Samsung Galaxy Gear S: All Function, No Form

While Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear S, is packed with innovative new features, it remains a fairly cumbersome device.

By Sadad Talhouni

Everyone might be talking about the Apple Watch at the moment, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the only smartwatch on the market. Samsung has been rolling them out since September 2013, with a total of six models released so far. Its latest entry, the Samsung Gear S, is perhaps the most powerful smartwatch available today.

With a 2-inch super AMOLED touchscreen, the Gear S has one of the largest, brightest, and clearest smartwach screens around. But the device is rather bulky in size, coming in at 58.1 x 39.9 x 12.5 mm, and weighing 67g. Even its interchangable straps are thick and wide.

But while it seemed ridiculously large on the wrist at first, we have to say it grew on us. The build quality, with the sturdy Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and curved screen give it a stylish, masculine look. We wouldn’t recommend it for slender wrists, however, as it would look cartoonsihly over-sized.

The large dimensions are necessary to house the impressive hardware powering the Gear S. The watch has a dual-core 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB RAM, operating on the Tizen operating system, with an internal memory of 4 GB, which allows you to store a decent amount of photos and music to view and listen to. It’s fitted with an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, compass, heart rate monitor, barometer, and UV light sensor, all of which make the Gear S a complete fitness tracker that can even measure your sleeping patterns.

But where the Gear S really sets itself apart from the crowd is its ability to be used without a smartphone. Slip in a nano SIM card, and you can begin using the Gear S to make calls, send texts, and connect to the Internet. While speaking into your wrist isn’t as practical as you would imagine, there’s still something pleasingly futuristic about using the Gear S to chat to someone without a supplementary device.

But you do need to connect the Gear S to a smartphone to download new apps. We were quite impressed with the quantity available on the Galaxy App Store, which included games, web browsers, and alternative health apps. The Tizen interface needs some getting used to, but quickly becomes intuitive to operate. And using S-Voice recognition to control the watch was frankly a frustrating experience. With a non-removable Li-Ion 300 mAh battery, the Samsung watch can withstand a day and a half of average usage, which is rather impressive considering the specs involved. It does diminish quite rapidly if you connect online directly from the watch though.

The Gear S clearly demonstrates the exciting potential of smartwatches. But the bulky device still doesn’t strike the right balance between form and function which is needed for this new tech niche to really take hold.