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Samsung Gear S3 review: Big on battery, iPhone compatible and looks more like a watch

The Samsung Gear S3, priced at Rs 28,500, probably has the best battery among all other smatwatches including Apple’s latest Watch Series 2.

tech Updated: Feb 01, 2017 10:59 IST
Anirban Ghoshal
The Samsung Gear S3, priced at Rs 28,500, probably has the best battery among all other smatwatches including Apple’s latest Watch Series 2.
The Samsung Gear S3, priced at Rs 28,500, probably has the best battery among all other smatwatches including Apple’s latest Watch Series 2.

Wearables as a category is yet to pick up, especially smartwatches, and the reason seems to be utility of these devices. In simple words, people are not finding enough use cases of the smartwatches to spend as much as Rs 25,000 (a decent smartwatch from any company) on them even if they look gorgeous and one can change watchfaces anytime. In fact, users can make their own watchfaces as well.

Then there is another issue. What? Let me answer this with another question. How many times do you charge your regular watch? Battery or usage time has been a key problem with these fancy gadgets and some even have earned the moniker -- another thing to charge.

But Samsung with its Gear S3 seems to have understood the issue as these gizmos are meant to make our lives easier rather than bind us in an extra pair of charging cable and adapter. The Gear S3 is bigger and better, especially on battery, than the Gear S2. Compared to the S2, the S3 lasts at least 60% longer with at least 4 days of usage on a single charge. Thanks to it its 380 mAh battery.

When I unboxed the Gear S3 (priced at Rs 28,500), I saw that I had the Classic variant with the black leather strap for review. However, what immediately struck me was how much bigger the watch was from the S2 and how much more it looked like a watch. Wondering why did Samsung choose to go with a clunky dial? Simple, firstly they wanted a bigger battery for better performance and secondly the company claims that the smaller dials didn’t work for them.

Seeing the initial change in size, I wondered if the rotating bezel feature was removed but to my amusement the company had kept the feature intact. One might argue that Apple’s crown might be easier to use but I honestly don’t see the point. If you have a rotating bezel (which is bigger and easier to grip), that can take you through menus quickly, which are also circular in nature, should be more convenient for any user.

After having checked the rotating bezel (by now I had the watch configured), I turned my eye to the design. Except for the size, there are little changes. The Gear S3 comes with two buttons on the right. The lower one toggles between the app menu, home screen and the setting menu. The top button activates the watchface if the S3 goes on sleep mode. The heart-rate sensor is at the bottom of the watch just like its predecessor.

Interestingly, the watch straps are interchangeable as the lugs on the smartwatch are of the size of a normal watch. Gear S3 straps have a small level which if engaged, the straps come free and a new one can be replaced. If a user wants a normal strap, then he has to head to a watch shop but at least you have the option here unlike most smartwatches.

The display on the watch is a thing of beauty. The S3 comes with a bigger 1.3-inch, 360 x 360 AMOLED touchscreen display, so there’s more screen estate for that Tizen OS to shine.

It’s bright and vibrant and colours are rich, making it undoubtedly one of the best smartwatch screens out there. While some smartwatches can struggle to retain the same kind of sharpness of images, I was happy with the way photos pulled through from our phone looked on the smaller Gear S3 screen. There are no problems when viewing the screen at night. To add to the Gear S3’s ruggedness, Samsung has also used Corning’s new Gorilla Glass SR+ display tech that provides improved scratch and damage resistance as well as reduced surface reflection.

But what makes the Gear S3 simply the best is the fact that it can connect to Android or iOS (iPhones) even if itself runs on Tizen. While Apple Watches don’t connect to Android, other Android watches have very basic functionality on iPhones. This makes the Gear S3 the most agile smartwatch in the market.

The Tizen OS also has a lot of additions. I could not only make calls from the Gear S3 but also scribble out hand-written messages as replies to texts. There’s a built-in speaker, which is hidden away on the side of the watch. Once I successfully paired the S3 with a Samsung or Android phone over Bluetooth, it pulled through my contacts letting me make calls from the wrist.

That addition of a speaker also helped me create voice memos and leave voice messages. This is done using Samsung’s S Voice software. I could also choose from some default responses to choose from (which you can customise) to make the job of responding quicker, and there are emojis as well.

Bluetooth is the only mean to pair the Gear S3 with ar smartphone via the Gear Manager app, but it also means that one can pair the smartwatch with Bluetooth headphones. That’s useful when you factor in that there’s 4GB of onboard storage and the ability to transfer music from your phone to your watch. The only downside is that you have to do it all through Samsung’s own Music app. It is, at least, a very straightforward process.

Samsung is working to do its best to help the Gear S3 be a standalone device, including Wi-Fi and an LTE version of the Frontier, which uses an e-Sim card. At the moment, that LTE flavoured model currently only works with certain networks and requires a separate data plan.

What is more surprising is the fact that you can access the Samsung Galaxy App Store, which unlike Android Wear, means you can install apps onto the watch from the phone app or directly from the watch.

As far as using the watch on a daily basis, sport tracking works much the same while first and third party app notifications appear promptly. It’s still really satisfying to rotate the bezel to navigate, even more so than using the digital crown on the Apple Watch.

The Samsung Gear S3 has a IP68 water resistance. That means you can simply wash your smartwatch or take a shower with it.

In terms of health and fitness, the Gear S3 tries to be as good as any other smartwatch. There’s built-in GPS to track activities like running and cycling, plus a host of sensors including a heart rate monitor, barometer and speedometer. Automatic exercise recognition works with multiple activities and rep counting (recently introduced to the Gear Fit2) helps you keep a check on sets of lunges, crunches, squats and burpees.

There’s also fitness tracking features giving you a breakdown of steps, elevation and calorie burn plus it’ll give you a vibrating nudge when you’ve been sitting down too long and not been active. Everything is powered by the steadily improving S Health platform. It also has an automatic heart rate monitor process that simply keeps tracking healthy heart rates.

Verdict: The Gear S3 is one of the better smartwatches available in the market currently that serves an all-round purpose. However, with all the good things, Samsung needs more apps to find more use cases to make the S3 a perfect companion.

Specifications: Super AMOLED 1.3 inches display with 360 x 360 pixels (~278 ppi pixel density); Corning Gorilla Glass SR+; Rotating bezel; Tizen-based wearable platform 2.3.2; Exynos 7270 dual-core processor; 768 MB RAM; 4GB internal memory; Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, barometer; 380 mAh battery, NFC, WiFi, GPS