Smartwatches

Gear S2: Early impressions of Samsung's best smartwatch to date

Gear S2: Early impressions of ...
Gizmag takes an early look at the Samsung Gear S2, a round smartwatch with a unique rotating bezel
Gizmag takes an early look at the Samsung Gear S2, a round smartwatch with a unique rotating bezel
View 7 Images
The standard Gear S2 is better-looking than we thought, with its sleek, minimal and modern design
1/7
The standard Gear S2 is better-looking than we thought, with its sleek, minimal and modern design
The Gear S2's 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 display
2/7
The Gear S2's 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 display
The Gear S2's rotating bezel is its killer feature
3/7
The Gear S2's rotating bezel is its killer feature
The rotating bezel makes it easier to scroll through long lists on a tiny screen
4/7
The rotating bezel makes it easier to scroll through long lists on a tiny screen
The Gear S2's stainless steel body
5/7
The Gear S2's stainless steel body
Its band is made of a rubbery-feeling plastic (not completely unlike the Apple Watch Sport bands), but fits this model's design and doesn't feel cheap
6/7
Its band is made of a rubbery-feeling plastic (not completely unlike the Apple Watch Sport bands), but fits this model's design and doesn't feel cheap
Gizmag takes an early look at the Samsung Gear S2, a round smartwatch with a unique rotating bezel
7/7
Gizmag takes an early look at the Samsung Gear S2, a round smartwatch with a unique rotating bezel
View gallery - 7 images

After Samsung blasted out five smartwatches in the span of a year, the company took more time with its latest watch, the Gear S2. Out of the box, it's already clear that the extra TLC paid off: this is easily Samsung's best watch to date.

Update: No need for initial impressions anymore, our full Gear S2 review is now live.

Possibly taking a cue from the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, the Gear S2 lets you navigate not only with its touchscreen, but also with a rotating bezel. More than on the Apple Watch, though, its entire OS looks like it was built with this new input method in mind. It's probably the most fun we've had navigating around smartwatch software.

The rotating bezel makes it easier to scroll through long lists on a tiny screen
The rotating bezel makes it easier to scroll through long lists on a tiny screen

From the main clock face, each twist of the bezel scrolls you horizontally. Notifications sit on the left, widgets on the right (there are widgets for things like app shortcuts, fitness tracking, calendar and music controls). The bezel gives you a satisfying "click" with each rotation.

On a practical level, the rotating bezel lets you navigate around the watch without blocking the (relatively) small screen with your fingers. It also makes it easier to scroll through longer text or menus – if this were touch only, you'd have to drag your finger up on the screen over and over. With a rotating input like this one, the Apple Watch's Digital Crown or (if you want to go way back) the old iPod scroll wheels, it's more convenient to zip around software on a tiny screen.

The Gear S2's rotating bezel is its killer feature
The Gear S2's rotating bezel is its killer feature

Speaking of screens, the Gear S2's 1.2-inch, 302 PPI display looks gorgeous. It's big enough to see what you need to see, but allows the watch to stay relatively small (its main body is the same width as the larger Apple Watch, the smaller 2nd-gen Moto 360 and the Huawei Watch).

We're reviewing the standard Gear S2, which has a more modern, minimal design, and plastic (rubbery?) strap. You might say this is the equivalent of the Apple Watch Sport. Samsung also sells a Gear S2 Classic that looks a bit more like a traditional watch (and has a leather band), which costs US$50 more.

Like last year's Gear S, the Gear S2 has an onscreen keyboard, something that neither the Apple Watch or Android Wear watches offer. Typing on a tiny watch screen doesn't sound fun, but Samsung makes it work pretty well, with a phone-pad-like layout with three characters on each key (word recognition sorts out what you're trying to type). Samsung managed to take one of the best features of the Gear S, and make it work on a much smaller screen (and much smaller watch).

The Gear S2's 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 display
The Gear S2's 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 display

We haven't been able to set reminders so far – Samsung's voice control app (S Voice) errors out with a "Sorry, your request couldn't be processed. Please try again later" message. Hopefully this is something that will be remedied with an update, as we find reminders to be one of the handiest features to have on a smartwatch.

We'll have much more to say in our full review, including battery life impressions (Samsung estimates an impressive 2-3 days), a deeper dive into its Tizen software and thoughts on how it compares to its biggest rivals.

So far the Gear S2 looks like it provides a deeper experience than Android Wear watches, with some perks that the Apple Watch doesn't have. Stay tuned.

The standard Gear S2 is better-looking than we thought, with its sleek, minimal and modern design
The standard Gear S2 is better-looking than we thought, with its sleek, minimal and modern design

The Gear S2 is available starting today from Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy and Macy's. The model we're reviewing rings up for $300; the Classic version costs $350.

