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Samsung Gear S3 is a lot smarter than a smartwatchPosted
Smartwatches, particularly those with good health and fitness underpinnings, are still a niche, but growing market. Samsung may well have made its new Gear S3 the best, certainly the most comprehensive, smartwatch with fitness benefits so far. There is an old saying about “everything but the kitchen sink.” In designing this, I am sure that if Samsung could have, it would have included that and an emergency shot of coffee as well. This smartwatch has it all. It has: Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone and headphones/buds; Wi-Fi to work stand-alone from your phone; a speaker and microphone to make and take calls, access OK Google and play music; continuous heart rate monitor; GPS; it is mill-spec, IP68 dunk-able; has great battery life and wireless fast charge; a fabulous always on AMOLED screen; uses standard 22mm wristbands; and that rotating bezel beats using a crown hands down. Dare I say it – an Apple Watch killer par excellence. I have been using the Gear S3, Frontier version for only a couple weeks now and apart from a brief recharge it has not left my wrist. Before that, I was using the excellent Samsung Gear Fit 2 that does a lot of what the Gear S3 does, but the latter is more fully featured. Let me start by saying that I have its predecessor – the Gear S2 and I call it a “sensible smartwatch.” It was more of an extension of a smartphone whereas the S3 can be more a standalone device. And the S3 has improved on every aspect of the S2. It comes in a nice, elegant round, black, cylinder that will delight when found under the Xmas tree. The box contains the watch; a magnetic charger (small L-shaped that sits nicely on a bedside table); a micro-USB, 5V/750mA charger; a small-sized silicon 22mm, spring pin style, strap (only the side with holes – not the buckle side); and a brief manual. Set-up is very easy – download Samsung Gear Manager for Android (almost any recent Android phone), pair up, S Health and sign up. By the way, Samsung is very close to the final version of Gear Manager for iOS too according to Softpedia. You can download hundreds of analog or digital or themed watch faces – many are free. Specifications: 1.3” (33mm) 360 x 360, AMOLED, Always on Display (50% grey scale - can be turned off) 768MB RAM and 4GB storage (about half available for music) Bluetooth 4.2m NFC, Wi-Fi N, GPS Accelerometer, Gyro, Barometer, Continuous Heart Rate Monitor, Ambient Light 380 mAh battery – two to three days’ typical use and about 30-minute charge at 1A. Wireless dock provided, and it doubles as a night clock stand. IP68 - water resistant to a maximum depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes, and are protected from dust, dirt and sand MIL-STD-810G, Gorilla Glass SR+ (1.5m drop) Microphone, speaker, linear haptic motor Controlled via Touch, rotating bezel and two push buttons Usability I was love the 33mm round watch face had much usability with small fingers, but see no issues if you have meaty fingers. It is surprisingly useful, and the ability to choose a large display font makes it easy if you are long-sighted. The rotating bezel is the most intuitive interface I have used – and I have used many. Simply Rotate the bezel clockwise or anti-clockwise to see different screens or press the settings button and rotate through installed apps. The phone function was remarkably clear – accept an incoming call via the screen (it has caller ID), you will hear adequate volume at 30cm away, and callers commented the microphone is very clear. In fact, I found myself wearing the watch around the home and leaving the smartphone on the wireless charger. The S Voice function has improved, is remarkably accurate and it is useful for setting reminders, voice recording, and initiating calls. Just set your secret activation words — no OK Google here — and you are away. The security and emergency features work amazing. The SOS function is handy too – nominate your contact, and if you press the home key three times it will contact them. Find my Gear also works excellent. When you take the watch off your wrist it will lock, and can only be unlocked when you enter a pin. And that is where Wi-Fi comes in. Whatever Wi-Fi networks you have accessed with your smartphone are automatically available to the