The wearables space is the new proving ground for tech companies as sky’s the limit here in terms of innovation. Smartwatches seem to be the easiest category to innovate in as it’s a product that slips right in to our everyday life. Sony and Samsung have been actively pursuing this space with Motorola and LG jumping on the bandwagon later this year. For Samsung’s latest iteration of their Gear series, the company has decided to ditch Android for Tizen for the new Gear watches. It’s a bold move considering Android Wear was announced just a month later.
Out of the three Gear watches, we have the Samsung Gear Fit today for review. This is more akin to a fitness band like Fitbit but with a larger display for notifications and other functions. With a rather steep price of Rs 15,450, can it justify this premium over other cheaper fitness trackers out there?
Design and Build
The Samsung Gear Fit is unlike any other fitness band in the market. The 1.8-inch curved Super AMOLED display looks incredibly sexy and functions well too. You can change the orientation of the UI from landscape to portrait which makes it easier to use. The Fit has an IP67 certification so it’s dust and water resistant.
The main module has just a single power button on it and nothing else. You still need a USB dock to charge the Fit which is really inconvenient since you have to remember to carry that along with you. Why couldn’t Samsung just put a microUSB port and seal it with a rubber flap?
The Fit is quite comfortable to wear thanks to the flexible rubber strap. This is main module can be detached from the strap, allowing you to change it if needed. The strap itself feels a little cheap however and we expected better quality when you’re shelling out this kind of money. Underneath lie the leads for the dock and the heart-rate sensor.
Overall, the Gear Fit is built well and looks very stylish on your wrist. We feel Samsung could have had a better solution for charging the Fit. Also, the strap just doesn’t feel as premium as the device itself.
The display is quite simply gorgeous and besides the standard assortment of wallpapers, you can even upload your own through the phone. The screen is very legible in sunlight as well, however the brightness doesn’t adjust automatically, which is a shame. You can change the clock faces to analogue or digital and even have reading from the pedometer or weather displayed alongside it. The display also automatically turns on when you flick your wrist to see the time.
Samsung has developed a custom Real Time OS or RTOS for the band, and the interface of the Fit is very smooth and the screen has very good sensitivity. In fact, if works very well even with gloves on. Everything is managed via the Gear Fit manager application on your phone. The trouble here is that you will need a Samsung device to use the Fit as the new smartwatches are still tied down to the Galaxy family.
The application lets you change the wallpapers, clock and layout of the homescreen. You can change the order of apps on the Fit but there isn’t much in terms of third-party apps that can be added. The stock apps are all fitness related and work in conjunction with the S Health app on your phone. You can use the Fit without your phone being connected as well and later, sync the data across.
One advantage of having a big display on a fitness band is that you can receive incoming notifications from virtually any app. You can’t respond to them obviously but you can reject a call with a message if needed.
To make the best use of the Gear Fit, you need to set up your profile in S Health first. After that, you can track your progress over the course of the week. Our issue with the Fit is that all the functions like the pedometer, heart-rate monitor and sleep tracker aren’t very intuitive as you need to manually start these functions for it to give you a reading. A fitness tracker should ideally be able to give you a read out of all your stats at any time without any human input, which is not the case here.
For instance, you have to tell the Fit that you’re going to sleep for it to start monitoring your sleep cycle. Then, you have to remember to stop monitoring once you wake up in the morning. This is not something one usually thinks of first thing in the morning so more often than not, you forget to stop it and that throws off the accuracy of the readings.
The heart-rate monitor is cool but once you get a reading, we want to know whether that’s good or bad. Also, it would have been nice if we could continuously monitor our heart rate for a certain activity rather than just measure it at one point in time.
Battery life is slightly better than last year's Galaxy Gear smartwatch. We easily got up to two days of usage with the Fit, which is not great but decent. With minimal usage and less tracking, you could squeeze out more.
Verdict and Price in India
As a fitness band, the Samsung Gear Fit is definitely the most stylish out there but is also quite expensive and most of the functions seem half-baked. To top it off, you’re still tied down to the Galaxy family of devices if you wish to buy this. Samsung should have made at least the Gear Fit compatible with any Android phone, considering it doesn’t use S Voice. If you must buy a Samsung smartwatch to go with your phone, then the Gear 2 Neo seems like a much better bargain at Rs 15,000.
As far as smartwatches go, we don’t see a very bright future for the new Gear line up and here’s why. Google already has a smartwatch-centric OS called Android Wear. LG and Motorola will be among the first companies to debut this new OS. Since this is Google’s project, the watches will most likely be compatible with all Android smartphones and not restricted to phones from the respective OEM. This in itself makes them more appealing, not to mention tighter Google Now integration. As easy as it may be for developers to make apps for Samsung’s Gear devices, we feel Android Wear will receive higher priority in terms of the type and quality of apps being developed for the wearable platform.
Samsung themselves will eventually switch to Android Wear. We wouldn’t be surprised if they announce a new smartwatch based on Wear before the year ends. As for the Gear fit and the rest of the Gear family, they don't seem terribly exciting when compared to what LG and Motorola have coming up.