deal-breaker for the watch. To put it simply, the brightness is impeccable.
You can check notifications, read messages and even reply using presets. Agreed that staring at a 1.2in circular display to read messages might seem silly but the Gear Sport’s display makes it less painful for your eyes.
OS , widgets and apps: One step forward two steps back
Better side of thing is the Tizen OS on the watch which works very well. Not much has changed over last year’s version but it’s slick, organised and has plenty of information to make any other smartwatch feel shy. You can browse through your daily calorie burning ordeal using touch or simply turn the bezel in the direction you wish to move. The two side buttons are mapped to serve as a back button and a menu button.
The watch widgets automatically show calories burnt, steps walked, floors climbed, heart rate and a host of exercising modes from running and cycling to jumping jacks and yoga. It’s a proper sports-friendly watch, alright.
The Samsung Gear app on the smartphone is nice and light. It shows you how much battery charge, storage and RAM is remaining and lets you access all of them to organise it. Even the settings menu for the watch on the app is helpful.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Apps store is awful. It feels more like a sketchy marketplace for blackmarket apps sold by Tollywood villains. Smart home focused apps like Philips Hue Remote cost ₹233, what for? There are very few apps that don’t look like it’ll steal your money and laugh at you for using a smartwatch but the ones that work are genuinely fun to use.
The PPT controller was one that lets you do exactly what the name says - control your PPT. I still find it strange that there are no apps like Shazam, Google Maps or one for contactless payments. Even if you find one on the app store, it’ll be a random rip off from some unverified developer which I personally wouldn’t indulge in.
Samsung says you can call for an Uber using nothing but your watch - two weeks later I am still searching through the cluttered app store for that app. Although that’s not as disappointing as not having a dedicated app to sync your music with - like Google Play Music, Saavn, SoundCloud or even Apple Music (because the watch works with iOS as well; surprise surprise).
Don’t be disheartened, you can add your music to the 4GB storage space on the watch and have your playlist on your wrist but let’s talk in terms of 2017 standards. My options for offline listening are limited to SoundCloud Pro (₹80). I pay for Google’s Play Music on my Android device but I can’t have my playlist sync with anything on the watch. The watch requires me to have a local downloaded file which naturally none of these subscription based music apps will allow me to access without their dedicated apps. Samsung’s worldwide market has Spotify but sadly that’s not available in India.
Finally I submitted to the watch’s wishes and transferred my 2000s playlist to my smartphone from my PC and then to the smartwatch. Uff. I take back half the cookie.
Performance: Best in the business
As far as tracking goes, this watch has one of the best tracking I’ve seen on any smartwatch. It can track your heart rate continuously should you choose to or every 10 minutes, that’s up to you. It even has a Barometric altimeter which means the level of accuracy while climbing stairs is unbelievable. Even during flights the watch showed close numbers to what the pilot mentioned. I was really impressed. If you’re someone who answers the calling of Himalayas or just any other tiny mount, it’s a great watch to have.
The heart rate sensor is unbelievably quick and precise too. I had an ECG done due to some health issues and the sensor on this watch was near damn accurate for BPM as the ones they use in Breach Candy hospital. One more cookie for Samsung.
During workouts and swimming sessions the watch itself is super sufficient to check data such as lap time, calories burnt, repetitions, duration, heart rate, speed and all sorts of data that’ll make you push harder and better to improve your health.
The watch can take a dip so your swimming adventures are recorded and tracked. You can adjust lap time, distance covered and length of the pool as well. Just don’t take it below 50 meters.
You can synchronize your data on Samsung’s S Health app. Though the watch also supports Under Armour Record, MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, Endomondo and Speedo On apps if you’re using any one of these. Honestly I’d trade any one of these for a music app because the watch itself gives you sufficient data to go from cake chasing rookie to a local gym poster boy. Indoor workouts is something Samsung has added for the shy urban monkeys who like to work out at home. Got a Samsung telly? Connect and delve in guided workouts.
Battery: Green fingers
It can easily last two days without looking at the charger. From a full charge on a Friday night, I travelled to Hyderabad and back to Mumbai by Saturday night and I still had 24% charge left by the end of Sunday. During this period all the sensors including the GPS were kept on.
On my normal routine with office work and workouts, it clings to about a little less than 40 hours and if the GPS is turned off it can go on for longer than two days. That’s very impressive. I never needed to switch to power saving mode because the 300mAh battery tops up really quickly using the bundled wireless charger.
The Gear Sport is an impressive watch at ₹22,990. It looks fantastic and works even better. Even with a host of tracking features it isn’t as comprehensive as the Fitbit Ionic but that is not available in India at the time of writing.
If answering calls from your wrist isn’t your priority and you’re okay with manually uploading music to your watch then this is by far the best option between amazing tracking and a great smartwatch experience. All neatly packaged with a gorgeous display and ergonomically superior design.
Although I really wanted more smartwatch features from this wrist computer, it leans more towards fitness rather than your usual control-everything-from-the-couch level smart features because of the janky app store.