watch. If your phone is connected to the Wi-Fi at home and say your watch is connected at work, you will receive calls and notifications on the watch. It works – after extensive testing at local businesses I can say I did not need to take my phone for a walk every morning. The App The other part of the equation is the health app. Samsung’s S Health app has improved enormously over the last two years. It is up to version 5.3.1.X and when I last tested the S2 it was version 2.x – the improvements are palpable, and it is ready for mainstream use with features being added regularly. Personally, I still think the programmers have a little too much to do with its look – there is lots of gamification, certificates, social media and friends challenges. Good for some and thankfully fully customisable so you can turn it off! Sleep tracking is automatic and reasonably accurate in showing start and stop times. It is now more useful in that it clearly graphically and textually shows light, deep (motionless) and restless times, gives you an efficiency rating and allows you to comment on the sleep quality. Walking is also automatically tracked and gives steps (pedometer), estimated distance, pace, and timelines. It is reasonably accurate compared to the GPS – you can adjust step length to get it much closer. I found the HERE app most useful, and it even displayed a tiny map on the screen. Heart rate is a continuous monitor type. It gives the range over time intervals. My only gripe is that it does not overlay heart rate on other activities like walking or sleep – take note programmers because it would be easy to do. GPS functions are attached to running, cycling, hiking, skiing, backpacking, canoeing, circuit training, and much more. Again, the programmers have been busy, and it has more than 120 sports that you can track, and many are auto-detected. You can set up exercise guides and programs as well – marathon training etc. The social aspect allows you to nominate friends and create challenges as well as gain valuable comparative information about where you relate to others at your life stage. There is also a range of about 70 partner apps that will share S Health and Gear data – these cover fitness, nutrition, rest, health care and more. My only gripe, take note programmers, is that it does not have a standard Web interface so I can check in from a computer browser – it is all on the phone. Other apps and watch faces Gear now has over 10,000 apps and custom watch dials. I installed a stopwatch, timer, and Samsung Pay. Things like Uber, Spotify, Here, Nike+ Running, GolfNavi, and more are either there or coming. It will even play games and link to Nest and control Philips Hue lights. It supports connected services, data sharing, and exports data in .GPX format. But the screen, no matter how good, simply does not lend itself to complex apps and that is where notifications come in – most apps can send notifications to the S3. Samsung Pay It supports both NFC and MST contactless payments with and without your phone. Music Pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones was easy – be they Samsung’s ICON-X right up to Sennheiser, Parrot, Bose and more headphones and speakers. Usable memory is 1.64GB. I uploaded over 300 songs and had space left. It will display metadata (performer, photo, title, etc.) if known. Conclusion I think the Gear S3 crosses over the boundaries between a fitness band and a smartwatch adding considerable value to each category. It is fashionable yet highly functional. I find it a tad large in the best way possible — 46mm diameter — but it fits well on a male wrist. Comments from others say it is fine. I suspect that women will find it too large but that is a matter of personal taste. Of the 50 or so people, I have shown it to, about 75% expressed interest in purchasing one, and about 90% loved the Frontier style over the Classic. I liked the Gear S2 but at that time the S Health App was not up to Microsoft Health or Apple Health – it has now exceeded the functionality offered by both though it has been designed by a programmer! Killer features – the rotating bezel is easy to use, Wi-Fi is an added bonus for untethered use, and the app ecosystem is comprehensive. At $349 ($249 on sale) it is arguably the best smartwatch to date, and certainly, eclipses the Apple Watch – this is as good as it gets until the S4.
