Samsung Gear S3 adds polish, features and extra bulk

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Samsung Gear S3 Classic

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Today, Samsung unveiled the new Gear S3 at the IFA conference in Berlin. This latest smartwatch incarnation is heavy on old-school luxury watch style and includes a few new and notable standalone capabilities.

There are two versions of the Gear S3: the Frontier, which is targeted for rugged, outdoorsy types and the Classic, which has a more professional, executive look. It appears Samsung has thrown out the base model altogether (there's no plain old "S3 Gear") in favor of devices where the watch style conceals its status as wearable technology.

The two new watch models look similar from a distance. They both tout steel casings and standard-size 22-millimeter interchangeable watch straps. They both have the rotating bezels that Samsung introduced last year – one of its most well-received contributions to the smartwatch market, since it's a much more intuitive way of using a watch compared to swiping and tapping a tiny screen.

Samsung Gear S3 Classic

The watches have grown in size since last year. The Gear S2 Classic's face measured 44 mm tall and 40 mm wide and was among the smaller full-fledged smartwatches on the market. The new S3 Classic is 49 x 46 mm, so now it's on the other end of the size spectrum. At this size, it could be hard for many women to wear, and even though it's rugged enough to be worn through all types of activities (it is water, shock and temperature resistant), you may not want to.

A closer look reveals that the Classic is a little more minimal and streamlined in appearance, but since the faces and bands can be customized and swapped, those small differences in appearances shouldn't amount to much. What matters more is the difference in capabilities.

Like last year's 3G cellular model, both watches have built-in GPS technology for mapping workouts sans-smartphone. They are Samsung Pay-equipped, a payment method more widely accepted in the US and Korea than Apple Pay (Samsung Pay has yet to go worldwide).

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

However, the Gear S3 Frontier has 3G and LTE connectivity that the Classic does not. With the Frontier, you can stream Spotify and make and accept calls without your phone. The Classic can only communicate with your other devices via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Overall, these devices are promising, though the oversized luxury watch style might prove divisive. Prices and release date are still unknown.

We will post our hands-on with these new devices soon. In the meantime, you can brush up on last year's model with our Gear S2 review, or keep your eyes peeled on our IFA 2016 coverage.

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