Samsung Gear 2 Review.
Samsung’s refresh of their popular entry into the wearables market the Gear smartwatch has arrived, although noticeably this year it is void of the word Galaxy and is just called the Samsung Gear 2, this is down to Samsung dropping the Android OS for Tizen. The watch has a new heart rate sensor and a new simplified interface, but unfortunately loses a lot of third party apps.
Performance, Display and Battery
The Gear 2 differs quite a bit from the Galaxy Gear of last year, it has a way more customizable interface, you can arrange different functions to appear for quick access, to save you endlessly swiping to find the app you’re looking for. The screen is the same size and resolution as 2013’s Galaxy Gear coming in at 1.63 inches and a resolution of 320 x 320 all crammed into a Super AMOLED screen.
Under the hood of the Gear 2 is a 1GHz dual-core Exynos processor which keeps everything running along pretty smoothly, using the heart rate and other fitness features always worked perfectly well, as well as the media player. The media player is built directly in the Gear 2 and can be used as a music player, with any music playing directly out of the watches speakers, alternatively it can be connected to a bluetooth speaker and music can played through the speaker.
Like most Samsung products there is a physical home button on the front of the Gear 2, this can be pushed once simply to wake the device or double tapped to bring up shortcuts to apps that you have selected, such as the heart rate monitor etc. You can also double tap the screen of the Gear 2 to wake it or double tap with two fingers to show information on the remaining battery life, tilting your wrist like you would to view time on a normal watch also wakes the device.
If you long press the home button and tap the display it will enable outdoor mode which takes the screen to maximum brightness for 5 minutes before it drops down to a more manageable level for the battery. The screen is incredibly bright though, so you won’t have any problems viewing the time or apps when out and about in the sun.
Another thing which comes in very handy, but also means you need to be connected to your Samsung device (Smartphone/tablet) and have it near by is notifications. Notifications appear when you receive a call, text or email and you can even make calls via bluetooth directly from the watch itself, although it does play the audio through the loud-speaker so every one will be able to hear your conversation.
The Gear 2’s 1.63 inch Super AMOLED display is very bright and vibrant as well, like I mentioned earlier you’ll have no problems being able to view it in direct sunlight, it’s also great if you’re just giving it a quick glance to look at the time or weather information or whatever information you’ve customized to appear as soon as the watch is taken out of standby.
Another great thing is you can customize the watch face as well as the wallpapers, you can opt for a digital clock, either showing weather information or the pedometer showing how many steps you’ve taken so far, or you can opt for a analogue style face, which looks really cool.
If you’ve seen the original Galaxy Gear you’ll know the camera is placed on the strap of the device, which can be a little awkward to try and take a picture with, Samsung have improved its position on the watch but it still feels a little awkward/pointless trying to take a snap.
The Gear 2’s – 2 megapixel camera is featured on the front of the watch just above the top of the screen, although Samsung could have made the camera more accessible by including a swipe down gesture to launch it, which would have made sense as it’s not the most straight forward thing in the world, even if taking photographs with your watch does make you feel a bit like James Bond.
As far as the pictures go, they’re pretty good quality, I wouldn’t recommend trying to take your wedding photographs on it, but you can definitely take some good pictures, and if you’re on a run or doing some sort of exercise and just want to take a quick picture of something, it’s great. You can take snaps in ratios of 16:9, 1:1 or 3:3 and can also shoot video in 720p at 30 fps which again looks good, but I can’t imagine many people using it all that often.
The camera also has a few other cool tricks up its sleeve, like voice activation so, you can say a few buzz words and it’ll take a picture like; “Capture”, “Shoot”, “Smile” and of course “Cheese” some of these commands will also start a timer so you can prepare for your “selfie” if you’re that way inclined, but hopefully; you aren’t.
Samsung decided to do something different this year in regards to their software, out went Android’s OS that was present on the Galaxy Gear and in came Tizen OS, which is a new operating system Samsung are hoping will make waves in 2014 and beyond. Tizen definitely works in harmony with the Gear 2’s Exynos chip as the smartwatch is works very smoothly, I barely noticed any lag and didn’t have to wait long for apps to launch.
One aspect of the software is the fitness section, Samsung have included a lot more exercise tracking apps than last year, we’ve still got the same pedometer as last year, which is pretty dubious as every time you move your wrist it counts as a step, giving me a reading of around 700 steps more than the Galaxy S5 which was in my pocket.
A new part of the fitness section which I found to be quite useful was the heart rate monitor, it didn’t work every single time I tried to use it and I had to remain perfectly still and not talk, which is a bit of a chore for me, but it still gave me accurate readings and was clearly working as it increased/decreased when I was or wasn’t doing exercise in line with what my average should be.
As well as the fitness section is the Gear manager section which allows you to connect to your select Samsung device, in my case it was the Galaxy S5, the Gear manager section allows you to control what notifications you want to appear on your smartwatch from your phone, like calls, texts and emails. You can also include notifications from whichever third-party apps you want now, unlike last year, so if you want to be notified of that Candy crush saga request on Facebook (Not that anyone on earth would) you can easily set that up.
How you feel about the Gear 2 depends on how you feel about wearable technology as a whole, if you think the idea of having a piece of equipment on your wrist with similar capabilities to the one in your pocket is too much, then the Gear 2 probably isn’t for you. But if you do, then the Gear 2 is the smartwatch to own and if you’re the competition it’s the one to beat.
I genuinely liked the look and feel of the Gear 2, it was a little bulky compared to standard watches, but I didn’t mind, I felt like this was the future, being able to check my daily steps, heart rate and take a picture all without ever reaching for my pocket, just felt right, I was surprised it had taken so long for us to get to this stage.
I’d be lying if I said I had no grievances though, syncing with the Galaxy S5 wasn’t the smoothest of operations and the fact it factory reset the watch every time the phone it’s connected to is turned off was a pretty big negative too.
For £300 this is a good piece of equipment but perhaps, a bit too much for how many of the features you’re actually going to use, especially when it’s cheaper brother, the Gear 2 Neo is available for £169 with quite a lot of the same features, perhaps missing some of the ones you’ll barely get round to using.
If the Gear 2 improves some of the glitches and niggles experienced through the software via updates and the price comes down a tad, then I’ll highly recommend it, until then I think the Gear 2 Neo is the better of the two for the average consumer.