Samsung's first mainstream health-tracking device, the Gear Fit, wasn't exactly a hit. In my mind, it was a cool-looking device, if not a bit bulky, that didn't actually do that much. Battery life wasn't great and the UI was awkward to use.
So, I admit, I wasn't that excited for the $179 Gear Fit 2. Then I saw it and put it on. I'm surprised by how much it's grown on me, how it's now my go-to device for bike rides and walks, and how much I appreciate using it as a health tracker.
Let's dive a bit deeper in my full review.
The Gear Fit 2 is a bit expensive, but you get a lot of great health-tracking sensors, a comfortable design and a brilliant display. You'll find a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS (very much appreciated), support for auto-tracking your activities Wi-Fi, sleep monitoring and more. The screen, a 1.5-inch Super AMOLED display, is bright and colorful and perfect for browsing through alerts, colorful health charts and even maps of my bike rides.
The nice thing about the Gear Fit 2 is that, despite all of these sensors and the display, it isn't bulky. It's not some massive cuff that sits on your wrist and, rather, is relatively slim and light on the wrist, which I appreciated. I wasn't embarrassed walking around with it, worried that fellow shoppers in the supermarket might think I was making a transition into a cyborg and, for me, that's actually really important when I choose a fitness tracker, especially as someone who also wears a smartwatch.
The Gear Fit 2 features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor that seemed more than enough to keep up to my movements throughout the user interface. There's no lag, just smooth transitions from app to app and screen to screen. It also features Wi-Fi connectivity, so you don't always have to rely on your smartphone for connectivity. There's also 2GB of storage for keeping up to 500 songs right on your wrist, again, should you wish to leave your smartphone behind and go for a jog with a set of Bluetooth speakers.
There are two hardware buttons on the right-side of the Gear Fit 2. The bottom button has several functions. You can tap it once to access the list of applications, tap it twice to launch a specific app (I had it set to Spotify) or long press to use it as a power button. The top button primarily serves as a return key, bringing you back to the last screen you viewed. Most of your interaction with the device will be through its touch screen, so we'll jump into the UI experience now.
The Gear Fit 2 runs Tizen, Samsung's in-house operating system of choice for wearables. Despite a lack of popular third-party applications – most of which aren't really needed here anyway – it's a really great operating system. It's clean, colorful and fast. Your main display can be customized with about a half dozen or so pre-loaded faces. I preferred one called "Fitness Summary" that always provided data on the number of calories burned, steps taken and floors climbed during a day. Others are more simple, with just a watch face, or more customizable, with a variety of colors and options to choose from.
You're basically working with a landscape slider of data on the Gear Fit 2. You swipe from the main home screen between various panels that provide deeper information on calories burned, steps taken, your heart rate, sleep records and more. There's a competitive feature that allows you to compete against someone else who might also have a Gear Fit 2, such as a significant other, but I wasn't able to try that. The data is easy to access, though, and I liked that I could long-press on a panel to delete it or swap it out for another one. This management can also be done on the Samsung Gear app on your Android smartphone, too.
There are some unique software features that I really liked. You can see a map of your bike ride, run or walk, for example, if you have the location on when you start a workout. And speaking of starting a workout, the watch is smart enough to automatically know if you've gone for a bike ride or a run, and it mostly worked in my experience. It doesn't turn on GPS automatically, however, which is a feature I liked. So I usually just manually started my workouts so that I could take advantage of that feature.
I was pretty impressed at the screen's visibility outdoors, so long as I had the brightness jacked all the way up to 10, the outdoor mode. Without it, it's hard to see at a glance. It's also hard to interact with it at all while riding a bike, so I kind of wish the screen stayed on permanently while I was working out so that I could get more at-a-glance information. That's sort of minor, though, and really only affects bikers who can't free up a hand to tap the screen or the buttons for fear of hitting a pothole.
You can get notifications from your phone, too, including third-party apps alerts, text messages and more. There isn't a microphone or anything like that, though, so don't plan on taking or making phone calls (not that we expect that sort of thing from a fitness tracker, anyway.)
The only bug I ran into, at least that I could find during my experience, was related to the IP68 water resistance and the floor counting feature. After wearing it in the shower several times, I noticed that the Gear Fit 2's sensors were telling me that I'd walked 30-50 flights of stairs in a day. Dang, I wish I had, but that information just wasn't accurate. Samsung explained that this can happen if the Gear Fit 2 is exposed to water, which is a kind of bizarre trade off. In other words, your fitness tracker becomes less accurate when you take advantage of the IP68 rating – which is supposed to be a feature, not a bug-causer. In any case, I'm not sure there's a huge number of us who care about floors climbed anyway, but inaccurate data is always kind of frustrating on these things. If it's inaccurate, what good is a health tracker, anyway?
Ultimately, though, I think the Gear Fit 2 is one of the most compelling fitness trackers I've used recently. I prefer the really deep software experiences from gadgets like the UA Band, built with HTC, which offers tons of information on weight trends, calories burned, more competitive stats with friends and complete integration with all of the Under Armour products like MapMyRide, MapMyRun and more.
But the hardware here is a lot better. I love the colorful display, the battery life lasted at least two days most of the time, and the software is really pleasing to use. The Gear Fit 2 definitely got me a bit more excited to go out and about, especially since I love coming back and reviewing the data, which is probably more important than anything.
For folks like me, who need to get out more and who appreciate a fitness tracker that's as good looking as it is functional, the Gear Fit 2 is a no brainer.
That reminds me, time to head out for a bike ride.
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