Samsung Gear S3 | Review
I’ve been in the market for a smartwatch for some time now and have seen the various offerings that Apple, Samsung and Sony have had to offer over the last 12 months. I was close to buying the Gear S2 last year but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend so much on a watch/new toy that didn’t seem to have enough functionality to keep me interested. It just didn’t seem like the “complete package”.
That changed with the Gear S3.
I purchased my S3 during lunch at a conference and had to find a quiet little corner to unbox it as I didn’t want people to think I was some pretentious wanker unboxing it in front of everyone. However, if I had left it in my bag, I’m sure it would have been burning a hole while I impatiently waited to get home – this is the problem I have had with every new toy I’ve ever bought!
I can tell you, that right out of the box, the S3 doesn’t look like a smart watch – it looks “normal”. Like any other watch, which makes wearing it less conspicuous.
It comes with a standard 22ml wrist band, a bezel that gives a satisfying click as you turn it (just like a normal watch would) and also features as a major part of the design by acting as a selector for different apps and navigating through Samsung’s Tizen operating system. It also comes with a wireless charging port which is magnetised and is fast charging and perhaps the single most important feature of the watch is the super long battery life: four days compared to Apple’s one day battery life.
On the wrist, it looks great. A beautiful black amoled screen made from scratch resistant gorilla glass provides the perfect platform for a crystal clear interface.
As I said, the bezel acts as a selector, helping you navigate through the apps and different functions, but you can also swipe and press on the screen with your finger as you would with your smart phone.
The bezel however, has become my default method of navigation – it’s a real showpiece of great design that adds as much aesthetically as it does functionally.
An important feature to note is that the watch is IP68 “water resistant”. Word of warning: IP68 is best interpreted as “splash proof” not water proof. The watch can be submerged up to a metre and a half, but the testing to verify this was done in laboratory conditions, meaning you probably shouldn't go swimming with it and it wasn’t tested in a hot steamy shower/bathroom. Besides, at $599 a pop, you probably don’t want to treat this like your old $50 Casio.
The watch is as great on the inside as it is on the outside: it does so much more than previous smart watches have.
Being a Samsung watch and using Samsung’s own Tizen operating system, the Gear S3 synced with my S7 Edge like you were putting on a familiar pair of gloves. It was so easy. After connecting with Bluetooth, literally everything else was done automatically.
The watch pulled through my wifi settings automatically, saving you from having to enter any of the wifi user names or passwords.
Being a heavily fitness oriented accessory, the watch tied in easily with my phone’s SHealth app effortlessly, as you’d expect. My watch will send all sorts of data to SHealth automatically, making keeping track of your health goals and progress a breeze.
It can track your steps, your heart beat, your altitude (for tracking floors climbed and ascent/descent data) automatically detects workouts, so if you forget to hit “start”, you don’t miss the information on that workout. It also integrates seamlessly with a number of sleep apps and can help provide more rich information about the quality of your sleep.
Side note: while I find the sleep data fascinating (and slightly creepy because my watch takes my pulse twice an hour) I have yet to actually find any actions to take based on the data. My conclusions about sleep data is as follows: if you woke up feeling crappy……you probably had a bad sleep. If you woke up feeling great... you might have had a good sleep. Do with this information as you will.
Aside from it’s prodigious facilities as a fitness related accessory, the Gear S3 has so much more packed into it. Once connected via Bluetooth, the watch can perform many of the functions of your phone: it can take and make phone calls using a built in mic and surprisingly good speakers (awkward when you’re in public, but SO handy in the privacy of your own home). The phone vibrates and displays who is calling and is a much more convenient and discrete way of checking ho’s calling if you’re already talking to someone. You can read and respond to texts using a small keyboard, or by drawing your words on the screen. It has a good voice to text function and a number of pre-set replies which are contextually provided to you based on the watch’s interpretation of what the text you received says. It’s really quite smart functionality.
Some of the other stand out features: the spotify app is a must have, you can order an Uber from your phone, you can set reminders and alarms, it has a “find my phone” function which sets an alarm off on your phone if you’re looking for it, you can read all your emails and you get notifications for all your social media.
You can store photos and music directly on your watch if you choose, but I don’t bother with the music – the Spotify app precludes the need for this.
Finally, the watch faces are customisable and some of the design features are really subtle and impressive: for example, the watch face will dim automatically after 15 seconds, but if you turn your wrist, it will flick back on for a few seconds, and turn back off when you turn your wrist back the other way. The standard watch face for the frontier even changes as you turn your wrist, as if the sun is shining on the watch face and the “glare” adjusts accordingly.
There is a drawback that even a Samsung fanboy like myself gets frustrated by. And that is the dreaded Samsung AI assistant: S Voice.
While the function for voice to text messages is fine, asking S voice to do PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING ELSE is a complete waste of time.
“Hey gear, open spotify”
“Sorry, I couldn’t find that app, please instal on your phone and try again”
“Hey gear, call Sarah”
“Sorry, I couldn’t find Sarah in your contacts” (There’s like five Sarahs in my phone by the way)
“Hey gear, navigate to xyz location.”
Why did I even bother?
Unfortunately for any Samsung fans, S voice is still a very pale shadow of Apple’s Siri and makes me wonder why they even bothered if it’s so hopeless.
However, S voice aside, this watch is a stunner. I can wear my watch day and night for four days without charging it, it has absolutely seamless integration with Samsung phones and the design is cunning, beautiful and wickedly intuitive.
Without a doubt, this is the best android watch on the market and if you’ve been waiting to see whether smart watches have any staying power, then I can let you know your wait is over – this is the watch for you.
- Beautiful design
- Seamless integration
- So much packed into it!
- S Voice – foiled again!
- The in built game “Monster Vampire” is cringe worthy.