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Samsung Gear 2

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating star
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What's Hot: Packed with features, works with standard watch bands.

What's Not: Many features require one of 17 Samsung Galaxy phones or tablets. OK but not great looks. No innovative feature that makes you feel you must own one.


Reviewed May 19, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Samsung's second generation Gear watch drops the "Galaxy" name, along with Android, but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference in OS when using the watch. The Samsung Gear 2 is Samsung's highest end offering for early 2014 with the Gear Neo being the $100 less expensive alternative with a plastic body and no camera and the Gear Fit being mainly a fitness watch. The Gear 2 addresses many of the complaints we had about the first generation Gear, but we're still not convinced this is something most folks need, especially at $299.

Samsung Gear 2

Like many smartwatches, the Gear 2 is a bulky, manly sort of watch with a 1.63" Super AMOLED display that's clear, colorful and viewable outdoors. Gals with small bones will look geeky wearing it, but these days geek may be chic. Unlike the original Galaxy Gear that had a permanent wristband with a camera mounted on it, the Gear 2 has interchangeable wristbands and the camera is now on the watch's body. If you find a watchband that's the right size (and there are plenty), then you can customize the gear to your tastes. Samsung sent us a Fossil brown leather faux croc band that toned down the techno look considerably. The Gear 2 is available in 3 colors: silver-gray watch with a black band or orange band and a copper watch body with a brown band.

The Gear 2 is IP 67 certified water and dust resistant, so you can wash dishes or garden while wearing it. It's not designed for swimming, but it will survive a shower. The hypoallergenic band is surprisingly comfortable and pliable for a rubbery-plastic band and it has a wide range of adjustment to fit wrists from small (but not tiny) to very large. The watch body is metal and though I wouldn't call it attractive, it looks like a quality piece. In contrast, the all-plastic Gear 2 Neo looks cheap for a $199 watch. It does however have all the features of the Gear 2 except the camera, which in turn makes it more acceptable for secure businesses and gyms where cameras are banned.

Samsung Gear 2

Interacting with the watch is simple; after all how complex can you get with a small wearable? There's a power/wake button on the front face and every interaction is accomplished with swipes or taps on the touch-sensitive face. It's pretty easy to learn, though you'll do plenty of swiping and tapping if you install several apps. The watch has a surprisingly loud speaker and a mic: yes you can use it for voice calls and look like Maxwell Smart, and you can use the built-in music player, though we recommend using a set of Bluetooth headphones for either task. The Gear 2 can play music through headphones and a Bluetooth headset would make the most sense paired to your phone rather than the Gear 2. The watch has only a Bluetooth radio, it does originate and receive calls, and rather it acts something like a Bluetooth speakerphone and relays your phone's calls.

Only for Select Samsung Galaxy Phone and Tablets

Samsung's Gear watches work only with select Samsung Android smartphones, including the Galaxy S3, S4 and S5 (including variants like the S4 Active). It also works with the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 2 if your Note has received the Android KitKat OS update. In addition, it works with a few tablets like the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and the new Galaxy Tab and Note Pro tablets. The watch's utility with a tablet is dubious, and the watch makes more sense when paired with a phone. Why? Because the Gear 2 needs to stay in constant contact with your phone in order to be more than a timepiece, pedometer/heart rate monitor, TV Remote, music player and a 2MP camera. It pulls notifications, phone calls, news stories and even apps from your phone. We tend to keep our phones close, but our tablets not so much. Since the phone and watch talk over Bluetooth, they'll need to be within 30 feet of each other, or a bit less depending on 2.4GHz airwave pollution. When I wore it in the backyard to garden, I left the phone safely inside on the windowsill, and the watch vibrated every few minutes to let me know when it had lost or regained connection with my Samsung Galaxy S5 (I was 25 feet from that windowsill). This was sufficiently annoying that I vowed to not leave the phone in the house again.

