Samsung Gear S2 vs. Apple Watch

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The Samsung Gear S2 (left) takes on the Apple Watch, as we compare the features and specs of the two flagship smartwatches

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If you're in the market for a brand new smartwatch, the choice of models just keeps growing. Here we're going to compare Samsung's latest, the Gear S2, against Apple's flagship wearable, The Apple Watch.

Size (casing)

Whether you go for a Samsung or an Apple smartwatch, each gives you two main models to choose from: the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic for Samsung, and 38mm or 42mm sizes for the Apple Watch.

There's also a slightly thicker and heavier 3G version of the Gear S2, which we haven't pictured here.

Build (casing)

Both the Gear S2 watches come in a stainless steel casing. With the Apple Watch, you get to choose from aluminum, stainless steel and 18-karat gold depending on how much you're prepared to spend (and you can also now get a gold-colored finish on the aluminum models).

Band materials

A clue to the more premium nature of the Gear S2 Classic comes in the strap, which is leather rather than plastic. As for the Apple Watch, there is a wealth of different choices, based around three basic materials.

We found there to be a significant upgrade in quality from Apple's fluoroelastomer (synthetic rubber) band in the entry-level Sport models to the more luxurious leather and steel options.

Quick release band

You can replace the straps very easily on any one of these timepieces.

The Apple Watch isn't directly compatible with standard watch bands (though you can buy 22 mm adapters for the Apple Watch), but Apple sells plenty of different band options to choose from. There are also quite a few third-party Apple Watch bands (of varying quality) that you'll find on places like Amazon and eBay.

The Gear S2 Classic does use a standard 20 mm fastening, so it's possible to go for something completely different.

Pressure-sensitive display

One of the flagship features on the Apple Watch is its Force Touch display, which registers presses of different degrees: a hard press does something different than a light tap.

The Gear S2 doesn't have a Force Touch equivalent; you just get a standard touchscreen.

Colors

If you opt for the Gear S2 then silver and dark gray are your choices; for the Gear S2 Classic, black is the only option. As for the Apple Watch, there are a multitude of choices in terms of casings and straps

Display size

Based on area, the Gear S2's round screen is about 5 percent bigger than the 42 mm Apple Watch's rectangular screen, and around 33 percent bigger than the smaller Apple Watch's display.

Display resolution

You're going to get a few more pixels from the Gear S2, but the different shapes and sizes have the Apple Watch's screen coming out around 8 percent sharper (based on pixel density).

Display type

Both watches use AMOLED screens, which is something of a surprise in Apple's case – the company usually prefers IPS screens when it comes to its phones. AMOLED has the advantage of deeper blacks and pixels that are well and truly turned off when not in use, making them a great fit for wearables.

Scrolling input

As far as the Samsung Gear S2 goes, the most notable hardware feature is the rotating bezel that gives you a novel way of scrolling through menus and adjusting settings.

The Apple Watch's digital crown, which sit on the right of the casing, has a similar purpose, giving you an alternate way of scrolling and zooming without obscuring the watch's small display.

Fitness tracking

Fitness tracking is almost obligatory for a smartwatch these days, and you'll find that the Samsung Gear S2 and Apple Watch are packed with sensors for monitoring your daily activity.

Voice control

Both the Samsung Gear S2 and the Apple Watch have their own voice control systems on board, though you're probably more familiar with Siri than with S-Voice. If you want to send texts, run searches and generally look a little odd while talking to your wrist, both devices have you covered.

Reminders

Bafflingly, Samsung's smartwatch won't let you create reminders on the watch. The Apple Watch lets you do that through Siri.

Android compatibility

Though Samsung's Gear S2 runs Tizen instead of Android Wear, the manufacturer says it will work with any Android 4.4+ smartphone that has more than 1.5 GB of RAM.

The Apple Watch, of course, doesn't support Android (and we wouldn't hold our breath on that front).

iPhone compatibility

The Gear S2 won't work with iPhones, but Samsung says it's looking into the possibility of iOS support, so watch this space (excuse the pun). The Apple Watch of course works very well with an iPhone, and indeed relies on it for most tasks.

Battery

The Samsung Gear S2's 250 mAh would appear to have the edge over the Apple Watch's 205 mAh, but we'll have to wait to test one to see if Samsung's 2-3 days of life claim is correct. The Apple Watch is usually good for a day's solid use, but needs charging each night.

Mobile payments

Both Samsung and Apple have their own mobile payments systems (imaginatively titled Samsung Pay and Apple Pay), though it's worth mentioning that the Gear only works with the NFC portion of Samsung Pay (it won't work with standard credit card readers). Both watches will let you tap your wrist to a sensor to pay – as long as it's with a retailer with NFC equipment installed.

Phone calls

The Gear S2 and the Apple Watch can both make phone calls, but the Apple Watch needs a connected iPhone. There are 3G models of the Gear S2 available that will hook up directly to a cellular network.

Water resistance

The Samsung device wins on water resistance: the Gear S2 is IP68 rated, which means it can survive prolonged submersion in depths beyond 1 m (3.3 ft), generally up to 3 m (9.8 ft).

Apple kind of contradicts itself here, saying the Apple Watch is water resistant but not waterproof and recommending users not submerge the device. It then goes on to say it is IPX7 rated, which means it can be submerged in up to 1 m (3.3 ft) of water for 30 minutes – however, this water resistance doesn't extend to the leather bands.

Heart rate sensor

Both the Samsung Gear S2 and the Apple Watch have integrated heart rate sensors around the back, though the twist with watchOS is you can beam your heart beat to a fellow Apple smartwatch wearer, should you feel the urge.

Processor

Samsung sticks to its own 1 GHz Exynos processor for the Gear S2, but at this point it's difficult to compare it to the Apple Watch's S1 system-on-a-chip.

RAM

Both smartwatches come with the 512 MB of RAM that's par for the course at the moment – it should be enough for all your smartwatch computing needs.

Storage

The Gear S2's 4 GB of internal storage is pretty standard for smartwatches; Apple ups this to 8 GB, but only 2 GB is available for syncing offline music tracks and the like, so bear this in mind when comparing.

Software

Samsung is sticking with its own Tizen OS for the Gear S2, and it's promising app selection will be much better in the latest edition (it was something of a concern on previous Gear watches).

Apple's watchOS is about to become watchOS 2 in the very near future, adding more watch faces, more customization options and better performing apps.

Release

The Apple Watch has been out since April, but all Samsung has said about the Gear S2 is that it will release sometime in October of this year.

Starting price

So far we only have pricing details for the Gear S2 in Canada: the CAD$399.99 price for the basic models and CAD$429.99 for the Classic compare quite favorably with the Apple Watch's starting point of CAD$449.99. How this will translate in other currencies isn't yet clear, but we imagine we'll hear more on this before long.

The cheapest Apple Watch in the US (38 mm Sport) is going to set you back $349. If you want the larger model, then that jumps to a $399 starting price.

For more, you can check out Gizmag's full reviews of the Gear S2 and Apple Watch.

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