Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
£TBC • samsung.com/uk
Following on from the success of its best smartwatch to date, the Gear S2, Samsung is back with this, the Gear S3 Frontier. It is the premium version out of two new smartwatches unveiled at IFA 2016 in Berlin in September 2016.
There was previously the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 Classic. The former had a sporty feel with a rubberised strap and plain rotating bezel, whereas the Classic was the more expensive, with leather strap and different design. This time around there is no sport version, and the Gear S3 Classic is the lower spec watch of the two. We went hands-on with the higher-end S3 Frontier – will it make it onto our best smartwatches list?
Announced on 31 August at IFA, the Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier will be available in the UK in October 2016, with Samsung yet to confirm a specific date. Pricing is also unknown at present, but we expect the Classic to retail for around £249, the price of last year’s
base Gear S2, while the Frontier is likely to be closer to £300. A version of the Frontier will also have 4G LTE connectivity, which is awesome for taking calls without your phone, but likely to be bad news for your wallet.
There’s no escaping the fact the Frontier is a masculine looking watch. The body and bezel are a gunmetal black, and the version we tried out was set with a black watch face and black leather strap. That’s not to say this watch won’t appeal to women, but it’s not the daintiest of smartwatches for either sex.
We found that it was just about right on our male wrists, but is still considerably bigger than the Gear S2 a few of us at Android Advisor are used to wearing daily. The bezel is nonetheless superbly designed, with minute and hour points etched into it. The bezel is used to easily navigate round the operating system, but you can tap and swipe on the screen also.
The quality of the device is plain to see, though we were ever so slightly disappointed by the leather strap; it felt very rigid and lightweight, though the watch itself is a heavy 62g, so the contrast is starker. Hopefully the strap would break in and become more comfortable with daily wear. On the rear of the Frontier is the heart rate monitor sensor.
Samsung hasn’t eschewed rubber completely, but the main models on display at IFA had leather straps, with the company placing the S3 more to the luxury end of the spectrum. This makes
sense, given it recently released the running orientated Gear Fit 2.
We really liked the design of the Gear S3 Frontier, but fear that Samsung may have reduced its potential market slightly by making a device that is so black, metallic and heavy.
The headline specs for the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier are its dual core 1GHz processor, 4GB internal memory and 768MB RAM. It’s only 62g, but this is still quite weighty for a smartwatch – you won’t forget you’re wearing it and we recommend trying it on before buying. The whole unit measures 46x49x12.9mm.
The display is a 1.3in AMOLED, and it looks stunning with a resolution of 360x360 and a pixel
per inch density of 278. Colours look amazing on the menus and Samsung’s own apps like S Health look well defined and premium. The screen will stay scratch free with Gorilla Glass SR+, and you can even go swimming thanks to IP68 water resistance.
The Gear S3 Frontier, along with the Classic, features GPS. This is good news, and means you’ll be able to do things like track a run without taking your phone with you. The Frontier comes in a Wi-Fi only version, but we’d recommend spending a little extra for the 4G version. The watch has a built in speaker, so when paired with your SIM, you can make and answer calls on your watch, sci-fi style. We weren’t able to test this unfortunately but it is the next logical step for smartwatches, and it’s great to see it on the Frontier.
Samsung claims the Frontier can potentially last four days on one charge, but this is likely to be less with the 4G Frontier given the drain on battery with cellular devices. The Frontier also has NFC, with preloaded Samsung Pay app – although this is still, frustratingly, not live in the UK.
You charge the device’s 380mAh battery on a wireless cradle which works excellently. The watch faces even turn 90 degrees when it’s in the dock, so with the always-on display you can use it as a bedside table clock. Nifty.
Like the previous generation Gear S2, the Gear S3 Frontier runs Samsung’s own Tizen operating system as opposed to Android Wear. Tizen is brilliant and has been optimised well with the rotating bezel hardware. The black backgrounds to
most apps display excellently, and the uncluttered way you navigate around the interface is welcome.
You can easily personalise the watch faces, and the S3 Frontier has a slightly tweaked version of Tizen to compliment the bigger screen. It means you can see more data in apps like S Health or check out more dates on your calendar. The customisation is very easy to do, moving apps around the shortcut menus. It’s also great to see an official Spotify app available for launch, further showing how Samsung is catching up with the likes of Apple when it comes to third party app support.
The software becomes the main selling point of this device. We expect the S3 Frontier to be compatible with the majority of Android smartphones running Android Marshmallow, which is an awful lot of phones. However, the user experience will be best on a Samsung smartphone device, as only then will you be able to access functions on the watch such as email and SMS message integration.
It’s early days and we only spent a brief time with the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, but we are impressed. The one barrier here is whether or not you like the larger watch face and undeniably masculine design – as long as you do, then we think this is set to be the best smartwatch on the market. It manages to marry form and function excellently, and the addition of 4G is what was needed to make the smartwatch truly indispensable – fingers crossed that version makes it to the UK. Henry Burrell