The smartwatch market is barely a blip on the radar, but already it seems as though we’ve hit a wall. Put each and every Android Wear device in a lineup, and you’d be hard pressed to pick a clear winner. And the Apple Watch isn’t faring much better. You get a notification, it’s shuttled to your wrist, and you can choose to address or ignore it. Oh, and you can sometimes respond with you voice, but the potential of a wearable computer hasn’t yet been fully realized.
We’re in a foggy cycle of notifications and blandness, and there doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. And then came along the Gear S2.
Samsung is no stranger to the smartwatch game. You won’t find a company that has tried so earnestly to capture a market no company has a clue how to approach. But the Gear S2, which was announced at IFA earlier this year, is different. This isn’t just another misguided attempt to join the party; the Gear S2 brings some genuinely innovative ideas to the table, led by the watch’s terrific rotating bezel.
Functionally, the Gear S2 isn’t much different than something like the Apple Watch or Moto 360. In that respect, Samsung’s smartwatch falls into the same trappings of similar devices we’ve seen over the past few years. But it makes a concerted effort to change how we interact with a smartwatch, making it less of a chore to press, prod and swipe. Instead, users can bounce around the Tizen OS through the rotating bezel, which feels so natural I can’t believe we haven’t seen another company copy the idea.
The smartwatch itself sports a round screen that’s far more attractive than any wearable we’ve previously seen from Samsung. There are actually two models—one for more sporty environments, which comes with a comfortable rubber strip. And there’s also the Classic, which you can easily mistake for a watch your grandpa might wear; it features a darker finish and a leather strap, so even if you don’t really take advantage of the Gear S2’s smarter features, it’s a damn nice watch to look at.
If you’ve ever used an Android Wear device, you know how difficult it can be to swipe around on such a small display. The Gear S2 completely addresses that thanks to the rotating bezel. You can still interact with the screen by tapping on icons and swiping around the OS. But you’ll often find yourself using the ring exclusively—and you’ll probably just mindlessly rotate it just because. It’s intuitive and reliable, and ensures your stubby fingers don’t mis-press or get in the way of what you’re looking at.
The UI Samsung has created for the Gear S2 is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. It’s like a cross between watchOS and Android Wear, cherry picking ideas here and there to create a super wearable OS. It works very well in a lot of situations, and you’ll quickly find yourself getting accustomed to the different menus, apps, and screens. But it’s best suited to Samsung’s own lineup of devices, so if you intend on pushing the Gear S2 to its limits, you’ll have to pick up a Note 5 or S6 Edge Plus.
To learn much more about the Gear S2, including how that 250mAh battery fares, check out our video above. If you’ve been disappointed by Samsung’s previous smartwatch attempts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality on display in the Gear S2. The wearable can get up and running on any phone running Android 4.4 KitKat with 1.5GB of RAM or more, which is great news for those who don’t want an Android Wear device. And don’t even think about using this with an iPhone (yet).
At $299 (or $349 for the Classic), the Gear S2 is about on a par price-wise with some of today’s more well known smartwatches, but it might actually be the best out there. So long as Samsung can evolve the rotating bezel idea, the company’s wearable future will be bright.
Samsung Gear S2 specs
- Display: 1.2-inch circular AMOLED, 360×360
- Processor: Dual-core 1GHz
- Memory: 512MB
- Storage: 4GB internal
- Battery: 250mAh Li-on, 2-3 days usage
- Connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
- OS: Tizen based wearable platform
- Resistance: IP68 certified dust and water resistant
- Sensor: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate, Ambient Light, Barometer