I would recommend this to a friend
Let me start off this review by saying that I’ve never really owned a watch before. My general attitude towards watches was that I thought of them to be more of fashion pieces than a practical accessory. I already keep a smartphone on me at all times so the reason of buying a conventional watch went out the window. However, after owning this smartwatch for two weeks, I can say that owning a “watch” can be very stylish and very practical at the same time. I purchased this S3 frontier from Best Buy before Black Friday deals were going on for a price of $200. Samsung’s official store was having the same deal but ordering from them I would have to wait over a week just to have it ship! I would very much rather go into Best Buy and pick up the item same or next day for the same price. I have given the LTE model some consideration, as it would be very convenient leaving your phone charging or on your desk while walking around your house or office workspace without having the possibility of missing important calls or texts. However, I have decided that the extra upcharge for the LTE model and monthly charge from my local phone company isn’t worth it because I don’t get a large enough number of calls or texts, and I keep my phone on me most of the time. I would advise those that get a lot of phone calls and text messages to take a look at the LTE model because you can easily screen and ignore calls or messages that aren’t important very quickly, without having to pull out your phone. For those of you who are torn between the Bluetooth and LTE model, there is a feature that lets the S3 connect to Wi-Fi networks that are remembered by the phone, letting you get notifications that way. Before I start talking about the watch, I will give a couple of disclaimers. I am using this S3 Frontier Bluetooth version with a T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 8. I am not paid by anyone to write this review, I am writing this review using my own free time. There are many reasons why I bought this watch, all of which make this a fine practical accessory. I would say the most important features for me are Samsung Pay, S Health, and great notification system which includes the ability to quickly screen calls and messages on your watch without having to pull out your phone. You can also download apps, although the choices in that department are quite disappointing. Apps available for the S3 are downloaded from Samsung’s Galaxy apps store, which are honestly quite limited. I personally downloaded basic apps made by Samsung, such as Clock, Alarm, Find my Phone, Calculator, Calendar, Timer, and Stopwatch. There may be more but I haven’t really bothered to check out the app store. Samsung Pay is probably one of the selling features of this watch. As many of you know, this S3 was released around two years ago, and Samsung recently announced the newer Galaxy Watch in August of 2018. The biggest difference between the S3 and Galaxy Watch is that the newer Galaxy Watch DOES NOT support MST, but at least has NFC. The S3 has MST and NFC, which means that if a payment terminal is older and doesn’t support the newer standard of NFC, you can use it in a pinch. This is a potential deal breaker for some, and while it isn’t a big deal for me, I still opted for the S3 Frontier. Also regarding Samsung Pay: the only bank I am with is a small Credit Union based in Los Angeles, and that has attempted to set me back using Samsung Pay as they do not support it currently. However, I have found a way to use PayPal with Samsung Pay and it works perfectly. PayPal recently announced the PayPal cash card, which is linked directly to your PayPal balance. I have mine set up so that if a purchase was to be declined due to low funds, PayPal will automatically deduct a set amount from my bank or card to make up for the purchase. I remember S Health back from when I had my Note 4 and I rarely used it back then. I can say that Samsung has made great progress developing the application and integrating its features with their smartwatches. I am still a beginner so I currently only use the app to track steps and sleep. The S3 automatically starts tracking steps and uploads that information to the S Health app. If you wear the S3 while sleeping, it will automatically track sleep and give you a notification in the morning. (See attached for screenshots from watch and phone). I have this watch set up for notifications from my phone. I am currently split between using Samsung’s and Google’s apps. For calling, I use the Samsung’s built in app. For text messages, I use Google’s Messages. I can happily say that notifications work flawlessly with the third party Messages app and that I can send quick replies. You can also specify select apps to send notifications. I highly recommend this instead of selecting “all apps” because I know for sure I don’t needed to be bothered with another annoying notification from Clash of Clans popping up on my smartwatch. There are no ports, you charge this watch with the included wireless charging stand. I would estimate it takes around an hour and a half to charge this from empty to full. I would not recommend you use this watch until it dies as keeping a lithium ion battery like the one inside this smartwatch at a low charge for extended periods of time results in a drastically shorter lifespan. In conclusion, this is a very functional and great looking smartwatch. The features that are advertised work flawlessly. I recommend you pop into your local Best Buy to see if it is on display. I know I have missed some parts but there's only so much I can cover. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to post a comment and I'll try to respond ASAP.
