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Samsung Gear Sport: The best Android fitness smartwatch on the market right now

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 21 December 2017, 19:02 IST
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Samsung recently expanded its wearable options with a pair of fitness-driven devices. It launched the Gear Fit 2 Pro (Rs 13,590) and the Gear Sport (Rs 22,990). These fit in below the top-of-the-line Gear S3 (Rs 28,500) which released earlier in the year. They're all powered by Samsung's in-house Tizen OS and differ in sizes and features.

The Samsung Gear Sport is the one in question for now. I've had the pleasure of using it for about two weeks now and I can tell you that it is an absolute beast of a smartwatch for fitness freaks desiring for a little bit more and all of this in a small, compact package.

Worldwide, wearables are getting more and more popular, day after day. Smart wearables have outpaced fitness bands this year. Smartwatches were pitched to consumers as a device that would let you keep your mobile phone in the pocket for a little bit longer. It's been many years since and that hasn't been the case. In today's world, smartwatches are powerhouses at fitness tracking, can show phone notifications, but not much else.

It's like an entrée and not the main course. Samsung's Gear Sport tries to nudge itself towards the main course but a few key missing ingredients hamper that progress. Unlike its bigger brother, Gear S3, the Gear Sport stands in a crowded market. It's smaller, cheaper, has a more comfortable fit, all in a compact package. Does the Gear Sport stand out in a market that has the Fossil Q Wander (Rs 11,997.00) Titan Juxt Pro (Rs 22,995), Moto 360 Sport (Rs 16,999) and Fitbit Blaze (Rs 20,000)?

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What's in the package?

The Gear Sport sports a design similar to the Gear S3. It's narrower, shorter, thinner and just more compact. It's interchangeable with any 20 mm straps (compared to Gear S3's 22 mm straps). There are two straps out-of-the-box, a small and large one. It's made out of stainless steel, has a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display (360x360 resolution) and is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

There is a dual-core chipset, 768MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, built-in GPS, WiFi connection, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor and NFC connectivity.

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Feel and look

The strap that comes with the smartwatch is extremely comfortable. It's fit is closer to the skin than the Gear S3, but it doesn't cause any skin irritation, even after two weeks of daily wear. Sweat, you say? No problem says the Gear Sport.

Upon opening the package, you'll immediately notice the rotating bezel, that has been the catalyst of success for Samsung. The display and colours are vibrant (a nod to Samsung's amazing OLED panels) while the text is razor sharp, even in harsh sunlight.

The rotating bezel is very easy to use. Rotate to the left and you get all your notifications. Rotate to the right and all your widgets appear. Furthermore, there are 'back' and 'home' buttons that are on the right side and very easily accessible. The bottom, made from plastic, includes a heart rate sensor.

The Gear Sport doesn't have anything flashy like Samsung's flagship smartphones. The design is subtle. It doesn't need to do anything extra to prove to the consumer that it is a good smartwatch.

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Is the smartwatch good?

The Gear Sport has GPS, heart rate monitoring and automatically detects when you're out and about on a long walk. Plus, it tracks other fitness-related activities like running and cycling. It also does track sleeping, but then again, that isn't very accurate.

Rotate the bezel and all your fitness-related numbers will pop out. From steps walked to floors climbed and even a fairly accurate heart rate, this smartwatch has all bases covered. It is paired with Samsung's S Health app, which in itself is very well designed to track almost anything.

Unlike the previous editions of Samsung's watches, the Gear Sport is waterproof up to 50 metres, meaning you can wear it while you swim, or while you jump into the water after an afternoon of kayaking. I forgot to take off the smartwatch while showering, more than once, and the Gear Sport didn't even sweat.

Battery life gives you two days with zero problems. It easily lasts two days, without a sweat, and only before going to sleep on the second day did I have to hook it up to the wireless charger. Wireless charging still remains the favourite way of charging smartwatches.

Okay, let me just get to the point. This is an all-around fitness smartwatch. It screams fitness at every turn of the bezel. It's an overload of data, simplified for the end consumer. It makes fitness fun. It can even sync all your fitness data with other fitness tracking apps you may have used in the past.

It works best with a Samsung device but will work with any Android or iPhone device almost as seamlessly.

Beyond fitness though, the Gear Sport has some advantages. It's that rotating bezel and the easy of Tizen OS that makes this a pleasurable daily use smartwatch. The app ecosystem pales in comparison with Google's and Apple's offerings but there is one trick up Gear Sports' sleeve. That is offline Spotify. You can use Spotify without the need for your smartphone.

NOTE: Charge up your device, offline Spotify eats up that long-lasting battery in no time.

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What's not to like

I'll give it to you straight up:

  • S Voice: It isn't even half as good as other assistants such as Google Assistant and Apple's Siri.
  • No speaker: This means you can't use the smartwatch for making calls (the Gear S3 has a built-in speaker)
  • Third-party apps: I noticed less availability of third-party apps than I did a couple of months ago.
  • Price: At Rs 22,990, this is on the more expensive side, and with the scarcity of buyers in the market (at this point in time), that is a hindrance.
  • Wrist-on gesture to wake: This was a complete hit or miss. More miss than hit. It's definitely not for everyone.
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Final thoughts

It is mighty pricey, but if you don't need a speaker in your smartwatch, the Gear Sport is the Gear S3 and so much more. If you're really in the market for a smartwatch, this is the smartwatch to buy. For me, smartwatches don't make a compelling buy over fitness bands (more on this in an article at a later date) but for some, it's more about the flashiness than anything else.

The Gear S3 is a compact wearable that gets the sports side bang on. It just lacks the smarts to be taken seriously as a smartwatch. Once the price is below Rs 20,000 (you know there will be discounts in the near term), this will become the smartwatch of all smartwatches in the Indian market. It will up your fitness game and you'll be able to walk, run or cycle for longer distances, no problem.

The rotating bezel is just something you can't overlook once you've tried on any of Samsung's smartwatches.

To sum it up: Samsung's Gear Sport isn't without its share of flaws. It's pricey and lacks the brains to be smart but if fitness in an elegant package is your thing, the Gear Sport should be top of your list.

First published: 21 December 2017, 17:41 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.