When we first saw the Gear 2, we were pretty excited. It’s a major improvement over the original Galaxy Gear and despite some obvious limitations, it’s just a few firmware updates and enhanced apps away from what could be the first breakthrough in the realm of wearables.
2013 was the year of the smartwatches – though not in terms of delivery but just in terms of promise. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear probably made the most headlines for two reasons: firstly, it was the first wearable from one of the technology giants, and secondly because it was so bad. From design to battery life to apps, everything was merely disappointing. Nevertheless, resilient Samsung is having another crack at it. They’ve really improved their smartwatch – but does it justify the $300 price tag?
Let’s find out.
- Operating system : Tizen
- Display : 1.6-inch Super AMOLED 320 x 320 pixels
- Compatible with : Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy Mega, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, Galaxy Note Pro, and Galaxy Tab Pro (12.2, 10.1, 8.4)
- Battery life : Up to 3 days
- Storage capacity : 4 GB
- Connectivity : Bluetooth Low Energy
- Camera resolution : 2MP (with 720p video recording)
Design & Display
We were expecting some major redesigning, but were rather disappointed. Instead of a complete remake, the Gear 2 is actually an evolution of the original Gear with the similar brushed metal face and similar plastic strap. The microphone and the camera are housed in the main body of the watch – where they should have been all along – instead of the strap. So the good news is you can change straps now. Remember you can change watch faces and screen savers to match your strap.
We didn’t like the screws on the Galaxy Gear, thankfully, they are also gone in the new version. The display is exactly the same but the sole button (home key) has now moved from the side to the bottom of the display, just like on most Samsung’s smartphones.
There are some major changes that took place under the hood. Now, we have an optical heart rate monitor, an infrared blaster, and IP67 dust-resistance and waterproofing. The camera has moved from the strap to the main body of the watch. At 2 megapixels, with a negligible improvement over the 1.9 megapixels of its predecessor, it takes just as good photos.
The display hasn’t changed at all. The 1.6-inch display with 320×320 pixel resolution is sharp enough to make the text easily readable. In fact, 278 pixels per inch are ideal for the things the watch is supposed to do. Another major improvement: while the first model was not water resistant, Gear 2 is IP67 dust-resistant and waterproof. It means total dust protection, and being waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes. The camera has moved from the strap to the main body of the watch. At 2 megapixels, with a negligible improvement over the 1.9 megapixels of its predecessor, it takes just as good photos.
Now the biggest but hardly noticeable change made by Samsung in Gear 2 was the platform shift from Android to Tizen. And that is why Galaxy branding was also dropped from the name. You might not even notice the difference between the user interfaces of the two watches because of the same look and feel. All the fonts, menus and icons are almost the same.
However, you’ll feel the difference when you want to install third party apps. The app store for the Android-based Gear was built from the scratch, and as the things were getting better, Samsung decided to move to Tizen, so the app store has started from scratch again. At the time of writing this review, there were just a handful of third party apps available, and most of them were just watchfaces.
In addition to the apps we saw in the Gear, Gear 2 comes with some new apps including Exercise, Heart Rate Monitor and an independent media player (which plays music locally from the watch, not via the phone).
Battery life has improved, but lasting for three days of average use, it’s still not as much as I’d like. Interestingly, the 300 mAh battery of Gear 2 is less powerful as compared to the 315 mAh battery of the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch, yet it runs longer. Remember that annoying charging cradle? The good news is that it’s mostly gone… “mostly” because you still need to plug the USB cable into a proprietary adapter, thus not as convenient. So the battery life and charging method both have improved – but still not up to the mark.
Compatibility And Connectivity
Samsung had announced that their second version of the Gear smartwatch will be compatible with a wider variety of devices, and honestly we were expecting cross-platform compatibility also. However, Samsung disappointed us, as the new watch is compatible with just a few more Samsung devices: Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy Mega, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, Galaxy Note Pro, and Galaxy Tab Pro (12.2, 10.1, 8.4)
Features And Apps
The major improvement that we saw in software was improved notifications and improved social interaction. With the Galaxy Gear, it was a bit hit-and-miss when it came to notifications, but the Gear 2 looks promising. Another major moan we had against the first model was that it didn’t support 3rd party email services, especially Gmail – fortunately, the Gear 2 shows Gmail notifications with a decent snippet of the message. On top of that, you can get notifications from almost any app installed on your smartphone.
The most impressive app for me was the WatchOn TV remote app, however, currently it supports very basic functions such as changing channels and input, turning the TV on or off, and adjusting the volume. More advanced functions like navigation, channel guide features etc. are not supported.
Samsung has tried to introduce their S Voice – which is not even half as good as Siri – to the Gear 2. You can dictate text, set calendar appointments, make calls, and perform a few basic tasks.
The Gear 2 has almost everything from call management to camera to step tracker to heart rate monitor to microphone to speaker to calendar handling… while some of these things are neat and tidy, the overall watch gives a feeling as if you’re using a “lite” version of the feature. While Samsung is moving in the right direction but they are far from perfection. And to be bluntly honest, we think the watch doesn’t satisfy the $300 price tag.
Samsung Gear 2
Design & Display7/10
Compatibility and Connectivity4/10
Features And Apps6/10
- Longer battery life
- Improved design
- Waterproof and dust resistant
- More and better native apps
- Very few 3rd party apps
- Limited compatibility
- Most features give a superficial feel
- You need to factory reset the watch in order to pair with a different device