The Samsung Gear S3 is an excellent smartwatch just a few ticks short of perfection. With built-in LTE and GPS it’s more connected than rivals, but noticeably thicker as well. The device gets off on the right foot by looking and feeling like a watch. Whatever you think of wearables, the more they look like the familiar and the less like technology, the better. Apple splits the difference with its Apple Watch Series 2 ; it has hints of classic watch design but also telegraphs “I’m wearing the future.” there are precisely spaced bumps that help you know when you moved from one option or app to the next. I liked the bezel before and find it just as effective now.
The bezel is backed by a pair of wide, rubberized buttons. The lower button gives you instant access to your apps sort of. A press opens the app circle, but you still have to tap the screen to open an app. Not sure why I couldn’t press the button, rotate to an app and press again to launch. The top button is used to go back to your previous screen and to launch Samsung Pay with a long press. You can also navigate watch widgets by swiping left or right. Swiping down from the top accesses the watch’s control panel.
More than just a pretty face Samsung’s homegrown Tizen mobile OS makes excellent use of the 360 x 360 circular display. Every pixel of the circular interface is available for watch faces and apps. The faces, which you change by holding your finger down on the screen and then swiping, look excellent and at a distance could be mistaken for physical watch faces. If you don’t like the watch faces available by default on the Gear S3, there are many, many options in the Samsung Gear app store. In fact, I counted more watch face options than actual apps.
In general, I’m not a big fan of using full-blown apps on tiny smartwatch screens. It’s not comfortable and you look ridiculous doing it. That said, I was generally impressed with what you can do on the S3 screen. For example, I played a very good-looking tiny version of Fruit Ninja on the Gear S3, using my fingers to slice through flying fruit. There’s good reason the Gear S3 is so big. Samsung stuffed it full of battery life, GPS and LTE.
I don’t entirely understand why having cell services inside a smartwatch is such a wonderful or important thing. If I am out and about, I have my phone on me. It’s connected to the smartwatch and can handle the calls, while the smartwatch does its job and notifies me that people are calling, texting or emailing me. On the other hand, if I did a lot of running and wanted to leave my phone behind, the ability to send and receive calls with just my watch would be pretty cool. Sending and receiving calls is easy enough on the watch.
I especially liked using S Voice to enter the phone number, though the Gear S3 voice assistant sounds like a bad movie imitation of a sentient digital being. Audio quality on calls is fine, but I still felt silly talking into my watch. The Gear S3 has an excellent messaging app that lets you send everything from text to emojis, doodles and voice recordings. Even without a Bluetooth-tethered phone, I could send text and emojis. Doodles and voice clips seemed to require the phone. Work it The future of smartwatches is clearly intertwined with fitness devices. Millennials, in particular, seem disinterested in smart timekeepers unless they can also track their heart rate and regular trips to the gym. Samsung’s Gear S3 acquits itself nicely in the department.
It can track all kinds of workouts. Like the Apple Watch Series 2, it can track my run via GPS on the smartwatch and then display the route in the Samsung Gear app on the phone. It’s also smart enough to auto-detect the kind of workout you’re doing. In one test, I told the watch I was going to take a run, but ended up walking it automatically adjusted and gave me credit for a 15-minute walk. Samsung also added some water-resistance, 1 meter for 30 minutes. I dunked it in water for a minute or so without issue, but Samsung is not recommending you take it for a swim.
The new Apple Watch can, by contrast, handle submersion in water up to 50 meters and swimming is now part of the Workout app. Like the Apple Watch, the Gear S3 is often prodding me to get moving or praising me for simply walking I don’t know if I need this, but I do think the Samsung admonitions are a little more friendly and offer more information up front. Apple’s slavish adherence to the multi-colored activity circles means I never know, at least at a glance, exactly what goal I’ve achieved.
The Gear S3 tends to spell things out Wrist wallet The Gear S3 integrates Samsung Pay so I took the watch to McDonalds where I used it to buy a coffee and a muffin top. Unlike the Apple Watch, the Gear S3 and Samsung Pay supports both NFC readers and magnetic strip readers. In both cases, you just hold the watch near the reader to pay.