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Samsung Gear S2 Review: Stylish, Brilliant Wearable

Samsung Gear S2 Classic 02

We review Samsung’s newest wearable!

Samsung’s original Gear S released last year was met with a thundering “meh” from consumers. It was an overly ambitious product, trying to be a jack-of-all-trades and predictably, ended up as a master of none. It’s also not the prettiest wearable around, which reinforced people’s view that it was a phone first (it had its own SIM slot) and a wearable second.

The Korean firm has learned their lesson with the second iteration, dubbed the Gear S2, and what a change. The Gear S2 (which incidentally comes in sport and classic flavor) feature a completely redesigned watch face, a renewed focus and is infinitely better to look at than the original. Is it worth the money? Find out in our review!

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Oozing with style and sophistication

Instead of a square watch face, the Gear S2 gets a completely round, traditional-looking watch face. So what, you’re probably saying. That’s not really a big deal considering that many other brands have round watchfaces now. Well, the Gear S2 does one better – it has a rotating bezel on it. The bezel allows you to quickly and intuitively navigate through the apps and menus in the watch.

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You can argue that it’s just another way to navigate through the Gear S2’s menus, which can be accomplished by swiping on the display, and you’d be right but man that bezel really adds to the style and sophistication of the watch.

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The Gear S2 comes in three versions: Sports, Classic and Classic with 3G. As far as we know Samsung is only selling the Sports and Classic (non 3G) variants in the PH. While the Classic version we reviewed is a little more expensive than the Sport, it’s definitely the better looking of the pair. The Gear S2 Classic version looks right at home at the wrist of an executive, while the Gear S2 Sport look better on a college student in our opinion.

The straps on the Gear S2 Classic are leather and can be replaced by regular watch straps if you don’t like em. The diameter of the watch is 1.2-inches, and has an AMOLED, 360 x 360 resolution panel on it. Two buttons are on the side of the watch: one brings up the wheel of app icons while the other functions as a back button. Everything is nicely laid out and easy to access, even for first time users.

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Connecting is a breeze if you own a Samsung phone, a nightmare when you don’t

It doesn’t matter how nice your smartwatch is, it still has to be connected to a smartphone to work. While Samsung says that the Gear S2 should be compatible with other Android phones, we found that the list is pretty short. Previous phones that we tested like the Huawei G8, ZUK’s Z1, Lenovo’s P1 and the M2 Note aren’t compatible with the watch, which was a bummer.

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It did pair quickly and easily with the Galaxy A8, something that shouldn’t surpise anybody. Aside from Bluetooth, the Gear S2 also has Wi-Fi connectivity, which it uses to keep in touch with your phone if you move out of range of it.

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Tizen still needs a lot of apps to be useful

The Gear S2 is powered by Tizen, Samsung’s own operating system that also powers a few phones and their TVs. Just like any smartwatch, you can change the watchfaces of the Gear S2 to suit your needs, everything from a watch face that keeps track of the weather, breaking stories in CNN, the stockmarket via the Bloomberg watch face or one that connects to Nike’s fitness app.

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Notifications instantly pop up on the Gear S2, and the phone turns on automatically when you raise your wrist to see who pinged you. After wearing the Gear S2 for a few days, we’ve come to rely on it to tell us if the notification that just hit our phone was important enough to pull it out and respond to it instead of ignoring it and concentrating on the task at hand. You can also reply to text and messages on the Gear S2 via pre-programmed messages – simple things like yes, no, I’m busy or a thumbs up.

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One thing that we did notice though is that there’s still a dearth of apps for Tizen. To be honest the Gear S2 isn’t as well flushed out as Android Wear, which gets tons of great apps from different developers around the world.

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A smartwatch wouldn’t be a smartwatch if it didn’t double as a fitness tracker, and the Gear S2 has you covered there. Sit on your butt for too long and it’ll tell you to get up and start moving. It counts the number of steps you take, and you can tell it how much coffee and water you’d had for the entire day. It also detects if you’re out and about exercising via running, jogging or biking, though there was this odd moment that we were driving and it thought we were out biking.

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Better battery life than most other smartwatches

The biggest beef we have with smartwatches is their short battery lives – it’s really a pain in the butt to have to charge your watch along with your phone at the end of the day, or risk not being able to use it the next day. Well, the Gear S2 manages to solve that problem, sort of – it’s capable of going two days without charging, though that’s at the expense of reduced brightness on the watch (and maybe turning off WiFi) to conserve power. The Gear S2 also doesn’t display anything on the display unless you get a notification or if you raise it up to take a look at it.

Once you do run out of juice, all you have to do is place the Gear S2 on its provided wireless charging pad to charge it. It uses the Qi wireless charging standard, so any compatible wireless charging pad will juice it up when you lay it down flat.

Verdict: A far better, and more practical smartwatch

After all’s been said and done, Samsung has more than redeemed themselves with the Gear S2. While smartwatches has still ways to go before they’re as ubiquitous as the smartphone, Samsung’s Gear S2 is a great move in the right direction. While the dearth of apps for Tizen is certainly a bummer, it’s not a crippling blow. Who knew that Samsung could make a stylish and extremely functional smartwatch? Color us surprised.

Samsung’s Gear S2 Sports goes for Php 13,490, while the Gear S2 Classic is Php 15,490.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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