SAMSUNG GEAR S
The Samsung Gear S is the only smartwatch in our shootout not powered by Android Wear. Instead, it uses Tizen, an open source OS that, like Android, is based on Linux. With its huge display, metallic bezels and home button beneath the screen, the Gear S looks a lot more like a tiny curved smartphone strapped to your wrist than a traditional watch. While other smartwatch manufacturers have veered towards more fashionable designs, Samsung seems to be fully embracing the computer on your wrist style, and the Gear S’s thick housing, chunky metal clasp and rubber strap is definitely more geek than chic. While its curved form factor makes the Gear S quite comfortable to wear, it’s also ridiculously large, probably too big for most women’s wrists.
Where the Gear S tries to win you over is with its unique capabilities. It’s the only smartwatch in our shootout with its own micro-SIM card slot and 3G modem inside. That means using it without pairing with a smartphone. You can make and receive calls directly, thanks to its built-in speakers and microphone, plus even respond to emails using a tiny onscreen QWERTY keyboard, although honestly trying to type on a 2-inch screen with one finger is just absurd. You’re much better off with voice recognition, but Samsung’s Tizen-based voice input isn’t quite as good as Android Wear. It works, but it often takes a few attempts to get it right. While we enjoyed the novelty of making voice calls with the Gear S, ultimately, you’re still better just getting out your smartphone.
The Gear S has a curved 2-inch AMOLED display with a 480 x 360 pixel resolution (300 ppi), making it the largest smartwatch display currently available. It is super vibrant and colorful with great viewing angles, but one quirk worth noting is that some of Samsung’s older Gear apps aren’t optimized for it so they end up looking a bit stretched out and distorted. The Gear S’s huge display does have some benefits though. Thanks to its great contrast and large size, it’s one of the best smartwatches for reading content and the big curved screen makes vertical scrolling easy too.
With the Gear S running on Tizen, you won’t be able to use any Android Wear apps with it; instead, it has its own Gear App marketplace. There is less choice of course, but the few winners to take note of include the Nike+ running app (which is still in development for Android Wear).
Despite having the smallest battery size, battery life on the Gear S was surprisingly decent, especially considering its 3G modem and large display. We were able to get about 20 hours out of it on one charge.
Built-in 3G modem lets you use it without pairing with a smartphone. Huge, vibrant display.
Too big. Looks nerdy. Limited app selection.