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Samsung Gear Sport review

by Justin Herrick | November 10, 2017

Smartwatches haven’t taken off as expected, but Samsung remains committed to the category. It introduced us to the Galaxy Gear all the way back in 2013, and this year alone we’ve seen the company release three smartwatches. The Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier launched in the first half of 2017 and are being joined by the Gear Sport as the year nears an end.

This smartwatch doesn’t belong the to Gear S3 family, though. Instead you should be looking at the Gear Sport as a successor to the Gear S2 from 2015.

 

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Some people have felt the two Gear S3 smartwatches are big and bulky. That’s because those have MST technology for Samsung Pay and cellular connectivity. With the Gear Sport, Samsung wanted to dial things back to consume less space on your wrist. It doesn’t have MST technology or compatibly with carrier networks, but it’s still Samsung Pay-ready through an NFC chip. In terms of design, the benefit is the Gear Sport having a smaller body.

While its siblings measure 46mm diagonally, the Gear Sport measures 42.9mm and the new smartwatch is more than 1mm thinner.

The display, too, is smaller at 1.2 inches compared to the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier’s 1.3 inches. It’s still circle-shaped and of the Super AMOLED variety, which is fantastic. You can’t find a better display on a smartwatch than on Samsung’s latest trio. The Gear S3 Sport’s screen is colorful, and it can get very bright for when you’re out on a run in the sun.

Samsung’s Gear S3 Classic comes across as something you’d wear to meetings, fancy dinners, and other highbrow events. The Gear S3 Frontier, meanwhile, is tough and ready for adventure. As for the Gear Sport, it’s a lot simpler.

If you’re familiar with Samsung’s other smartwatch going back a few years, you’ll feel right at home. The Gear Sport has a rotating bezel for navigation as well as two physical buttons for different actions and commands.

The Gear Sport comes in two colors — black and blue. Whichever you choose, both the stainless body and the silicone band match. Obviously the more subtle choice is black, but the blue is pretty attractive in its own way. More of you are likely to choose black because it blends in better; still I’d argue you can swap the blue silicone band for something of your own and have the blue model pass as an ordinary-looking accessory.

Between the lightweight design and the rubber-based band, Samsung’s newest smartwatch is extremely comfortable. I wore it without working out, during runs, and even to bed one night. Never did I find it heavy or uncomfortable. For me this was actually an upgrade from the Gear S3 Classic since leather bands aren’t exactly my favorite.

When I sweat while out for a run, the silicone band on the Gear Sport didn’t get sticky or stained. So I didn’t mind continuing to wear the Gear Sport throughout the rest of the day.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to go for swim with the Gear Sport since the weather isn’t in favor of doing so; however, you shouldn’t experience any problems. The water resistance rating is 5AT (or 50 meters) to handle dives and lengthy swims. Speedo also partnered with Samsung to bring Speedo On, a new swim-tracking app, to the Gear Sport. It’ll analyze stroke type, lap time, heart-rate, and calories burned. Just remember to download the Speedo On app because it’s not pre-installed. And that’s only the beginning of what the Gear Sport can track.

What can’t this smartwatch track? I’m not too sure, frankly. The Gear Sport works with Samsung Health to analyze more than what other activity trackers can, and it takes into account things like the precipitation and UV levels outside. But the impressive part is the sheer number of workouts the smartwatch can recognize.

This becomes a device for the masses because, no matter what you’re doing, the Gear Sport can probably provide metrics upon the activity’s completion. Exercises known by the smartwatch include running, walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, elliptical trainer, exercise bike, step machine, treadmill, lunges, crunches, squats, jumping jacks, pilates, yoga, and rowing machine. Since I’m no Jack LaLanne, I didn’t try out every single one. But I did have my Gear Sport focus on running, yoga, lunges, and squats. It seemed to recognize my behavior and report accurately.

It should be noted, too, that the built-in GPS on the Gear Sport is fantastic. The smartwatch successfully mapped out my runs.

What’s really neat is that you can do a lot of stuff from the smartwatch itself. Then, when you have your phone in your hand or nearby, the two devices will sync. So you don’t need to rush to your phone to record what you ate. Data collected automatically, or input by you on the smartwatch gets sent to your phone via a Bluetooth connection.

For a day, I did give the Gear Sport to a friend who’s a fitness freak. He goes to the gym daily, works at the gym as a trainer, and probably sleeps at the gym. While I won’t share the insane amount of calories he burned, I will tell you he had mostly positive things to say about the Gear Sport. In particular, he liked the ability to customize his workouts and receive tips in real-time. The only thing he didn’t like was that the tracking didn’t match up with results from the more expensive equipment he normally uses.

Tizen is, of course, running the show here. And Samsung’s done a fantastic job building up an ecosystem for its wearables. You can find a ton of apps and watch faces for the Gear Sport. The platform is also good enough to operate solo. When I use a smartwatch, it’s for notifications and activity tracking. The Gear Sport masters both. If you need more out of your smartwatch, the Gear Sport will still serve you well. It has 4GB of internal storage for music, podcasts, and audiobooks. You can even download entire Spotify playlists directly to the smartwatch. That way you can go work out without carrying a phone.

You’ll get about three or four days of use from the Gear Sport as long as you don’t activate the GPS. If you do, that’ll drop to around fourteen hours. Those are Samsung’s estimates, which do match up to reality. One of my biggest complaints about smartwatches is battery life. None seem to last more than a day or two, but the Gear Sport is definitely refreshing by doubling that.

You should definitely consider the Gear Sport if you’re into health and fitness. It packs, as you might expect from its name, a ton of features that cater to those who move around a lot. But there’s an intersection of function and style here. Normally you have to trade one for the other, yet Samsung perfectly mixes an attractive smartwatch with the things you need from a fitness-first wearable.

If you’ve been searching for the perfect full-fledged smartwatch to use for runs or any other type of physical activity, get Samsung’s Gear Sport. It’s not priced too high, and the look allows it double as a stylish accessory for when you’re not breaking a sweat.

Today you can buy the Gear Sport for $299 through Samsung, Best Buy, Amazon, and few other retailers.

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Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...