Samsung Gear S3 Frontier :: First impressions

by Volker Weber

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I asked Samsung for two smartwatches: the 2016 Gear S3 and the 2015 Gear S2. This is a first look at the Gear S3 which comes in two models. This is the bigger Frontier.

Spoiler alert: I am super impressed.

I was at the launch event at IFA 2016 in Berlin, and it was quite a bombastic show. I wasn't impressed then. Too much show, not enough content. The S3 looked too big, compared to the much simpler S2 and I did not like the way that Samsung tried to mimic traditional wristwatches. If you have a watch face with fake metal reflections, that looks so cheap because the reflections don't actually move like the real thing.

But now I have a watch in my possession and I can make it mine. This changes the game completely. I am using the SuperAMOLED display to display mostly black and that not only looks good, it also saves on battery life because those black pixels are off. Only the red numbers are on. Look around this site. Which colors do you see? White, black, red. Yes, this is mine.

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This display is always on. It does not have to be, it's not even the default. But I want it on. Because I can. See that bezel around the screen? That's the real thing. It turns. And it is one of the inputs. You can swipe between different widgets which are similar to Apple Watch Glances. Turn clockwise to get to the weather, a favorite contact, a reminder, your next calendar event, your calorie burn, your steps, your alti-barometer, and so forth. Add any widget you like. This works with your gloves on. It's cold outside! Remember how you could operate a Lumia 920 with gloves on? You can do that with the Gear S3 as well. Just turn up the touch sensitivity for the screen and you can touch and swipe with your big ski gloves.

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I paired the Gear S3 with my BlackBerry PRIV, which works just fine. It's not listed as compatible but the requirements are rather low. 1.5 GB of RAM, Android 4.4+, that's about it. You have to install the Gear Manager, it will install a Gear S plugin and Samsung Accessory Services. And you want the S Health app to track your fitness.

Samsung is working on an iOS app which is currently in beta. But trust me on this: if you have an iPhone, you want an Apple Watch. If you don't have an iPhone but want one later, Samsung will probably have you covered. This watch runs on Tizen and it does not need Android.

Samsung is making some promises which are not working out today. The Gear S3 is supposed to have Spotify support but it's not here yet. And with that I mean streaming from your watch with cached tracks, not a remote for your phone. Apple Watch does not have that, but needs it badly. My guess is that Gear will have it first.

Stay tuned. There is so much more to talk about.

Comments

Thanks for that first impression. I have one short question: can you control the musicstream from the phone (Sonos/Deezer App for example) like it is possible with the pebble (Volume, Track Skipping)?

Ralph Hammann, 2016-12-16

Btw you can use the Apple Watch also with Gloves, no touch screen gloves needed. Don't know why they don't advertise that ;)

Cyril Gabathuler, 2016-12-16

Ralph, yes you can. I have only tried Sonos so far, but I can see what is playing and I can control the playback. So far not the volume, but this is too early to judge.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-16

Thanks for the quick answer. This little big watch is getting more and more interesting.. ;-)

Ralph Hammann, 2016-12-16

And it won't work with a Lumia?
Just jokin...

I'm still a bit undecided which Smartphone to get (no, there's no need to repeat the recommendation) ;-)
Even though it will be an iPhone, i don't think i would opt for an Apple Watch. Samsung Gear looks more appealing to me. I don't really like rectangular watches.

So some experiences with Samsung Gear in combination with iPhone would be interesting too (when the final app is out).

Manfred Wiktorin, 2016-12-16

You are a bit stubborn, aren't you. Samsung wants the watch back. No long term test planned.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-16

Hi Volker, can the watch only be charged via the Samsung charging station or with any other Qi compatible charging pad?

All the best - Matthias

Matthias Lorz, 2016-12-16

I purchased a S3, but am dissatisfied with the battery life. They claim 3 days, but 3 days on what kind of settings? Other than that I like it.

Lawrence Myers, 2016-12-18

It's two days. But I charge it every day for one hour.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-18

My Nokia Qi charger sees the watch and blinks, which has to mean "error". The watch does not react.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-19

I just bought one today and have been looking for that watch face, do you mind telling me what the name of it is?

Darryl McDonald, 2016-12-23

Darryl, this is one of the stock watch faces. It's called Large and you can stylize the font and the color.

Volker Weber, 2016-12-23

Thank you very much.

Darryl McDonald, 2016-12-23

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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