Product page: Samsung

View gallery - 7 images
9 comments
RobertMerrill
Oh snap. I think I was just sold on it after seeing that black watch face in the last picture. I love AMOLED.
Blue659
Possibly taking a cue from the Apple Watch's Digital Crown,

Really? Done reading.....
iGizzedIt
"Possibly taking a cue from the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, the Gear S2 lets you navigate not only with its touchscreen, but also with a rotating bezel."??? Say what? lol.... are you writers all cloned off a Siri Robotnic?
How is a rotating Face Ring bezel, that is more reminiscent of a Diver's watch lead you to somehow up with such a ludicrous statement? When actually it's more likely, Apple.... Boldly RIPPED OFF of IBM's 2001 WatchPad Digital Watch Crown control interface! .....and that's not just possible, it's a confirmed FACT!
Keep in mind this one other distinguishing FACTOID. Tizen OS based on a conglomeration of Open Source Projects and Design initiatives, actually goes back to Samsung own SLP 2008 Open Source Linux Project, Bada OS, LiMo and Nokia's MeeGo OS Designs. From SLP came Samsung's contributions to/from their work on Enlightenment Desktop Environment (UX) SDK. Which is what both Touchwiz and Tizen are now based on.
In that the Round Iconography Design both Google and Apple have now ripped off was born in 2011 initial UX designs for Tizen. Made public in the release of Tizen 2012 release. In fact some 3rd party developers were the first to rip it off and clone a version in Play Store. It's not been banned, but that didn't stop Google or Apple from Wholesale Ripping it off either.
So in all reality here's the Truth; Samsung Invented the Original Wearable Phone back in 1999 called WatchPhone. From there they continued to innovate the wearable as they were followed by IBM, LG, etc. When in 2008 their Smartwatch Phone model took Awards for thinnest most beautiful designed WatchPhone. LG followed up, but it was clunky by comparison.
When Pranav Mistry of MIT SixthSense and TED Talk Fame, took over Wearable Technology development at Samsung THINK TANK TEAM.... his first model Gear smartwatch kicked the whole Consumer Wearables Market into High Gear!
Before that.... they didn't have cameras, no real app market, no gesture motion sensing and only had calling available via a 3G onboard radio. Pranav Mistry was the Genius behind that Round Face Ring Control and utilizing Tizen's Round Iconography UX back in late 2013. So reality is that it's literally impossible for Samsung to suddenly see Apple's Rip Off of IBM's Digital Crown Control and somehow dream up a Round Face Ring Control that Pranav says actually came from other team members within Think Tank Team! .....that round faced smartwatch patent was applied for in 2013 by the way!
As if Pranav's work for both Microsoft and Oculus/Samsung Motion Sensing Project wasn't enough to show off his Genius and fools still don't recognize how brilliant Gear Smartwatches really were, here's his "Mouseless" Project homepage! :D ....you should get a kick out of the illustration at least: http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/mouseless/
iGizzedIt
I've enjoyed Will Shanklin's writing in the past. However we need to set this whole which came first the chicken or the egg debate to rest. The idea that Gear S2 Ring Face Watch Control Mechanism was influenced by Apple's Watch Crown Control is preposterous at best. It only serves to add to the illusion (or is that Delusion?) that Apple somehow literally invented EVERYTHING..... Well Before the DAWN of TIME IMMORTAL! .......which is even more preposterous!!! lol...
So here's the link to the image that basically says Samsung had already submitted for a patent on it's Round Watch Face Bezel Ring Control back in 2012: > google dot com slash patents slash WO2014081181A1?cl=en < Search these terms. Since I'm not sure Gizmag accepts out side links.
Dates: Publication number WO2014081181 A1 Publication type Application Application number PCT/KR2013/010547 Publication date May 30, 2014 Filing date Nov 20, 2013 Priority date Nov 20, 2012
In effect the Priority date is set from the point USPTO first receives notice that a patent is forth filing is in the works. If a conflict comes up with another patent filling on that same date, on similar technology that Priority Date can be important. Because it is sent in with a brief summation of the patent. So obviously it was indeed at least filed almost two years prior to Apple watch release and even published well before Apple Watch was even announced. Meaning Apple knew it was coming too!!! ....not the other way around!!!
hkmk23
Still the same old two questions from me....battery life? is it waterproof (swimming pool only)?
Paul Anthony
I don't mind you comparing it to Apple but please don't use the Apple to describe it. I have no reference as I've never even seen the Apple
AndrewWarfield
Yeah same problem will all the smart watch reviews.
Is it waterproof? What's the battery life? Does it have a GPS? Heartrate monitor?
So many features are not spoken about in this review. Being a Samsung proprietary OS, does it work with other Androids other than Samsung?
Phyzzi
It still doesn't look as good as the Urbane, and doesn't have the upgrade or open market options that come with Android Wear. Without something more than a rotating display to set it apart, why should I give it the time of day?
HeatherVerrytSmith
I've had my Gear S2 for just under two months now. I love the variety of watch faces and the fitness tracker interface. I also use it for reading my text messages. Replying is tricky on the tiny keyboard.
I have the version with the plastic strap. The magnetic clasp locks in tight but both sides of my band have now torn off. This is with regular wear. I work indoors in an office setting, I choose not to shower with it since even though it's supposed to be safe to do so, I try to baby it. Called Samsung and they said the band isn't covered and I would have to pay to have it replaced.
Now I love the watch but it's not very useful if it doesn't stay on my wrist. Should have paid the extra $50 for the Classic version.