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Gear S3: A Gem On Your Wrist

The bigger size affords the Gear S3 a raft of new sensors — GPS for tracking running or biking distances, a barometer and altimeter for hikers and stair climbers alike, and a heart-rate monitor for tracking all-round activity levels

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Depending on who you ask, the smartwatch segment is either collapsing or already dead. Me? I am slightly more optimistic, and I consider many that are launched as experiments towards our evolving wearable computing future. Samsung’s taken a fair number of stabs at this segment, but its latest Gear S3 may be its best effort yet, one that builds on last year’s popular Gear S2. In the weeks that I have tested it, the Gear S3 made a strong case against the Apple Watch — if you can look past some of its nagging kinks, that is.

It starts with how much the Gear S3 looks like a regular watch, rather than a gadget that sits on your hand. Whether you pick up the rugged, weather-proof, outdoorsy Frontier variant (which I tested), or the Classic with its traditional watch crowns and leather straps, the details and craftsmanship that go into making a traditional timepiece are rather evident. The Frontier, in particular, has got a heft that I like in my watches, but it can get unwieldy for some with smaller wrists, so it is best you try one on for size.

The bigger size affords the Gear S3 a raft of new sensors — GPS for tracking running or biking distances, a barometer and altimeter for hikers and stair climbers alike, and a heart-rate monitor for tracking all-round activity levels. There is a big, vibrant 1.3-inch circular AMOLED screen, which aids the ‘traditional timepiece’ look with a great collection of watch faces. Most crucially, the Gear S3 benefits from a bigger battery that goes four days between charges and, if you are willing to take a hit of a day’s worth of battery life, I would strongly recommend the always-on screen mode that displays a low-power version of the current watch face, even when the watch is not in use. There is even a mic/ speaker for calls and music, but it is best to pair this with Bluetooth headphones or you are going to look rather silly talking to your wrist in public.

Yet, the Gear S3’s biggest differentiator is how you operate it via the rotating dial on the watch bezel. As you twist the dial back and forth to navigate between menus, app lists and options, you realise just how intuitive and tactile this is, as compared to a small touchscreen. Bonus: your fingers don’t obstruct the screen when you are using the watch. In use, the Gear S3 is snappy and responsive, and feels even more fluid and well thought-through when you are responding to notifications and using the watch on a day-to-day basis than any other smartwatch, Apple Watch included. Pity then, that the Tizen OS, which powers the Gear S3 is lacking in many must-have apps, such as native apps for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram — Tizen just doesn’t enjoy the wide developer acceptance that Android Wear and watchOS do. You can also pair the Gear S3 with an iPhone and do get basic notification capabilities, but as is often the case when using anything not made by Apple with an iPhone, the Gear S3 has to make far too many concessions to be useful.

The Gear S3 is evidence of how far smartwatches have come — it sets a new bar for features, longevity and design and earns a solid recommendation for Android users — but it continues to remind us of how much is still to be done to make the segment compelling to most.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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