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Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Review: Rugged And Trendy

Despite the gloomy outlook for smartwatches this year, Korean company Samsung is still cranking out updates to its Tizen-powered smartwatches. The Gear S3 Frontier is the successor to last year’s excellent Gear S2, and builds on many of the innovations that its older sibling introduced, like that oh so simple and elegant rotating bezel. The Gear S3 Frontier is loaded with a bunch of new features, a sportier look and a myriad of other improvements to the Tizen-powered smartwatch formula. Does it deserve to grace your wrist?

Sportier and more rugged look hides the awesome tech beneath

While the Gear S2 had this funky, futuristic design, the Gear S3 Frontier is the exact opposite, as it’s built with a rugged aesthetic akin to what hikers and bikers would wear when hitting the trail. That trademarked rotating bezel has knurling and hashmarks around it, and the default watchface make it look more like a rugged watch than anything else. The watch is also significantly bigger than the Gear S2, despite an almost imperceptible increase in screen size compared to last year’s model.

The Gear S3 Frontier is made from 316L stainless steel, and the Super AMOLED display is 1.33-inches round. While the increase in screen size isn’t that obvious, the colors on the watch is as Samsung has upgraded the watch’s color display to output 16 million colors from last year’s 8 million.

Since the Gear S3 Frontier is supposed to be worn by active individuals, the watch band is made out of silicon rubber. If you don’t like the look or feel of that rubber, don’t fret – the watch uses standard watch straps and can take whatever style of straps you desire.

Aside from the rotating bezel you also get two buttons on the side that you use for navigation. The screen is touch-enabled as well. Underneath the watch hides the heartbeat sensor that the it uses to track your, well, heartbeat when you start exercising.

Probably the biggest problem with the Gear S3 Frontier’s styling is that it’s too masculine. The size of the watch make it strictly a guy’s accessory, as it looks comically out of place in a woman’s wrist (or even in the wrists of daintier men). There’s no equivalent model for women either – so you’re stuck with the Gear S2 if you have a pair of x chromosomes.

Better hardware this around, but still lacks a good app library

As is with any new tech product, Samsung has updated the hardware under the hood of the Gear S3 Frontier. It runs a 1GHz dual-core Exynos processor, 768MB of RAM, has 4GB of internal storage and IP68 waterproofing. There’s also an LTE radio on tap, and the watch has speakers built-in to it so you can listen to music from it or make and take voice calls straight from your wrist.

Samsung’s crop of smartwatches utilizes the firm’s own OS, dubbed Tizen, now on version 2.3.1. That wonderful rotating bezel is such a great navigation tool, we still don’t know why other companies didn’t adopt it before Samsung did. Rotate it clockwise and you’ll instantly get access to your notifications, move it the other way and you’ll be able to scroll through the widgets and apps you’ve pinned to the home screen.

Samsung has a bunch of apps available on Tizen’s equivalent of the app store, but honestly many of them aren’t exactly made for the round display on the Gear S3 Frontier. Of those available for the Gear S3 Frontier, only a few of them are actually useful. We actually ditched the Gear S3 Frontier for Huawei’s Watch while we were in Hong Kong a few weeks ago because the latter made it easier to get around via Google Maps, something that the former didn’t have.

Connecting the Gear S3 Frontier to a non-Samsung phone (or an iPhone) is pretty easy, though you will have to download Samsung’s S Health app as well as the other necessary bits to get the most of it. New this year is the Gear S3 Frontier’s ability to automatically detect if you’re running, walking, cycling or just working out. Unfortunately, the watch is prone to false-positives – it incorecctly said that we were biking while we were actually driving on Commonwealth, and the built-in barometer (which detects changes in atmospheric pressure) falsely predicted rain whenever we drove up to Batasan Hills from San Mateo Rizal.

Annoyingly, when connected to the Gear S3 Frontier all your voice calls are diverted to the device by default. You can turn that particular feature off, but it took us a few calls to realize why nothing was coming out of the earpiece of the phone we were using at the time. Calls made and taken via the Gear S3 Frontier’s speakers are alright, but you’ll have to make sure to turn up the volume of the device to hear anything. Expect to look like a less suave Dick Tracey while making and taking calls though.

3 day battery life

Samsung promises around 4 days of useful battery life with the Gear S3 Frontier, which we found to be closer to 3 days with constant use. That’s way better than the current crop of Android Wear devices that can barely make a day and a half without charging. Speaking of charging, the Gear S3 Frontier charges via wireless pad that’s included with each purchase.

Verdict: A worthy upgrade

Smartwatches may not be flying off of the shelves, but Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier has a very good chance of selling in the PH quite decently. Its definitely one of the trendier smartwatches out in the market today, despite really being just made for men. Solid battery life, awesome display and the oh so intuitive revolving bezel makes it one of the best smartwatches available for sale in the Philippines.

The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is priced at Php 16,490.

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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