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Hands-On: Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear Fit

Article Comments  7  

Feb 26, 2014, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung hopes its new smartwatches will make enticing companions to the Galaxy S5 and other smartphones. The Gear 2 is a re-do of Samsung's original smartwatch, while the Gear Fit is a fresh take on wearables.

Samsung announced the Gear 2 and Gear Fit alongside the Galaxy S5 earlier this week. We finally had a chance to sit down with Samsung and spend some quality time with the new wearables.

Gear Family  

The Gear 2 / Gear 2 Neo are traditional smartwatches. They are nearly identical, with the only difference being that the Neo doesn't have a camera. Otherwise the design and look, the features are all the same. Both watches are certainly much improved over the original, which was very bulky and awkward to use. The slimmer design makes a huge difference, as does the addition of a Home button, which makes it easier to interact with the device. Samsung wisely pulled the camera and speakerphone out of the strap, which means users will be able to swap out the bands if they so wish. The bands are made of sturdy plastic and the strapping mechanism has been simplified. The Gear 2 is compatible with most standard straps. Where the original employed a case to charge the device, the Gear 2 has a clip that attaches to the bottom for charging. It is dramatically simpler to use. The screen, at 1.63 inches with 320 x 320 pixels, looks nice. Some of the high-rez wallpapers really popped on the display. I had no trouble reading it even under extremely harsh lighting.

Gear 2 / Gear 2 Neo  

The user interface is carried over from the original watch. It has the exact same look and feel - but the base code is entirely different. Where the original ran Android 4.2.2, the Gear 2 runs on Tizen, Samsung's own mobile operating system. Whatever the base code, I found the Gear 2 to be a bit laggy. The screen was not all that responsive and there was definitely a delay as the watch moved from screen to screen. You use a series of swiping gestures to interact with the apps, but the UI is rather spartan. It doesn't take long to master the UI. The Gear 2 includes a number of homemade apps, and third-party apps are on the way thanks to Samsung's new Gear SDK. The base apps let you interact with your media player, measure your steps, control your TV, set alarms, check your heart rate, and much more. These all send info back to your Galaxy smartphone via Bluetooth, which is where you'll adjust the settings for the watch and most of the apps. The revised watch-controlling software on the Galaxy smartphones is much, much better. Samsung did a good job making it easier to use. It is also more colorful and visually appealing.

The Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are a better take on the original smartwatch, and should be much more appealing to consumers.

Even though it offers fewer features, I find the Gear Fit to be much more interesting. First, it is smaller and more attractive. Though Samsung reduced the bulk of the Gear 2, the Fit is slimmer and more appealing thanks to its curved display.

Gear Fit  

It has changeable straps in black, orange and mocha grey will let users customize the look. The strap and plastic enclosure have a sturdy feel to them, but they are hardly of the highest quality. They are plastic, after all. I wore the Fit for a little bit, and found it was comfortable and not bothersome (as I find most watches are). I really like the screen of the Fit. It is 1.84 inches and, rather than square, is an elongated rectangle. It is an AMOLED panel and very bright and easy to read. I was easily able to read the screen under bright lights. The curved shape helps the Fit ... fit you better. The bulk of the Gear 2, for example, is much more apt to get caught on clothing. The smaller profile of the Fit is great and will probably appeal more to women (or those with smaller wrists). The heart rate monitor is on the bottom of the Fit, as are the pins for the charger.

The Fit has three basic home screens, which are the watch face and then two screens of apps/settings. A note about the watch. Because of the screen's shape, the time is always displayed horizontally on the Fit. This means the time looks sideways when the Fit is on your wrist. It looked odd at first, but the time is displayed so prominently and is so easy to read, I expect most people will adjust to it quickly. You swipe the screens from side-to-side to reach them. The apps/settings on the secondary home screens then drill down into a simple, icon-derived UI. The icons look the same as on the Gear 2 and are easy to master in just a few moments. Unlike the Gear 2, the Fit was fast. The screen was responsive and I saw less lag when transitioning from screen to screen and app to app. There is a physical home button located on the right edge of the watch that takes you back to the home screen no matter what app you're using. That's helpful.

As far as features go, the Fit provides notifications from Galaxy smartphones such as incoming calls, emails, SMS, alarm, S-planner, and third-party apps. The apps work well, but really rely on having a Galaxy smartphone nearby for controlling and adjusting them. The screen is just big enough that all the icons and text are easy to read and see.

Samsung hasn't announced prices for the Gear 2 or Fit yet, but they'll be available in April. I'd expect the Fit to cost well under $200 and the Gear 2 to cost under $300.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Doom Wolf

Feb 26, 2014, 10:39 AM

Water Resistant

-are they?

I asume they are, but what would be the grade of it? Can they only stand sweat or can I actally wear them in the shower?
Yep, IP67. Resistant to sweat/splashing and a quick dunk.
I mean, why would you wear an expensive electronic device in the shower, even if you can? In the very, very slightest of chances that water does get inside, it's broken.

I mean, working for T-Mobile, I saw an account once where one of the lines ...
If they made a deal with Casio to make a G-Shock version that is actually waterproof and durable, it might be a worthy watch replacement.
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