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Samsung’s Gear Sport brings the goodness of the Gear S3 without the bulk

There was a lot to like about the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier. It was well-built, good looking and a more than worthy successor to the Gear S2. However, it wasn’t perfect. You couldn’t take it swimming, it was big and bulky, and — despite being more affordable than its competition — still cost RM1,399.

It would have been such a shame if people simply wrote this solid device off because of those limitations. Thankfully, if those were your biggest concerns with the Gear S3, Samsung may just have the solution for you. In comes the Gear Sport and, as far as I can tell, it’s a smaller, lighter, and swim proof Gear S3 Frontier.

Now, I only got to spend a brief amount of time with this device but it did allow me to get a reasonably good feel of the wearable. So, Samsung’s Gear Sport was launched together with the Gear Fit2 Pro and was part of the company’s big push towards fitness trackers for swimmers.

As a result, the smartwatch you’re getting is swim proof with a water-resistant rating of 5ATM — meaning it’ll survive depths of up to 50m. This is a pretty big upgrade from the IP68 Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and definitely earns it points in my book.

However, I think my favourite part about this smartwatch is the fact that it is smaller and feels significantly lighter than the Gear S3 Frontier without sacrificing on any of that premium build quality. It’s much less of a burden on your wrist and doesn’t flop around quite as much as the Frontier does, which is great for a fitness watch.

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That’s because the smartwatch is smaller than the Gear S3 Frontier. You get a smaller 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display — that still looks great — protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It’s still got the military-grade durability rating and support for standard 20mm watch bands, which is a nice touch. It also has support for Samsung Pay, though only at NFC terminals.

What’s also great is that the rotating bezel wasn’t cut in the shrinking process. Samsung’s rotating bezel — in my humble opinion — is the best physical navigation input on any smartwatch so I’m glad that you can still scroll through Tizen’s widgets and apps with it.

Speaking of Tizen, that’s the wearable OS the Gear Sport is running. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Tizen because while I like how they handle notifications and how well the rotating bezel factors into OS navigation, their app support is quite bad. You can read all about it in my Gear S3 Frontier review but long story short: It’s got a lot of catching up to do with the likes of Android Wear and watchOS.

But, you do get the sense that this smartwatch is a fitness tracker first, smartwatch second. I mean, it is in the name after all. That means the Gear Sport will be able to track a whole bunch of fitness metrics and workouts like your heart rate, activity, steps, y’know the usual stuff. Besides that, Samsung says that it can also act as a sort of “personal coach” though I didn’t get to try that out. On the surface, it seems similar to move and activity reminders that you can also find on other competing smartwatches.

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It can’t track more complicated metrics like SpO2 (oxygen saturation) that the Fitbit Ionic can, so if that’s what you need from your fitness smartwatch this isn’t the device for you.

For everyone else who’s looking for a durable, premium fitness smartwatch that they can take into the pool, the Gear Sport seems like a compelling option. It’s lighter, it’s smaller, it’s just as capable as its bigger brother and it’ll probably be cheaper too. In the US, the Gear Sport is retailing for USD299, which roughly converts to RM1,265. That might seem like a lot of money but Samsung’s wearables do tend to be more affordable when they come to Malaysia so I’d ballpark it somewhere below RM1,200.

EDIT: For those who missed my announcement post, the Samsung Gear Sport is set to arrive sometime in November this year alongside the Samsung Gear IconX (2018). If you wanna learn more about the Gear IconX (2018) you can also check out my hands-on with the device.