Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic: hands-on


Samsung Gear S2 (L) and Gear S2 Classic (R)

AFTER months of pressure, Samsung has finally launched its first round-faced smartwatch, the Gear S2, featuring a 1.2-inch 360×360 circular screen and a rotating bezel to help with navigation.

Despite the popularity of the Apple Watch, which has a square face, most other consumer electronics manufacturers have gravitated towards circular smartwatches, with devices like the LG Watch Urbane and Moto 360 attracting praise for their fashion-conscious design.

Samsung was one of the pioneers of the smartwatch market, with the launch of the first Gear in October 2013, and has launched six other wearable devices since then, all of which have either square or rectangular screens – the most recent being the Gear S, with a curved rectangular 2-inch display.

Samsung expects to see explosive growth in wearable technology over the next five years. It predicts that 169m units will be produced in 2020, 100m of which will be smartwatch and fitness band devices.

The new Gear S2 comes in two versions – the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic. Both are made from a combination of stainless steel and Gorilla Glass, but while the S2 has a modern and minimalist design and a range of colourful rubber straps, the S2 Classic has a more traditional feel, and comes with a 20mm leather band.


The new Gear S2 comes in two versions – the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic.

At 11.4mm, the Gear S2 is slimmer than some of its rivals, and lies flat on the wrist, but it still feels like a relatively hefty device. Although large-faced watches are in fashion at the moment, I’d be reluctant to wear it at a formal occasion.
The bezel on both devices rotates, giving users a new way to navigate through different screens. Turning the bezel to the right provides access to notifications, text messages and emails, and turning it to the left gives access to a selection of widgets for things like calendar appointments and fitness tracking.
Holding down on the home screen allows you to choose from a selection of over 20 pre-loaded watch faces, and hundreds of additional faces can be downloaded from the Tizen app store. There are also two buttons on the right hand side of the device, that allow users to jump directly to their home screen or app tray.

If you’re familiar with the Apple Watch, the colourful bubble-like Tizen app icons on the Gear S2 may look familiar. However, they are arranged around the screen in a circle rather than haphazardly, making them easy to navigate using the rotating bezel.
The bezel around the edge of the display on the Gear S2 Classic is slightly narrower than that on the regular Gear S2, and has grooves all the way round for extra grip. However, I prefer the more minimalist design of the regular Gear S2.

Samsung has enhanced its S Health software with a new 24-hour activity log, which can recognise if you’re running, walking or cycling and take more regular heart rate readings. Like the Apple Watch, it can also prompt you to move around if you have been inactive for an extended period of time.

Both Gear S2 watches have built-in NFC, which will work with Samsung Pay when it launches in the UK later this year. Samsung is also looking at ways to extend the use of NFC to transportation and ticketing in the future, as well as smart home functions like unlocking doors and turning on music.
The company is expanding the compatibility of its Gear smartwatch range, so it is no longer necessary to have a Samsung smartphone to buy a Gear smartwatch. Any device running Android 4.4 or above with 1.5GB RAM will be able to support the Gear S2.

However, only Tizen apps will be available on the Gear S2, not Android Wear apps. There will be up to 1,000 Tizen applications at launch in a range of categories, according to Samsung, although not all of them will be available in all countries.

Samsung claims the Gear S2 has two to three days of battery life, based on normal usage. It features wireless charging, so you can just take it off and place it on the dock, rather than having to fiddle around plugging in a cable.
It also features WiFi connectivity, so if you leave your smartphone at home, messages and notifications will be forwarded on to your Gear S2 via the Samsung cloud, as long as you’re in a WiFi-enabled area. There will also be a 3G version available in the near future.

The Samsung Gear S2 is an attractive smartwatch, which is all the better for having a circular face. The Tizen operating system seems pretty slick, particularly when comined with the Gear S2’s 1GHz processor, and the compatibility with non-Samsung Android smartphones will make it a much more attractive proposition for consumers.

However, the limited number of apps available for Tizen could act as a deterrant for people who like a lot of software choice, and it remains to be seen whether the rotating bezel and S Health features will be enough to differentiate it from its Android Wear competitors.