Samsung Gear S2 Quick Review

Samsung were first to market with what we might consider a true smartwatch,  the Galaxy Gear, which lumped everything together to great an enormous, feature-laden piece of wristwear that didn't really deliver a good user experience.

The original range of Gear smartwatches prompted Google to develop Android Wear, which itself opened the door to a range of competitors. And of course the Apple Watch followed too.

The thing is, none of the smartwatches on the market have really delivered a compelling reason to wear one, being little more than a gimmicky, geeky way of demonstrating your allegience to a smartphone manufacturer.

The Gear S2 is the first Samsung smartwatch to sport a round face. Which allows it to offer a uniquely usable control interface and a great user experience. It runs Tizen, rather than Android Wear, which is a plus and a minus. It fluid and fast in use. However app support is limited.

The main control interface is the Gear S2's bezel - machined on the Classic version I tried, smooth on the standard version. Rotating it switches fluidly between notification and widget panels on the Gear's interface. It is intuitive and easy to use. Spin to choose, tap the screen to select.

Samsung have built a watch interface that makes the Apple Watch's spinning crown, tap, swipe and button UI look clumsy and inelegant. That's right, Samsung have delivered a user interface that makes Apple's look amateur. Hard to process?

The watch faces for the Gear S2 are all pretty good, with ones the surface notifications, others that show news and still others that allow you to show allegiance to brands.

S-Voice is embedded for voice control, whilst there's a T9 keyboard for whipping up quick responses to messages. There's an embedded music player controller, as well as the Samsung Milk Music service. Maps are provided by Here and Samsung's S-Health and Nike+.

Finally there's NFC, which works with Samsung Pay - if you happen to be in the US or South Korea.

The Classic supports standard watch bands, and is supplied with a wireless charger. In other words its a nice little package.

For the first time Samsung has made all this goodness available to any Android phone, rather than just to Samsung Galaxy owners.

I found the Gear S2 to be a class-leading product. It's a good size on the wrist, it's screen is bright and sharp, its watch face can be set to permanently show without killing the battery, and it's relatively discreet. The Classic version even looks like a good quality watch. No need for anyone but you to know it's anything more than a standard timepiece.

If a smartwatch is something that you'd like for a specific set of tasks and they are covered by the standard software, the Gear S2 is worth the NZ$549 that Samsung is asking. However, if your intention is to load it up with apps and use it as a wrist based mini computer this isn't the smartwatch for you.

Samsung has moved the smartwatch game forward, the Gear S2 is further proof that it can bring good user experience to market.


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