Smartwatches

Gear S: Early impressions of Samsung's curved, 3G-enabled smartwatch

Gizmag shares some early thoughts on the Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag shares some early thoughts on the Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag shares some early thoughts on the Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Gizmag shares some early thoughts on the Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Gear S has a 2-in curved screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Gear S has a 2-in curved screen (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Samsung's news app looks terrific on the Gear S' 480 x 360 display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Samsung's news app looks terrific on the Gear S' 480 x 360 display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Another look at the curve (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Another look at the curve (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Gear S' keyboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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The Gear S' keyboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Samsung's Gear S isn't the first cellular-enabled smartwatch, but it is the first from a big name brand. We have an AT&T Gear S in house, and, before running our full review, have some early thoughts.

Update: We've now published our full review.

We already spent some hands-on time with the Gear S at Samsung's Note 4 launch event, but this is the first time we've used one that isn't strapped down with security devices. Now that the Gear S is untethered and out in the wild, how does it hold up?

Well, it looks huge on my wrist, but it doesn't feel awkward at all. It's very comfortable, and feels light for its size. There isn't the slightest jewelry aesthetic here, like with the Apple Watch or Moto 360. Nope, the Gear S' tush is firmly planted in the tech producty end of the wearable spectrum.

Another look at the curve (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Another look at the curve (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Gear S' first killer feature is its 2-in curved screen. It looks awesome. Everything is sharp and colorful, and swiping over the curved glass feels oh-so smooth. Samsung has an image-rich news app that looks especially good on here; hopefully it's a glimpse of what third-party devs can cook up.

The second killer feature is its standalone 3G wireless radio. There's a nano-SIM card inside, and the watch has its own phone number. But never mind that, because you can initiate and receive calls and texts from the watch using your phone's number – even when the phone isn't nearby. In other words, you won't have to give your friends a separate number for your watch.

Samsung's news app looks terrific on the Gear S' 480 x 360 display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Samsung's news app looks terrific on the Gear S' 480 x 360 display (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Fortunately it doesn't look like wireless carriers ruined the Gear S by crippling its standalone capabilities; it does quite a bit on its own (at least on AT&T). You do need a Samsung Galaxy phone (running Android 4.3 or higher) to pair with it, so it won't replace your phone. But it is a standalone device when you need it to be.

While on the go, I've used the Gear S to send and receive texts and emails, and make and receive phone calls, while my phone sits on a charger at home. I could also check the weather, and even browse the web (via Opera Mini) when my phone was nowhere near.

The Gear S' keyboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Gear S' keyboard (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The third, and final, killer feature is its keyboard. No longer do you have to use voice for any and every smartwatch interaction. The Gear S has a virtual keyboard, much like the one you'd use on a Galaxy phone. You can type texts and emails, or even search the web, without any speaking.

It's a bit tricky to hit the right letters on the 2-in screen, but so far the auto-correct is very good. There's also an option for Swype-like tracing, which wasn't available during my initial hands-on.

The Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

We're just scratching the surface with the Gear S, and we'll be spending a lot more time with it before running our full review (where we'll cover battery life and everything else we left out here). Stay tuned.

The Gear S is available starting today, running around US$300-400 full retail (it varies from carrier to carrier). Carriers are also offering the watch discounted with a contract or installment plan.

While waiting for our review, you can get a quick refresher with our features/specs comparison of the six Gear watches from back in September.

Product page: Samsung

8 comments
Hoboviking
Samsun would make so much more money if they made it easily work with multiple phone OS's.
Facebook User
Agreed. Seems churlish to dismiss all the other android phones out there. Will it make me buy a Samsung phone ? Ah, no.
Mike Marine
But you CANNOT send or reply to an email even using samsung email app. Only can reply to a text message. I have the gear s. Unless I am missing some thing ??? - Emails can't be composed from scratch, but can only be sent when replying to a received email - Ed.
Bill Mitchell
How did you send emails using the Gear S? Also, standalone? Try using GPS, playing music and navigating with this watch on its own - you'll eat through your battery in 2 hours.
SamsungUniverse
The Samsung Gear S is only fully compatible with the Note 4 and Galaxy S 5. I've run multiple tests this weekend and the previous gen phones do not have the compose and reply to email button. I've contacted Samsung as well as AT&T and they offered no help other than the watch can be returned within the 14 day return policy.
Michael Maloney
You can compose and 4 mail from scratch and reply. You just have to use the standard email app in the samsung phone. Any other app for email will only give you a rich notification which is read only. So you can only use the basic email app built in the phone. And it's compatible with much more than note 4 and s5. Go to its home page. It's works as far back as note 2.
Mike Marine
Ed, The ATT version does not have this option. I am on my third gear S I am using the Samsung email app. Also, gmail and nine exchange ALL show up on the gear S but not even the Samsung email app allows you to reply to an email. There is no option except show on device or dismiss. THREE different watches from three different AT&T stores and neither one can reply to emails. ONLY text messages. This is a known issue in XDA developers forum. I am using a note 3 with samsungs latest gear manager J7 update. Totally disappointed.
Joe Zayas
I have Gear S and you can reply to gmail and other text apps but you will need to install Notifications for Gear S. I have it installed and can reply to gmail and Whatsapp messenger.
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