Review: The new Samsung smartwatch


The new watch is less clunky, more like a watch than a computer on your wrist.

The new Samsung Gear S2 look more like your watch than a clunky computer

The new Samsung Gear S2 look more like your watch than a clunky computer

More on This Story


I was comparing smartwatches with a friend recently and we concluded our favourite feature was the heart monitor. While that’s handy for working out, there’s a lot more to Samsung’s newest smartwatch. Here are my thoughts after trying one out for a couple of weeks.

Samsung Gear S2

Samsung was early into the smartphone market and now has several, but the Gear S2 is the first one that fits my wrist without looking like I’m a kid borrowing my dad’s watch. The demo one I’m using has a dark grey plastic strap, which is OK, but more gym than office. If I was buying one, I’d opt for the classic version with a leather strap or a more attractive strap. I like the round watch face, also new and the user interface is very intuitive.

How it works

With the S2, flicking on the left of the touchscreen gets you notifications, such as email or social media, flicking right pulls up apps. It has only two buttons: A home (and power) button and back button. The apps pop up in a circle around the watchface and a rotating bezel acts like a scrolling tool to land on the one you want. After I wore the S2 for a few days, my favourites were the fitness apps and seeing the snow alerts in the countdown to opening day on the ski slopes. Notifications to the wrist are especially handy if you’re in meetings.

But as more people start wearing smartwatches, it’s going to make it more difficult to enforce hands-free driving. The S2 takes voice commands but like your cellphone, probably the safest policy is just to ignore it when you’re at the wheel.

The health monitoring, which you can link up to Samsung’s S health, is comprehensive — among the many things it can do: It tracks steps and activity, gives a gentle reminder when you’re sitting too long; it tracks the number of glasses of water I drink, compared to the coffee. I used the heart monitor not only to check my heart rate working out, but it was also a dead giveaway if I was getting too much caffeine.

What’s missing

It has a music player that connects via a Bluetooth headset and will hold up to 300 songs synced from your phone so you can listen to music when you’re not carrying your phone. There’s no camera on this one. I remember finding it fun to snap photos on one of Samsung’s earlier smartwatches but aside from making me feel like Dick Tracy, it’s a feature I could live without. It tethers to your phone so no stand-alone calls on the S2, which has given up the speakerphone of its predecessors. Ken Price, Samsung Canada marketing VP said Canadians weren’t using the speakerphone much and it was just taking up space and power. And there’s no cellular version of the watch for Canada or the United States, although that version is available in other countries.

It’s all about the apps

When it comes to apps, the Gear S2, which runs on the Tizen operating system, has formidable competition in the Apple Watch. Also, the Gear S2 works with a long list of Android phones, but not Apple. It has Samsung Pay capability but that’s not yet available in Canada; I’d find that really useful.

Choice of models

Samsung’s newest smartwatch comes in two models, the S2 and the S2 Classic. The Classic has the look of a classic stainless steel watch, as its name suggests. It ships with a leather band that can be switched with standard watch bands. The regular S2 has a removable band but it’s a proprietary design so not so easy to switch it up with any watch band. The Gear S2 standard edition is $399; the Classic with the leather band is $429. It’s not cheap so if you want to put it on your holiday gift list, make sure you’re going to use it for more than just a fitness monitor, although it does that well.

Do you need a smartwatch?

Design, user interface, price, apps and functionality are all factors in determining whether or not smartwatches will make that break from early (ish) adopters to being on everyone’s wish list. The S2 is heading in the right direction but it’s going to come down to the operating system you favour and the apps you find indispensable. As for the watch design, I agree with Price who describes it as: “It looks more like you’ve bought a watch than you’ve got a computer on your wrist.”

And that might be enough to convince non-smartwatch wearers like me (even though I was among the first to buy the Pebble smartwatch when it pioneered the category) to convert.

The new Samsung Gear S2 look more like your watch than a clunky computer

The new Samsung Gear S2 look more like your watch than a clunky computer

We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
Your voice