Samsung introduced their first smartwatch back in the fall of 2013 with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, it was meant to be a companion device to Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones but it felt short of expectations.
But then six months later, Samsung made a follow-up to the Galaxy Gear with the Gear 2 watch, which was running Samsung’s own Tizen OS instead of Android. The original Galaxy Gear was updated to run Tizen OS around the same time.
This move to Tizen was good on Samsung because with Android Wear in it’s current state, Tizen seems like a great OS for smartwatches.
This lead to the Gear S smartwatch in the fall of 2014, it introduced an option to get 3G connectivity to the watch itself, so you could theoretically use it without a phone. It also had 2-inch curved display and had a similar design to the past Samsung smartwatches.
Now, onto the successor to the Gear S, the Gear S2. It introduces a new version of Tizen along with a round display instead of a square display on past models.
In this review, I will cover the following areas:
- Design & Hardware (hardware and specs)
- Software (all about that Tizen)
Design & Hardware
The display on the Gear S2 looks good, it is bright enough, even when looking at it during the day. It is a 1.2” circular Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 360 x 360.
Samsung seemed to have an “ace up their sleeve” because instead of giving their Gear S2, a “flat tire”, they managed to put the ambient light sensor behind the screen, so then you actually will get a fully round display.
That is used to measure how much light is coming and to better adjust the screen when there are changes in light. For example, if you had auto-brightness on, the display would turn all the way up to full brightness so then you could see it better outside in daylight.
The Gear S2 also introduces a rotating bezel which can make it easier to navigate around the OS. The display on the Gear S2 is also a touchscreen, so you have a choice of either swiping around or using the rotating bezel.
The Gear S2 also has about 4GB of internal storage and is being powered either by Exynos 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor (depending on if you get the Wi-Fi only Gear S2 or one with 3G), both have 512MB of RAM.
The overall build quality of the Gear S2 is really nice, the stainless steel case makes it look more premium than it actually is. The Gear S2 Classic which I tested out, had leather bands and that added to the premium feel.
The Gear S2 is also IP68 dust and water resistant.
For battery life, the Gear S2 has a 250 mAh battery. I got about two days of battery life on the Gear S2 before I actually had to charge it. If the battery does go low, there is a battery saving mode that will make the display black and white and only show the time and how much battery is left.
Included in the box is a charging cradle but the Gear S2 also support Qi wireless charging, so you can drop it onto any wireless charger and it will charge.
In Canada, the Gear S2 starts at $399 for the Wi-Fi only version that has a plastic body and rubber straps and comes in either Dark Grey or Silver/White. The Gear S2 Classic is $429 and it has a stainless steel body and leather straps.
Note: As of writing this review, both models of the Gear S2 are on sale at Best Buy. The standard Gear S2 is on sale for $349 and the Gear S2 Classic is on sale for $379.
The Gear S2 is running Samsung’s own Tizen OS which is based off of Android.
With the Gear S2, you can receive notifications, make voice searches, reply to messages using your voice and you can set timers and reminders and etc.
To help give your Gear S2 some of your own style, you can install watch faces and apps to do more. However, there is significantly not as many apps and watch faces for Tizen, there are some popular apps like Uber but not a whole lot.
Most of the apps that you’ll find on the Gear S2 are Samsung’s own apps like S Planner or S Voice. One of the more apps that I found pretty useful was the Samsung Briefing app which is powered by Flipboard. It will give you the latest news articles on your Gear S2.
But all of these Gear S2 apps are tied to your phone, they will still need your phone as a data connection. The Gear S2 does have a Wi-Fi chip built-in, so it can still do things when it isn’t connected to your phone but that is very limited.
The Gear S2 will work will other Android phones besides Samsung ones. It will work with Android phones running 4.4 and later.
Just like Android Wear watches, the Gear S2 is a glorified notification device that do a few more things that say a Pebble watch or even the Apple Watch (which also heavily relies on your iPhone).
Another thing to point is that the Gear S2 along with some Android Wear watches now work with iPhone but in a limited capacity meaning you’ll only really be able to get notifications from your iPhone onto your Gear S2 and not much else.
Also the watch face that I was using on the Gear S2 was called BlueStealth.
If you are looking for one of best Tizen smartwatches or even just the best Samsung smartwatch, then look no further than the Gear S2. I would recommend getting the Gear S2 Classic, it looks much nicer and has a better feel.
However, if you just getting into smartwatches, I would recommend looking at the Pebble watches which start at $100 which is way cheaper than the starting price of the Gear S2.
For some, the Gear S2 might seem too expensive because it is similarly priced to some Android Wear watches.
With the issues with Android Wear, it’s battery life and the expensive price tag, you are better off, looking at somewhere else for your smartwatch needs. Smartwatches haven’t really found their place in the world, they have only really hit mainstream consumers within the last year and people haven’t found the need for a smartwatch just yet.
Tizen seems much more fleshed out than Android Wear and actually works, but there is limited app and third-party watch face support which is where Android Wear is excelling at, and that will hurt Tizen and the Gear S2 in the long run.
+ Great round design and feel
+ Tizen is more polished than Android Wear
+ Unique design
– Limited number of high-quality apps and watch faces
– Battery life isn’t up to par to the likes the Pebble Time (i.e. 7 days or more)