It might not be the Gear S4, but Samsung has a new smartwatch on show at IFA 2017. With the Galaxy Note 8 arriving at Unpacked already, it’s all about wearables now so here’s our Samsung Gear Sport hands-on review.
Back in September at IFA 2017, Samsung launched the Gear Sport alongside some other new wearable tech. They are the Gear Fit2 Pro, a GPS fitness band, and the IconX wireless earbuds.
The Gear Sport is more like a new version of the Gear S2 rather than a replacement for the Gear S3.
The Gear Sport costs £299 in the UK on Thursday 26 October 2017. That’s cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 3 and matches the excellent Huawei Watch 2. It’s cheaper than the Gear S3 Frontier and matches the Fitbit Ionic.
Samsung own Gear Fit2 Pro is cheaper, but we’re not so impressed with it compared to the Gear Sport.
Design and build
It’s no surprise that Samsung hasn’t changed the design of the Gear Sport much when compared to previous devices.
The smartwatch is available in Black or Blue colours and the firm says it offers ‘military-level durability’. We’re not quite sure its that durable but the device is solid and we like the look of both colours. The blue option is quite a subtle ink-like ton rather than a bright hue – this is a good thing for us.
With Sport in the name, it’s aimed at fitness and with a 50 meter waterproof rating is particularly good for all you swimmers out there.
Like some smartwatches on the market, the Gear Sport uses a 20mm strap size so you can quickly change it for different situations – many use 22mm. You’ll want a silicone one for the gym but might want to switch to a leather one if you’re going out for dinner, for example.
The supplied silicone one feels a little cheap and can get clammy but it is a sports watch and its more comfortable than lots that we’ve tried. The Gear Sport is nice and lightweight at 50g, not including the strap.
Samsung once again offers a rotating bezel with which to interact with the device. You can still use the screen and there are also buttons on the side but the bezel is a really nice way of using the interface – partly as it means the display doesn’t get grubby.
Bringing the watch up to check something should automatically wake the screen thanks to an accelerometer but we found this doesn’t always work which is a bit annoying.
Specs and features
As you’d expect, the Gear Sport has a fully round – without a flat tire section – screen that’s 1.2in in size so it’s on the smaller side of things in terms of smartwatches. Hence the slightly smaller 20mm strap size.
The resolution is 360×360 which is decent enough to provide a crisp image – 302ppi – and Samsung sticks to its preferred Super AMOLED technology so there’s excellent contrast and colours. We were particularly impressed with the viewing angles.
Smartwatch internal specs are still nothing to get excited about and haven’t changed much over the last few years.
Samsung has opted for a 1GHz dual-core processor with 768MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. That’s all pretty standard and the device runs very smoothly indeed.
There are some specs that are a little more interesting and Samsung has packed in an impressive amount of gadgetry here. The Gear Sport has NFC, GPS, an accelerometer, barometer, gyro and an ambient light sensor.
GPS is essential for most fitness enthusiasts and NFC is still fairly uncommon on smartwatches but here means you can use the Gear Sport to easily pay for things with Samsung Pay.
With the tech inside, Samsung says you can use the Gear Sport to control IoT (internet of things) devices via Samsung Connect. You can also use it as a remote control for presentations or the Gear VR headset.
Being a sports watch, the Gear Sport wouldn’t be complete without a heart rate monitor which sits on the back. This, as usual, can’t be trusted for anything too serious but we’ve found it to be pretty reliable and better than most.
There’s Wi-Fi so you don’t have to connect it to a phone for data but most users will do this via Bluetooth 4.2 in this case. Although the device runs Tizen as opposed to Android Wear, it’s compatible with Android 4.4 or later and iPhone 5 or later running at least iOS 9.
We’re really waiting for a breakthrough in battery technology so you shouldn’t expect anything groundbreaking from the 300mAh battery inside. We’ve found it pretty impressive though lasting, on average, three days of average usage. Using GPS a lot will see this drop.
Like other smartwatches, it’s neat that the Gear Sport has wireless charging. So you simply pop it on the supplied charging stand to top it up.
Running Tizen used to be something of an issue – in the early days of Gear devices – but that’s not the case anymore. The interface is much improved and so is the app support – there’s plenty of handy stuff pre-installed and we haven’t found ourselves needing the store much to get additional things.
A big lure for many will be the ability to play music from Spotify offline via Bluetooth headphones. Great for listening to tunes while you go out for a run without your phone. 4GB isn’t the greatest amount of storage for music, but plenty enough for even a long session.
In terms of fitness, you’ve probably got what you need unless you’re already set on a particular app. Samsung’s own is very good a detecting what you’re doing and automatically starting a session.
Samsung has partnered up with Speedo and the Gear Sport, along with the Gear Fit2 Pro, are the first devices with the Speedo app making it even more appealing to swimmers. There are plenty of other health and fitness apps as well as the usual smartwatch functions like notifications and music control.