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Samsung Gear S2: Unboxing and First Impressions

Gear S2: First Impressions

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The Gear S2 is undoubtedly the best looking watch from Samsung and it could have easily passed off as a timepiece from Swatch. The 316L Stainless Steel case is solid and it doesn’t feel too thick on our wrists. The front display is a round 1.2″ AMOLED 360×360 screen that is large enough for most guys. The only complaint we had is it’s a fingerprint magnet. If you look carefully, you could spot smudge marks around the watch case in this dark grey version.

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Upfront there are no buttons, simply just the display and a bezel ring that’s rotatable. The only buttons are found on the right side, which are used for home and going back.  As you turn the bezel to navigate, you get a subtle ticking friction which is much better feeling than Apple’s digital crown.

By default, the screen wakes up as you bring your wrist towards you. Alternatively you can either spin the bezel or press any buttons to wake the display. If you prefer to have the time shown at all times, you can set the display to be always-on. This would show the outline of an analog clock or the time in digital text format. However be warned that by doing so, it would consume more power than usual. Whenever you receive a notification alert, the watch vibrates subtly which isn’t too rigorous but it isn’t as distinctive as Apple Watch’s taptic feedback. Bringing your wrist towards you upon vibration will display the content automatically hands-free.

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The Gear S2 is still based on Tizen OS with the UI being redesigned to utilise its circular display. Upon waking the screen, you’ll see the watch face that can be customised by type and you get additional tweaks like you do on the Apple Watch. Turning the bezel counter-clockwise brings up notifications, while turning clockwise displays your favourite widgets including weather, steps taken so far, music control and your current heart rate measurement. Pressing the home button on the home screen brings up the app listing which is displayed in a rotary fashion.

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You can use your voice to reply messages or type using the on-screen T9 keyboard. From our experience the voice recognition isn’t that great while typing can be a challenge for people with fat fingers. In the past Gear 2 and Gear S, you could use your watch for voice calls but not with this one as it lacks a speakerphone. Tapping on a phone number will initiate a call but you’ll need to use your smart phone for your actual conversation. Voice calling from the watch is only possible with the Gear S2 3G version which isn’t available here just yet. The same goes for GPS as the standard Gear S2 relies on your smart phone for location services.

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You tend to use the rotating bezel a lot with the Gear S2, with the exception for reading long text, where it is faster to scroll using your finger. Overall the user interface is much simplified and new users should easily get acquainted in a short span of time. App support for the Gear S2 is its Achilles heel as it is quite limited at the moment compared to the Apple Watch. You do get quite a decent number of essentials apps and a branded watch faces from ESPN, Bloomberg and LINE.

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As far as looks and interaction go, Samsung has finally nailed it on the Gear S2 and it should appeal better to the masses. Feature wise, it lacks built-in GPS and a speakerphone, which may or may not be a deal breaker for you. If you’re the type that prefers running without carrying a phone, you won’t be able to map your run standalone but it is still able to track your distance, heart rate and current pace.

At RM1,399 for the standard Gear S2 and RM1,599 for the Classic version, it is more affordable than the Apple Watch especially when compared to its stainless steel version. The Gear S2 currently not only supports Samsung devices but most Android smart phones running 4.4 KitKat and above. Word has it that it could also gain iOS support very soon.

Gear S2 Photo Gallery

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Alexander Wong