Tech Tools review: Samsung Gear S2

Samsung’s Gear S2 smartwatch is not only well-designed, it’s easy to use

The S2 doesn’t follow the standard smartwatch interface, poking away at a 1.2 inch touch screen on your wrist; instead, it uses a rotating bezel.

Product name: Samsung Gear S2

Price: €349.99

Where to buy: www.carphonewarehouse.ie

Website: www.samsung.com

Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 13:00

   

A couple of years ago when Samsung released its first Gear smartwatch, the industry was in its infancy. Wearables were mostly limited to activity trackers, although there were a few projects starting to show some promise. Unfortunately, the original crop of wearables were a little less fashionable than some people preferred, and a lot more limited than you’d hope.

Fast forward to 2016 and things have changed. There are an array of smartwatches pitched at the average user, each with their own selling points, and they are more wearable than their predecessors. From Pebble to Apple, everyone is looking at smartwatches with new eyes.

Samsung’s Gear S2 has been getting attention and rightly so. The smartwatch is not only well-designed, it’s easy to use. The round face, like the Moto 360, makes it look more like a standard watch, so it’s a little more subtle than other attempts. There’s no camera built into the strap or speaker phone for making calls – two things you probably won’t miss, and for which your battery life will possibly benefit.

The watch comes with two sized strapsso you can switch from the larger strap to the more snug-fitting one if required.

Like the Apple Watch, the S2 doesn’t follow the standard smartwatch interface, poking away at a 1.2 inch touch screen on your wrist; instead, it uses a rotating bezel. That bezel allows you to select apps, move through screens and generally perform functions a little easier than trying to select by touch.

It works surprisingly well. If you aren’t a fan of Apple’s digital crown, this may suit you better. Although at times it feels a little like the bezel control is there just for the sake of it, more often than not it’s a more natural – and faster – way to find your way around the watch. You can switch between your calendar and your music interface, your fitness tracker and your daily news.

There’s also the option to use voice commands too.

In some ways, Samsung is trying to plough its own furrow. The S2 is Tizen-based, rather than Android Wear, which has the simultaneous effect of both freeing it from the Android system and limiting it all at the same time.

Although Tizen has some advantages, the range of apps for the platform isn’t the same. It makes sense: Android Wear devices are growing in number and attracting developers accordingly. While there are most of the essentials for Tizen, it doesn’t have the range and variety that Android Wear has.

It will track your fitness and allow you to navigate turn by turn, and it does both of those well. The S Health app in particular is a highlight; it tracks your activity automatically, so when you start to jog, you don’t have to tell it what you’re doing. It will also keep an eye on your heart rate. Samsung has put the effort in here to make sure that the Tizen system will cover all the basics.

The perceived lack of apps has to be taken in context. How many people really need their smartwatch to have as many apps as their phone? The watch is designed to work alongside your phone, not instead of it. Perhaps having dedicated social networking apps on your wrist isn’t as much of an advantage as you’d think.

So what phones will the S2 work with? Previous Samsung smartwatches were limited to the higher-end Galaxy range, something the company ditched a while ago. At the time of writing, the Gear S2 will work with phones running Android 4.4 and higher, and with more than 1.5GB of RAM. And that’s Android phones, rather than Samsung phones; the company made the decision to open things up with the S2.

From later this year, it will work with iOS devices. So you could have your iPhone working with your Samsung Gear S2.

The good

The rotating bezel makes getting around this watch an altogether less troublesome experience. While you still have to use the touch screen, there’s less frustration from accidentally selecting the wrong app, and the bezel is a quick way to scroll screens.

The not so good

The Tizen apps are still a little limited – this may improve.

The rest

At CES, Samsung announced premium versions of the S2 – one in platinum, the other in rose gold. There’s also a version that adds an e-sim, so you don’t have to be connected to your phone to get online – although the S2 will connect to wifi networks too.

The verdict

HHHH