Comparing the six Samsung Gear smartwatches
When it comes to smartwatches, Samsung has had its foot on the gas pedal all through the last year. After launching the Galaxy Gear last September, the company pushed out three more watches in April and another in July. And next month, we're going to get our first taste of the Gear S. Confused? Let Gizmag lend a hand, as we compare all six Samsung Gear watches.
If you've lost track (understandably so), these are the six Samsung smartwatches that we're going to be looking at:
- Gear S
- Gear Live
- Gear Fit
- Gear 2
- Gear 2 Neo
- Galaxy Gear
For each category in this comparison, you'll see two rows of watches – ordered exactly as they are in the list above. If you lose track, just scroll back up here for a quick refresher.
Apart from the Android Wear-running Gear Live and the Gear Fit (which runs a barebones real-time OS), all of our watches run Samsung's Tizen platform for wearables. Though it launched with a weak app selection, I've been impressed with its steady growth since then.
The Galaxy Gear is the rare mobile device that was updated with a completely different operating system. The watch launched running a custom version of Android, but it now runs Tizen as well.
Android Wear has the better voice control, as it puts the speed and versatility of Google Now on your wrist. Samsung is teasing "enhanced S Voice" for the Gear S, though, so we're eager to find out what that means.
Like just about every other smartwatch you can buy, all of these watches deliver smartphone alerts to your wrist. You can also choose which phone apps will send notifications to your watch.
The dimensions above measure each watch's main body – including the bezel, but not including the band.
The Android Wear-running Gear Live is the thinnest, but, having spent quality time with the first five of these watches, I don't think the Live necessary feels much thinner.
Since the Gear Fit is more of a fitness tracker than full-fledged smartwatch, it's much narrower than the rest.
The Gear Fit is also the lightest, though I don't think any of the first five watches feel particularly heavy on the wrist.
Samsung didn't list the Gear S' weight in its initial press materials. Based on my hands-on time with it (along with its larger screen), I'd say it's the heaviest in this bunch – but not so heavy that it gives you anything to worry about.
All but the original Galaxy Gear let you swap out their default bands for a different style.
In the case of the Gear 2, Neo and Live, you can use any standard 22 mm band. You can swap bands on the Gear S, but not with standard bands.
All but the Gear Fit are sold in multiple colors.You can still customize it, though, by buying a different-colored replacement band.
The Gear S is a groundbreaking device, as you can pop in a SIM card and get 3G data without the help of your phone. If smartwatches are eventually going to replace our smartphones, then the Gear S is a step in that direction.
Non-Samsung Android compatibility
For the Galaxy Gear, Gear 2, Neo and Fit, you'll need to pair your watch with a recent Samsung Galaxy phone.
The Gear S doesn't work independently, but can pair with a phone over either Bluetooth or the Internet.
As the only Android Wear watch in this bunch, the Gear Live plays nicely with any Android phone running 4.3 or higher.
The Gear Fit isn't officially supported on non-Samsung phones, but if you install the Gear Fit Manager app on any Android phone (also running 4.3+), it will work. You'll just be missing a few features, like weather and fitness data syncing.
If you're an iPhone owner, then none of these watches will work with your handset (though you could use the 3G-enabled Gear S alongside of it).
We don't yet know whether the Gear S will have an always-on display, but none of the previous Tizen-running Gears do. Only the Android Wear-running Gear Live leaves some kind of watch face showing at all times.
In addition to its 3G capabilities, this is likely to be the Gear S' killer feature. I was a fan of the Gear Fit's curved screen, but it was hard to get too excited about such a limited device. The much bigger curved display on the Gear S could make it one of the most intriguing smartwatches yet.
The Gear S also gives you much more real estate than any of the other watches here.
That can have its advantages, but, when it comes to wearables, bigger isn't always going to be better. Typically, the more smartphone-like a wearable becomes, the less jewelry-like it becomes.
The Gear S also looks a bit sharper than the other watches.
Home button location
We've seen Samsung experiment with home buttons on the side of the watch, as well as under the screen. Android Wear uses an onscreen gesture for home, so there's only a power button on the side of the Gear Live.
Most of the watches offer IP67 water resistance, meaning they can sit in 1 m (3.3 ft) of water for 30 minutes, and come out as good as new. The Galaxy Gear is the lone holdout, with an IP55 rating (which is more like splash protection).
The Gear S is the only watch in this bunch to offer built-in GPS. Samsung is also partnering with Nokia to bring the company's Here navigation service to the Gear S.
Though the Gear Live doesn't have any GPS hardware onboard, it does display Google Maps navigation alerts from your phone. None of the other watches do that.
I wonder if Samsung is moving away from cameras in its watches, as the new flagship, the Gear S, doesn't have one. The Gear Live didn't have a camera either, but that was to be expected: Android Wear isn't currently designed for cameras.
The missing camera is also the primary difference between the Gear 2 Neo and the more expensive Gear 2.
All of these watches will at least get you through a full day. In my testing on the first five watches, I find the above estimates (courtesy of Samsung) to be fairly sound.
Any self-respecting smartwatch is going to let you track your steps, and all of these fit that bill. They can all serve as 24-hour pedometers, tracking your steps in the background, as well as logging individual workouts.
Heart rate monitor
All but the original Galaxy Gear add a little extra health awareness, with their built-in pulse monitors.
The Gear 2 and Neo have built-in IR blasters, so you can use them as universal remotes for your TV, cable box or even air conditioner.
Samsung's WatchOn remote app, bundled with the Gear 2 and Neo, is a bit too barebones for our taste. But there's a great third-party replacement called Smart IR Remote that fills those gaps.
With its larger screen, Samsung is throwing in an onscreen keyboard for the Gear S.
Though the Gear 2, Neo and Galaxy Gear don't have virtual keyboards baked in by default, you can download the excellent Fleksy Messenger app to rap out text messages – with surprising accuracy.
The Gear Live is the only watch in this bunch that has a quad core processor. But I'd take that with a few grains of salt, as its Android Wear software demands a different degree of processing power. The other watches also have fast and smooth UIs, with only the Galaxy Gear clocking in a bit slower.
512 MB appears to be the order of the day for smartwatch RAM.
Likewise, apparently 4 GB is the target number for Samsung smartwatch storage. Since nearly every app you can download is only going to take up a few megabytes of memory (if that), this should be more than you'll ever need.
Here you can see just how aggressive Samsung has been in this budding smartwatch space. Six months after the Galaxy Gear landed, we saw three more watches. Three months after that, the Android Wear model dropped. And just over a month from now, we'll have yet another Samsung watch.
We can't blame Samsung for pushing this hard, but you'll also want to go into this knowing that, even if you buy the latest model, it might be dethroned just a few months later.
The Gear S is the most expensive in this group, retailing for between US$300-400 full retail (it varies by carrier, and can also be bought subsidized with a contract or installment plan). The Gear Live, Gear 2 and Neo all fall in the $200-300 range, while the Gear Fit and (currently on clearance) Galaxy Gear dip below that.
Still on the fence? Then you can check out our full reviews for all of the Gear watches:
If you want to cast your net wider, you can check out our Smartwatch Comparison Guide.