Samsung cracked open the seal on premium smartwatches with the introduction of the Galaxy Gear. In typical Samsung fashion, the company tried cramming in everything but the kitchen sink, resulting in quite an expensive product that ironically lacked a premium feel. Some of their sins could be forgiven considering it was their first attempt in a relatively niche category.
With the Gear 2, Samsung has decided to take a slightly different route. Powered by Tizen in the hopes to get more battery life and new features like heart-rate monitor, a full metal body and customisable straps, the Gear 2 hopes to offer a lot more value to the Samsung loyalist. But have they succeeded?
Design and Build
The Gear 2 certainly looks a notch above the Galaxy Gear in terms of aesthetics and build. Samsung has moved all the electronics from the strap over to the main module itself, thereby giving you the freedom to change the straps if you’re bored of one colour. The colour palate of the straps is more subdued this time, except for the orange shade.
The straps come off thanks to a little hinge mechanism near the edge. The implementation is done well and the hinges don’t feel like they’ll give way anytime soon. Sadly, there’s no option of a leather strap. The fastening mechanism is the same as the Galaxy Gear, only slimmer this time around due to the lack of the speaker.
The stainless steel body of the Gear 2 gives it premium look and feels highly durable. The power button has been brought to the front and at the other end we have the 2MP camera and IR blaster.
Samsung has stuck to their docking system to charge the Gear 2 and in addition, we even get the heart-rate monitor from the S5 here.
Overall, the Gear 2 looks a bit more grown up and the stainless steel body certainly helps increase its premium look and feel. It’s comfortable to wear throughout the day as it’s not too heavy on the wrist. Once again, we wished Samsung would have implemented a more convenient charging system.
The Gear 2 packs in a 1.6-inch Super AMOLED display, just like the original. The panel has very good touch sensitivity and colours and black levels are really good. The watch is also IP67 certified which means you can take a swim with it without any problem.
The interface might look exactly the same as the Galaxy Gear but it’s actually running on a wearable platform of Tizen instead of Android. This is really not going to make any difference to the end user since most of the apps that you’ll ever need to use with the watch are already present. A few Gear-specific apps like Evernote, which were there for the Galaxy Gear, aren’t present however.
The interface is smooth for the most part although we wouldn’t call it fluid. Scrolling through the app drawer pages is slightly jarring as the screen doesn't respond to the intensity of your swipes, which we’ve gotten used to on Android. This could very well be due to Tizen or the dual-core CPU and 512MB RAM onboard.
Whichever it may be, you’ll be happy to know that apps don’t lag as much as they used to, especially S Voice. It still has little trouble understanding what you tell it and you will need to be really loud and clear when you speak, but it works a bit faster and doesn’t lag as much compared to the Galaxy Gear.
The Gear 2 inherits all the features of the Galaxy Gear and the Samsung Gear Fit, giving it quite a robust feature set. You can relay all your notifications from Samsung, Google and third party apps to the Gear 2. You can even take a call using the in-built speaker or through a Bluetooth headset synced to the watch. The speaker is good enough for voice calls but isn’t really great for music playback.
We went through all of the fitness features in great detail in our Gear Fit review so we’ll only skim over them here. The Gear 2 lets you measure your heart-rate, sleep cycle, exercise routine and keep a track of the steps you’ve walked. Other bundled apps include Media Controller, Music player, Schedule, stop watch, timer, voice memo, weather and WatchON remote.
The Gear 2 can now double up as a stand-alone music player. You get 4GB of onboard storage, which can be used for media storage. You can listen to your tracks via the speaker (not advisable) or a Bluetooth headphone. The audio playback is pretty good and you can boost the volume pretty high as well. This feature is handy when you’re working out as you needn’t have your phone around.
The WatchON app lets you use the Gear 2 as a TV or media remote.
The 2MP camera can record videos up to 720p as well as snap pictures, for the voyeur in you. The pictures aren’t bad actually, even for indoor use. Not sure how many will end up using this feature though.
You can install additional apps from third party vendors as well through the Gear Manager app on your phone. The process is a little convoluted as the app installs on the phone as well as the watch. In order to change any settings or add log-in information, you need to turn to the phone app.
We managed to squeeze out about a day and a half of proper usage, which included taking calls, using the fitness features, a bit of the camera and music playback over Bluetooth. This is pretty good when you consider we got similar battery life with the Galaxy Gear, with about half the activity.
Verdict and Price in India
The Samsung Gear 2 is available for a sum of Rs 21,550, which is about the same as the Galaxy Gear launch price. Compared to its predecessor, the Gear 2 offers much more value in terms of features and performance. It looks and feels better, has a boat-load of features and makes a good companion if you’re a fitness freak. On the other hand, you are still limited to only Samsung handsets and this might soon be obsolete once Android Wear comes crashing out the gate with the Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch. Plus, if the rumours are to be believed, the Moto 360 might be priced similarly (or even lower).
The Gear 2 is good investment if you only buy Samsung phones as this will ensure compatibility with any future handset as well. For the rest of us, we'd recommended holding off for Android Wear based smartwatches, which will inevitably be the future.
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