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Samsung Gear S

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carriers:all major US carriers

What's Hot: Good looking, comfortable curve, does more than Android Wear watches.

What's Not: Battery life, requires a Samsung Android phone.


Reviewed November 14, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Samsung Gear S

We've seen several smartwatches from Samsung; first their Tizen OS Gear models, followed by Android Wear watches and now we're back to Tizen with Samsung's best smartwatch yet, the Gear S. The Samsung Gear S is different from myriad smartwatches on the market that require a companion smartphone nearby to do much more than tell the time: it has a 3G radio inside so it can stay in touch even when your phone is beyond Bluetooth's 30 meter range. In fact, it has WiFi 802.11n too, as another means of connecting to the network and your phone. All major US carriers are offering the Gear S, and in this review we look at the Sprint model. Oh, and happily, the Gear S lacks a camera so you won't be banned from the gym or your high security job.

Samsung Gear S

Since this is a Samsung Tizen watch, it relies on Samsung Gear Manager, an app that's compatible with late model Samsung Android phones and tablets. If you have an iPhone or a Moto X, this isn't the watch for you. If you have a Galaxy S5, Galaxy S5 Sport or GS5 Active, S4, Note 4 or Galaxy Tab S among others, the watch is compatible with your phone. This isn't Android Wear that's brand agnostic and only requires an Android phone running Android 4.3 or newer.

The Gear S has a 2" curved display, and though it's big like all smartwatches, it's comfortable even on my bony wrist. The casing is metal and it looks classy rather than cheesy like early Gear models. The back is a soft, rubbery hypoallergenic affair with a metal clasp. The watch sits like a removable lozenge in the band, and it's easy to take it out of the band yet it won't fall out accidentally. Given the custom band design, you won't be able to swap in traditional watchbands. The Gear S has a single control: a front button that wakes the display (as does the traditional flick your wrist motion). It also acts as the home button and the power button.

That AMOLED display is the nicest we've seen on a watch with great colors, high contrast and decent outdoor visibility despite lots of glare. The 360 x 480 resolution is perfectly sharp too--nice! Like all smartwatches except the Pebble, battery life isn't great--expect to charge it nightly. The watch comes with a tiny clip-on charging base and a wall wart charger. That base has a micro USB 2.0 port and you can also use it to transfer music and photos from your computer to the watch.

It Does a Lot More than Android Wear

Yes, it's Tizen so it's more than a second screen for your phone that passes along reminders, weather info, texts and email messages. Should you transfer music from your computer or from your Samsung phone via Gear Manager and Bluetooth, the watch can act as a tiny standalone music player thanks to a small speaker. Yes, a speaker--something we really miss on Android Wear and it's handy for simple things like setting an audible alarm. The watch can also control music playback on your phone. The photo viewer app looks great thanks to the lovely display and you can even download apps and games that run on the watch. It's a gadget nut's dream, albeit with some limitations and quirks. How do you download games and widgets to the watch? Via Gear Manager on your smartphone. You can also change watch faces and manage media using Gear Manager, should you prefer using your big screen phone rather than the watch's 2" touch screen.

Samsung Gear S

Easy to Use, Sometimes Quirky

The watch has a 1GHz dual core processor with 512 megs of RAM and 4 gigs of storage (the latter two specs are a constant for smartwatches). It's peppy enough to keep lag at bay, though sometimes we caught the watch thinking too hard and it missed a tap or swipe. Samsung uses left and right swipes to access additional app screens and up and down swipes too. To go back, you'll swipe down, and to see the notifications area, you'll swipe from the top bezel downward. A swipe up from the home screen opens the apps drawer. By default the clock is the home screen, though you can change this. You can also switch from a variety of analog to digital faces and there are a few that are exercise-centric. Many of the faces include a notification count (tap on it to see the actual notifications), pedometer info and charge level. Given the watch's mediocre battery life, you will want to keep an eye on the charge level, particularly if you deviate from default settings and set the watch face to always be on or if you override auto-brightness and set it to max.

Deals and Shopping:

Samsung Gear S Video Review


Outsmarting Maxwell Smart

It's a phone too, and if your idea of uber-cool is channeling Dick Tracy in the 21st century or showing up Maxwell Smart's shoe-phone, the Gear S is your watch. Since it has a 2G/3G cellular radio inside, it has its own phone number and can make and receive calls and texts using its own phone number. When connected to your phone via Bluetooth or the Internet using 3G or WiFi, your phone will forward calls and texts to the watch. Thus you don't have to give your acquaintances a new number, they can simply call your phone and it will come through on your watch. You'll have to be OK with talking to your wrist and having those around you hear what your call recipient is saying though.

The AT&T and T-Mobile versions have a nano SIM compartment on the watch's back, while the Sprint and Verizon models don't. Why? Sprint and Verizon only use SIM cards for 4G LTE, and the watch doesn't have 4G. You don't really need 4G since the watch doesn't do heavy lifting in the Internet department: yes you can load the Opera Mini web browser to surf the web, but there's no streaming video and should you wish to use Milk, Samsung's streaming music service, your phone will handle the streaming.

Carriers require that you add the Gear S to your multi-device plan, or switch over from a single line plan. Since the watch uses very little data, even when relying on 3G, you won't need to increase your plan's data allotment. Should you wish to buy the Gear S for full retail minus a plan (if the store allows you to do so), you could use the watch via its Bluetooth connection to your Samsung phone and WiFi. All features should work, though we're not sure about the watch's GPS and the bundled Nokia Here Maps, which in our tests didn't work in standalone mode (3G only, no phone connected).

S Health

Smartwatches double as fitness bands, and the Gear S has a sensor on the back cover that monitors your heart rate. There's no blood oxygen level readout as with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone, but you do get a pedometer and a sports coach that will keep track of running, biking, walking and hiking. There's a Nike app too and we'll likely see more third party health apps. As with previous Samsung smartwatches and their competitors, the heart rate monitor is decent but it sometimes gives wrong readings. If you need consistent precision buy one of the better dedicated fitness bands on the market or a chest strap monitor. Those are still your best bets. There is a UV monitor on the watch face, so you can determine just how good your tan or bad your sunburn will be.


The Samsung Gear S is a definite step forward, but smartwatches and wearables are still in their grade school years. They Gear S is the most attractive Samsung smartwatch yet, and it can even hang with the more traditionally designed Moto 360. But it's still a big and clunky thing, which is fine if you're a guy who already wears quite large watches, but less fantastic for those who wear average sized watches. The 1 day battery life that plagues smartwatches, including the Gear S is another severely limiting factor in a world where many of us already have to charge a phone or two, a tablet and a laptop. But the Gear S is the first smartwatch that can almost stand on its own thanks to 3G, WiFi and the way it uses those to stay in connection with your phone beyond Bluetooth range (yes, you could leave the phone at home for your next run or biking session).

Price: $299 full retail, $199 with 2 year contract


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Samsung Gear S


Samsung Gear S

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Display: 2" AMOLED, 360 x 480.

Battery: 300 mAh Lithium Ion.

CPU, RAM and Storage: 1GHz dual core CPU, 512 megs RAM and 4 gigs storage.

Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3G and WiFi 802.11b/g/n.

In the box: watch, charging cradle and charger.


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