Samsung Gear 2: Detailed Review and Comparison w/ Other Leading Smartwatches

Samsung Gear 2 lineup

Second Time’s a Charm?

Samsung’s latest attempt at a smart watch, the Galaxy Gear, sold more than 800,000 units making it the best-selling smart watch to date.

That said, the original Gear apparently didn’t satisfy many of buyers, as high return rates are widely reported.

When it comes to hardware, the original Galaxy Gear remains a break-through device with its incorporation of a built-in camera, onboard microphone w/ voice commands and many other cool features.

Unfortunately, though, the first-generation Galaxy Gear suffered from several shortcoming, including:

  • too expensive
  • poor battery life
  • slow/awkward user interface
  • limited app selection

In short, the first generation showed lots of promise, but fell short w/ buyers. Critics were especially harsh.

For their second attempt, Samsung has obviously been listening carefully to their fans, because they’ve shored-up many of these shortcomings. Partly by adopting a whole new operating system.

New Platform

Samsung released new sdks at MWC 2014 event

Samsung released new sdks at MWC 2014 event

Recently, Samsung announced their next-generation smart watch lineup, the Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit. At the same time, the company also announced they would no longer build wearable devices based on Google’s Android operating system. Instead, they’ve decided to use the new lightweight Tizen OS.

Compared with Android, Tizen is a lightweight platform that makes extensive use of HTML5 and reportedly offers a more responsive/faster user interface and better battery life. Both of these are critically important in a smart watch.

While the choice of Tizen makes a lot of sense for Samsung, we’re not yet sold on the advantages. The main issue for us: who is trained to develop apps on this new OS? Without a committed and loyal developer community on=board, your choice of apps will be limited.

Regardless of this latest twist, Samsung is clearly committed to the smart watch/wearables market and is moving faster than Google and Apple to putting real, useful devices on our wrists.  For that, we applaud them!

Design Changes

Samsung Galaxy gear vs Samsung Gear 2

Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 (left) vs Samsung Gear (right)

The Gear 2 looks a lot like the original Galaxy Gear from the front. However, the face is now slightly larger and slimmer. It fits underneath your shirt sleeve now, which for me is a biggie.

In addition, the location of the camera eye has been moved from the wrist strap to the body of the device, which makes it possible to swap out wrist bands.

Samsung Gear 2 - side button and strap

Samsung Gear 2 – side button and strap

A single menu control button has also been added to the Gear 2’s bottom face.

A brushed metal finish is offered with textured straps in many colors, plus a clip-in clasp closure.

The Gear 2 is charged using a separate charging cradle.

Hardware

With the Gear 2, Samsung has introduced several ergonomic improvements to its class-leading hardware platform.

The display is remains the same excellent 1.6-inch screen with a 320×320-pixel resolution, but the Gear 2′s built-in camera has been upgraded to 2 MP resolution (from 1.6 MP). The camera position has been moved to a new location on the watch body, too.

Samsung Gear 2 Smart Watch Black camera position

Samsung Gear 2 camera position

Samsung added an infrared sensor and Samsung’s WatchOn TV remote app. Together, they let you use the Gear as a TV remote. 

The Samsung Gear includes an onboard heart rate sensor that glows every 90 seconds with your vitals, if you choose. The Gear 2 also provides haptic feedback and on-screen notifications to motivate you through your fitness regimen. 

Samsung Gear 2 Heart Monitor

Samsung Gear 2 – Heart Monitor Sensor location

The internal microphone is now located on the body of the watch, so you won’t have to turn your wrist to speak into the device.

Internally, Samsung upgraded the processor from an 800MHz single-core unit to a 1GHz dual-core chip.

The Gear 2’s battery capacity has been reduced from a 315mAh to 300mAh, although Samsung says the choice of Tizen means the watch needs less juice than before.

The Gear 2 is rated for IP67 water resistance and is now usable underwater.

Apps

Samsung Gear 2 - branded apps

Samsung Gear 2 – branded apps

The new Samsung Gear 2 is a feature-rich and powerful hardware platform to build innovative apps on, so let’s hope thousands of developers take advantage of Samsung’s newly announced Tizen SDK (development platform) to build a bunch of ’em.

For now, though, app choice is ‘OK’ – but is a lot more limited than the Pebble.

There is a definite emphasis on fitness and health tracking apps, which is the same direction Google Android Wear and Apple’s iWatch are heading.

Samsung Gear 2 Fitness Apps

Samsung Gear 2 Fitness Apps

Samsung produced the detailed video below to walk you through all of the available features and apps that will be launched with the Gear 2. It’s boring, but chock-full of details.

Comparison With Other Leading Smart Watches

vs. the Pebble Steel

Samsung Gear 2 vs Pebble Steel

Samsung Gear 2 (left) vs Pebble Steel (right)

These two smart watches are different in many ways.

From a design standpoint, the Pebble Steel might be considered more traditional looking, although there isn’t a noticeable size difference between the two. On the other hand, just look at the Gear 2’s gorgeous color display. The Gear 2 is the definitely the watch for you if you want to get noticed.

Hardware wise, the Pebble Steel is a much simpler device with a low-res black and white screen, no touch screen, no camera, no microphone, no heart rate monitor, et al. There’s really no comparison here – the Samsung wins in raw capability, hands-down. The only hardware advantage the Pebble has over the Gear 2 is its long battery life – approximately 7 days vs. the Gear 2’s 3-4 day est. life.

On the other hand, when it comes to software and app variety the Pebble Steel has a big advantage.  The Pebble offers more than 3,000 apps and watch faces to choose from, while the Samsung Gear 2 is launching on a brand-new operating system with a few dozen apps and few developers trained to build more. Pebble wins the apps battle – for now.

The Pebble Steel is also compatible with a much wider range of Android and Apple smart phones, whereas the Samsung Gear 2 only works with Samsung Galaxy devices.

Overall, we’d say the Pebble Steel is the best choice today for most people – but the Samsung Gear 2 has so much going for it in terms of beautiful, standout design and raw hardware capability that if they can close the gap on apps they could easily take the lead. With Apple, LG and Motorola heading to market soon, we’d suggest doing that sooner than later.

vs. the Sony Smart Watch 2

Sony SW2

The Samsung Gear 2 kind of blows the Smartwatch 2 out of the water in terms of features. The Sony has no heart rate monitor, no haptic feedback, no onboard mic and no camera. App-wise, the Samsung is more refined and offers a better selection out of the box.

From a design standpoint, we like the Gear 2 much better than the more square, bulky-looking Sony.

Sony Smart Watch 2 does offer one big advantage over the Samsung Gear 2, though: the Sony works with most Android smart phones, whereas the Gear only tethers with Samsung Galaxy devices.

So, your choice between these two boils down to: what phone do you own?

If you own a Galaxy, then the Samsung Gear 2 wins hands-down due to its better user interface, more powerful hardware features and general refinement.

But if you own another Android phone, then you don’t have a choice but to look at the Sony vs. the Pebble (and others).

Pricing and Availability

The Gear 2 is available for sale right now for $299.

Also available are the new Samsung Gear Neo and Samsung Gear Fit, which retail for $199 each.

 

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WatchGeek

Gadget Geek & Shopaholic.

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