Deals and Shopping:

Samsung Gear 2 Video Review


How to Get Apps and Notifications on the Watch

You'll use your Samsung phone and Gear Manager app to peruse and install apps on the watch and also to update the watch using Samsung's Gear utility. As with other platforms, some apps are free and others cost money, and they're brokered through Samsung's app store. Since Samsung changed from Android to their Tizen OS, app selection is currently fairly limited. There are quite a few alternate watch faces, a few news apps like CNN and Feedly RSS reader, eBay and a few games.

Samsung Gear 2

Samsung includes an IR blaster remote (next to the camera) and their WatchOn TV remote control. It can also control your set-top box and air conditioner. The range of controllable device types and IR range aren't as impressive as Samsung phones with this feature, but I'm sure some folks will have a ball surreptitiously changing channels at the bar. WatchOn works independently of the phone, so you'll set up the watch to control your AV gear via the watch app and you need not have the phone nearby to use it.


Likewise the 2MP camera works independent of the phone or tablet, but when in range the watch will transfer photos and videos it's taken to the phone using Bluetooth. Photo and video quality are about what you'd expect from a 2MP camera. The watch has a voice recorder that's very useful (again, it can transfer recordings to the phone but the phone isn't required to use this feature). Dick Tracy types and spy wannabes will no doubt love the clandestine audio recording and camera features. That said, you'll likely not be subtle waving your wrist with big watch around to frame a shot.

When the original Gear shipped, it offered limited notifications. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo change all that and you can pretty much get all notifications that your phone generates. You have control over notifications and can set the watch to not notify you if you're using the phone at the moment (it would be redundant). Besides core notifications like alarms, reminders, text messages and emails, you can turn notifications on and off for any app installed on your phone. For example, I turned on Gmail and Hay Day (game) notifications and they worked just fine. With Gmail if you tap on the subject line you can read the message, though inline images won't appear. If the notification requires an action, the Gear 2 offers to open the appropriate app on your phone.

Battery Life

Once again, we see improvement here over last year's Galaxy Gear with better battery life despite a slightly lower battery capacity. Samsung claims 2-3 days of use on a charge with moderate use and longer if you don't use the watch much. In our tests with moderate to heavy use, it did in fact routinely last 2 days on a charge. While that's twice as long as the first gen model, I suspect we'll need even stronger battery life for mass-market success. After all, we already have to charge our phones, tablets and laptops almost daily, who wants to add yet another needy gadget to the queue?

The included small wall wart charger terminates in a micro USB connector that plugs into the small plastic charging cradle. You can plug a smartphone USB to micro USB cable into the cradle if you wish to transfer music from your computer to the Gear 2.

So What's it Good For?

The notifications, call handling and canned responses to text messages and calls are likely the most compelling feature to business folks and those on the go who can't pull out their phone when running to catch a plane or win a triathlon. The tip calculator is handy; the pass through S Voice command (actually handled by your phone with the audio routed from the Gear 2 to your phone) is of limited use because I think most of us would feel self-conscious talking to a watch. I personally would rather use my Galaxy S5's very capable camera rather than the watch's 2MP shooter. As you've gathered by now, I haven't seen a really compelling reason to get a smartwatch yet, and this has little to do with Samsung and everything to do with no one having thought of a must-have feature that makes life better, easier or more fun. It still feels like technology for technology's sake.

There's a lot of talk about wearables and Samsung is already leading the market in smartwatch sales with 1 million in 2013 and 500,000 as of this writing in 2014. Samsung has a lot of brand cache and they make solid products, but I'm not sold on smartwatches yet, especially those that are expensive and only work with 17 Samsung phones/tablets.


Price: $299


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Samsung Gear 2


Samsung Gear 2

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Display : 1.63". Super AMOLED touch screen.

OS: Tizen.

CPU: 1 GHz dual core CPU. 4 gigs storage.

Camera: 2MP autofocus camera that can shoot photos and video.

Durability: metal watch body, IP 67 certified for dust and water resistance.

Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 LE for communication with phone/tablet and for headphones.

Sensors: gyroscope, accelerometer and heart rate sensor.


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