As Samsung's sixth smartwatch in the span of a year, the Gear S was almost easy to dismiss. But after using one all through the insane week known as CES, we think it might be one of the more underrated tech products you can buy today.
The gist of our original Samsung Gear S review was that its curved screen and standalone 4G data were super cool, but its bulky design could be polarizing and it was curiously missing a few key software features. Almost three months later, much of that still holds true, but we have to add that it's the most useful wearable you can have at a crazy trade conference.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The biggest advantage at CES was the Gear S' onscreen keyboard. In theory, voice control sounds like a great fit for wearables. Google (Android Wear) and Apple ( Watch) appear to agree, as they're placing all their wearable chips in that pot. And of course the Gear can do voice control too, if you want it to.
But voice control has one huge problem: when in public, you typically don't want people around you hearing your dictated private messages. And when confidential work messages are involved, voice control in public simply isn't an option. But with the Gear S at CES, I could check in with colleagues, as well as family back at home, without whipping out my phone – and also without airing an ounce of private business.
While cruising the crowded halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, all I had to do was lift my wrist to keep in touch with anyone I wanted to. The Gear S is the only mainstream wearable you can buy today that could have done that privately.
Another amendment to our original Gear S review: the more time we spend with Samsung's watch, the more we realize that its design doesn't appear to be quite as polarizing as we thought. For the most part, people we bump into are intrigued by it (I frequently get compliments on it, and haven't noticed a single odd stare, like I regularly got from Google Glass). Maybe people are a bit more ready for a device like this than we in the tech press gave them credit for.
The Gear S' battery life is another oft-overlooked advantage. We can leave its clock face turned on all day long, and it still finishes the day with plenty of gas in the tank. Several Android Wear watches, like the G Watch R and Asus ZenWatch, are equally impressive in this department, but we can't say the same about the popular Moto 360.
None of this changes the head-scratching fact that you can't set a reminder with the Gear S (especially when you could on older Samsung smartwatches), but if you passed on the Gear S the first time around, we think it's worth a second look. If nothing else, you might find that it's the best ally you could have on your next crazy business trip.
For a closer look at Samsung's best smartwatch, you can hit up our original Gear S review from back in November.
Product page: SamsungView gallery - 8 images