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The battle for wearable tech items is in full swing and of course, Samsung is a participant in this arena. In fact, Samsung has had several versions and several renditions of watches. The Samsung Gear S2 Watch is one of their best efforts.
The Samsung Gear S2 is a good-looking, well-designed device. Its round watch face which is about 42 mm has a sAMOLED, 360×360 (302dpi) screen which is crisp and clear. The watch comes with two bands, one large and one small. These bands are soft and comfortable so the watch can be easily worn by either a man or a woman. The bands are proprietary. They clip in and out using a button release on the back. They come in dark gray and white. Unfortunately, you cannot use other bands, not even the Samsung classic bands which come in leather. There is a built-in speaker on the left side of the screen.
This watch runs on the Exynos3250 chip set. It has 4GB internal memory with 512 MB RAM. The Tizen OS, which is Samsung’s priority operating system, is smooth and easy-to-use. The only problem with it is the lack of apps, which we’ll talk about later in this article. The watch is dust and water resistant with an Ip68 rating. The watch also has the sensors that we’ve come to expect including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart rate monitor, and built-in microphone. It only lacks GPS.
There are actually three useful methods of navigation. First, there are two buttons on right side of the watch. Both can be used to turn the screen on (It turns off automatically). The upper button is used as a back button. The lower button is used to bring up the main menu. The next navigation tool is the bezel of the phone which can be rotated to make menu choices. The rotating bezel is super smooth yet slightly clicky. It is slightly raised making it easy to move and protecting the Gorilla Glass-covered display at the same time. Last, but not least, the screen itself is a responsive touch screen which lets you make choices and swipe to see additional screens. These three things can be combined to let you create your own methodology of navigation. It works quite well. I liked it better than the digital crown navigation of the Apple Watch.
The Samsung Gear S2 connects and works well with the Samsung Galaxy phones that I’ve tested. This is the first Samsung watch that is compatible with Android phones made by other manufacturers. Samsung says that this watch is compatible with phones running Android 4.4 and later with at least 1.5GB RAM. It is best to Check Compatibility at the Samsung website. Also be aware that some features may not be available when pairing with non-Samsung phones. Back in January, Samsung promised iOS compatibility, but it has not yet delivered on that promise.
Making and receiving calls
The most outstanding feature of this watch is that you can make and receive phone calls even when your phone isn’t nearby. Calls you make and receive through the phone are not always perfect, but they are definitely adequate. You can also make and receive texts and receive notifications solely through the watch. This does require an extra wireless plan. However, adding this phone is fairly inexpensive. Verizon only charges an extra $5 a month. For that charge you get an extra line with a dedicated phone number.
While the number of watch faces is more limited than on i Watch, there are still plenty to choose from. Press and hold the watch face and you can swipe through about twenty free faces. Some are customizable. You can also purchase more like this CUBS face that I paid $.99 for.
The watch comes with Samsung’s S Voice. The S Voice sounds a little more stilted than Siri and Alexa and it’s not quite as good for searches, but it’s pretty cool to have your watch talking to you. You can also use S Voice to do things like send messages which is much easier than trying to type on a tiny watch face.
Installed apps include email, messaging, calendar, weather, alarm, timer, stopwatch, music player, and a useful buddy list for making calls or sending texts to often used contacts.
The Samsung Gear S2 has 4GB of internal storage space for music. So the watch will hold approximately 300 songs. You can even customize a playlist. You transfer music from the phone to your watch and listen through Bluetooth headphones. This is a feature not found in many other watches. It’s great for exercising in the gym or running or hiking.
Not only does this watch support wireless charging, but the wireless charging dock included in the box. Just place the watch on the magnetic dock and it tells you how much charge is left and starts charging immediately. The charge last between one and two days, depending on use.
Because of the Tizen operating system, the number of available apps is small. New ones are starting to appear. For instance Bloomberg, ESPN, and Nike all have watch faces. There are CNN and Wall Street Journal apps.
You will find an app for Samsung Milk Music on this watch. This was an exclusive Samsung project that Samsung pulled Milk on September 22, 2016. However, Samsung Milk was powered by Slacker and you can substitute the Slacker app, if you like.
Activity and Health
The fitness and health features of this watch are pretty good. The watch will vibrate to alert you when you have been too inactive. The Samsung Gear S2 will encourage you to get up and get moving. It tracks your heart rate, which in my tests was pretty accurate. It randomly monitors your pulse and stores it in the Samsung SHealth app on your phone. Workout options include walking, running, hiking, elliptical, exercise bike, cycling, and even stair climbing. It lets you set targets like times, distance, pace, speed, etc.
I lamented the lack of apps and the inability to switch bands, but I had to shout for joy at the ability to make and receive phone calls when your phone is not around. I also love the ability to play music right from the watch. These features are the first to crush the “I must always have my phone in my pocket” way of thinking. Samsung is really on the right track with this one. I can’t wait to see what Samsung comes up with in the Gear S3.