Sam­sung Gear S3 Fron­tier

£TBC • sam­sung.com/uk

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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?

Price

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.

De­sign

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.

Fea­tures

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.

Soft­ware

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.

Ver­dict

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

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