Review: Samsung Gear S3

Samsung’s latest smart watch, the Gear S3, puts a timeless spin on the smartwatch category with two beautiful designs – the sporty Frontier for those outdoor types, and the Classic, which is the luxurious, classy dress watch option. I have been using the watch for the past weeks and have been quite pleased with it.

Key Features at a Glance

  • 1.3-inch 360 x 360 always-on display
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • 768MB of RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi B/G/N, NFC, MST, GPS/Glonass
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, HRM, ambient light sensor
  • 380mAh battery and wireless charging
  • IP68 rating

The biggest feature this time around, is the payment ability – which is more convenient than whipping out your phone to tap on the NFC terminal. Other noteworthy new features over the Gear S2 include GPS tracking, voice calls, and an improved always on display.

The Gear S3 is IP68 certified water resistant, (1.5m up to 30 minutes), but it is not water proof, so no swimming with the watch. The straps are replaceable, and are standard 22mm bands. The Frontier comes with a textured silicon band which matches the outdoor look of the overall watch.

Unboxing

Design

The Gear S3 is a big watch, and I think it looks good. Especially if you like the rugged, sporty look. I am a fan of the Frontier, as opposed to the Classic, which comes with the classic leather strap,traditional style crown and a brushed finish bezel. Well, design choices are always good, and smart watch fans have a whole range of accessories to choose from. The Gear S3’s a big watch and a little too chunky (thickness). Perhaps the silicon strap on the Frontier makes it a little more unwieldy, it does feel a little uncomfortable when worn too long. Samsung includes an additional smaller strap but it’s the size of the watch face that could be an issue for small wrists.

Having used primarily Android Wear watches, I am impressed with the Rotating Bezel on the Gear S3. It was a joy to use to control and navigate the watch, quickly browsing notifications or emails, instead of having to keep swiping. Jumping between menus and apps, there’s never any sign of slowdown. That’s whether you’re using the touchscreen to swipe around or the rotary bezel to navigate. It all feels really responsive and seamless.

The Always On Full Colour Display is also a big improvement. Minor details such as a ticking second hand really add to the feel of a real watch.

The Gear S3 1.3 inch 360 x 360 AMOLED screen is really bright, and does well in outdoors. It has adaptive brightness and I was still able to use it in bright day light.

Software

The Gear S3 runs on Samsung Tizen OS 2.3.1. It’s similar to Android Wear, has the same pull down notifications and controls, but there are niggling differences. I like the bezel scroll implementation, the quick access to apps and widgets, which really make the watch easy to use. However, there are certain actions that can still be improved, such as the inability to delete emails or messages from the watch, you can only dismiss the notifications.

Number of apps has increased, and there are useful ones such as CNN, Uber, Nest but the ecosystem still falls short when compared to Apple or Google.

As mentioned earlier, the Gear S3 has the ability to make voice calls. It comes in handy when I am driving and I can still respond to calls. However, the speaker volume is on the soft side.
You can type / reply to messages on the Gear S3 directly. However, the small screen does feel a little cramp. You can scribble (handwriting recognition) which works the best for me or type it out in numpad style. You can also customize the default responses which is the easiest and quickest way.

Standalone Freedom

The Gear S3 does well as a standalone device too. With a heartrate sensor, GPS in built, you can use it as your fitness companion. The inclusion of Bluetooth and internal storage means you are never far from music, and the incorporation of Samsung Pay, means you can easily pay for things with your watch, and without your phone nearby. So next time, forget the phone, disconnect from the world for a slight bit, and you still have the convenience of cashless payment and mobile music.

Battery Life

The Gear S3 packs in a 380mAh battery, which gave me about 2 days of battery life, with some spare left. That’s very good, considering that most other watches I have tested maxed out at about 1.5 days. This is also with the Always on Display on. Turning it off would push the battery further, but it doesn’t look like a proper watch to me otherwise. So if one thing done right, it’s definitely the Tizen OS power sipping capabilities.

Charging is via wireless charging with one charger provided. So if you have an additional wireless charger, you can leave your Gear S3 on top of it to charge, you don’t need to get multiple dongles.

Verdict

The Gear S3 has integrated the useful features from the Samsung Gear Fit line and is quite possible to use the Gear S3 as a standalone fitness device, thanks to GPS, HRM, and now payment as well. While it is not Android Wear, the Tizen OS and Samsung Gear app integrates well for non Samsung mobile users, with the features maintained. Demand for smart watches have waned and have not meet the targets that analysts had originally predicted. There’s also plenty to choose with traditional watch makers joining the party, but the Gear S3 stands out for being a well built device, with a good set of services incorporated.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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