I would recommend this to a friend
So many functions in such a little spacePosted
The Samsung Gear S3 is by far one of the most advanced and classy looking smart watches out there. This smart watch pretty much has everything and with an option for 4G LTE I can’t imagine much more being offered. I have had the Samsung Gear S2 Classic and the Samsung Gear Fit2. I really like the “normal” watch style of the S line, but both watches just didn’t meet my expectations. Now that I have the Gear S3 Frontier, I can say that they have finally hit everything I was looking for. Just starting off as a watch, it is a bit big and may be for some, but looks like a typical rugged style watch. The watch faces on it are amazing and some go as far as to mimic the light reflection as if they had a real reflective background. The clarity and finite details even give some of them a 3D appearance. From analog to digital with individual stylizations, there are so many watch face styles that you could have a different one every day if you choose to. There is also an “always on” feature that prevents you from having to flick your wrist to see the time, a complaint I had with the S2, however, it reduces time between charges significantly. With the band being interchangeable with any 22-mm band, the design choices are limitless. As a fitness tracker, the Gear S3 has everything you expect, plus more. It tracks steps, floors climbed and automatic heart rate tracking with decent accuracy. It will pick up exercise events automatically if continued for at least 10 minutes, however, if you want full GPS tracking you will need to manually start the exercise event. When manually started and using S-Health you get added results, such as highest and lowest elevation for total ascent/descent using the included altimeter, and average/max heart rate. You also get a Google map display of your event which can be exported to a GPX file. The Gear S3 can keep track of all of this information without the phone being present during the workout. As an added bonus, the watch has internal storage so you can play music directly from the watch, through the built in speaker or Bluetooth headphones, or control the music on your phone. For smart watch capability you get the typical notifications and alerts from your phone, which you can change in the Samsung Gear app. You can reply and send text messages by using standard preset short replies, emoticons, by writing text by hand, using an old style alphanumeric keypad, or use the microphone to record a message or use speech-to-text. Don’t want to text? You can answer and place calls directly from the watch, with surprising clarity. You can use your contacts or a keypad to enter a fresh number without ever pulling out your phone. As for controlling the watch, I still love the rotating bezel compared to some other smart watches using the small crown. My fingers feel like I’m trying to use two sausages to pick up a pin when messing with small dials and such. Sometimes even using the screen is cumbersome as my finger can cover half the screen or a slight bump leads to clicking on a wrong reply. My favorite feature with the watch has been the amazement that I get from people when I use my watch with Samsung Pay to make a payment. It typically starts out with their hand out awaiting a credit card. Then I tell them I’m going to pay using my watch and their response is usually “Oh our system is old, we don’t do that yet” as they hear the beep of the transaction being completed. That is when the questions start to kick in, even from people behind me in line. Besides ATM machines and gas pumps, it has worked on pretty much everything else. If at first it does not succeed, have them change the transaction from credit to debit or vice versa. You can even make up to four transactions without your phone being nearby, making this even better when out on a workout. To wrap up with a few odds and ends, I like how the bezel is above the glass. I have only had mine a few weeks and already bumped it against several hard objects. There are marks on the bezel, but nothing with the glass. I just bought some lens covers to be sure that this will not be an issue. The default watch band is rubber, therefore it stretches and at times feels like it is pinching my arm, as a rubber band would. If I loosen it too much, because I use Samsung Pay, the screen will lock and requires a 4 digit pin to be entered. A feature I am grateful for, but a bit of an annoyance when I find it locked when a notification comes in, so I keep the watch tight. The battery life has lasted on average 3 days, with the “Always On” feature turned off. I like to wear mine at night as well, to provide sleep tracking, so I charge it during times of inactivity, like at my work desk or in the evening while watching TV, and it is fully charged in about 2 and a half hours. The altimeter and barometer are an interesting feature, and I am sure for some it will prove useful, but so far all I have noticed is that I have to recalibrate the altimeter every few days as it has been over 600ft off after a few days and the weather has not been severe enough to really change the barometer reading. In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed my Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and look forward to using it more as the season of outdoor activities starts to roll in. With so much to offer in a typical elegant looking watch, it is hard to believe what they will improve on it anytime soon. If you are looking to take the step into the world of using a smart watch, but don’t want a device that looks like a small phone on your wrist, and provides more features than any other watch, this is the one for you. If you are looking for an upgrade from any other smart watch, you don’t have to look any further.
I would recommend this to a friend