Tuesday 24 June 2014

Samsung Gear 2

The latest edition of the Samsung wearables series has arrived, and perfectly timed too, in case you thought your shiny new S5 might feel lonely. No more Android means no more “Galaxy” – so this watch is simply rebranded as the Samsung Gear 2.

Whilst the packaging is near enough identical, once you unveil the watch itself you will indeed find some small but impactful changes. Most notably, the 2MP camera and microphone have both been repositioned on the bezel itself as opposed to the strap, allowing the strap to become interchangeable. Samsung currently offers a small selection of colours, but you can also find a variety of third party straps in a wide range of materials and designs. Kinda brings me back to the days of the face-changing 3310, fun times for all.

The home button has been re-housed in the centre beneath the screen, an infrared blaster added above and a heart-rate sensor tucked neatly around the back. In other words, the Gear 2 can be used as a remote for your TV via the Watch On app, and as a personal trainer via the fitness tracking app – great for some, useless for me, it is what it is I guess.

Overall, the Gear 2 is a couple grams lighter and not quite as chunky as the original, allowing it to sit comfortably on the wrist and feel more like a real watch. It’s also worth mentioning that the battery life it has dramatically increased, lasting 2-3 days with typical usage, and it is now water-resistant up to 1 metre, so come rain or shine you’re good to go (dunno how far I trust this whole “waterproof technology” fad though).

As I mentioned, the Gear 2 no longer supports the ever-popular Android operating system; it runs on Samsung’s very own OS – Tizen – and seems to be a little more user friendly. The initial setup, for example, is far less fiddly and NFC is no longer required; simply download the Gear Manager on your smartphone and the device will pick up pretty much instantly.

Unlike the Galaxy Gear, customisation features are far less limited with the addition of multiple fonts and the option to use photos as backgrounds (without downloading the Watch Styler app). The compatibility has also improved, working with a wider range of Samsung devices with more still to follow. The only real drawback of Tizen is that it’s still quite new, so the app availability is limited (for now).

Perhaps my favourite new feature is the standalone music player; any music stored can be played back using Bluetooth headphones, though for some reason, Samsung chose not to increase internal storage keeping it at just 4GB. They also chose not to update the charging method, sticking firmly to the use of an irritating charging cradle; though the cradle has been reduced in size, I’m sure near enough everybody would prefer to just plug it in like you would a phone. I hear a replacement charging cradle costs around £60, so maybe it’s a moneymaking ploy? Can’t think of any other justification myself.

Personally, I’m still not convinced, as I’m sure you can tell; it’s still a whole lot of “wow… but so what?” to me. If you were one of those who considered or actually bought the Galaxy Gear, however, you won’t be disappointed by this upgrade. The Gear 2 is more of the same plus a few much needed tweaks and improvements here and there; it’s not perfect, but it’s getting closer to what I imagine when I think of my ideal smart watch. You can tell they put a lot of thought into what went wrong before, and how it could become a more relevant device, but there’s still a fair amount of room to move forward.

Samsung Gear 2 gets a 3/5.


Samsung Gear 2 at CeX

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