Samsung’s got a new Gear smartwatch, and it’s pretty…pretty big.
Does it look like a big, bold luxury sports watch you’d see in a jewelry store on vacation? That’s the idea. Samsung Gear S3 is the follow-up to the really good Gear S2 released last year, but it’s a more maximized, more stylized type of watch. It’s also something that not everyone is going to want to wear, which even Samsung seems to admit.
Building on the Gear S2’s clever rotating bezel-based design, which uses the bezel spin to change watch faces and choose apps, the Gear S3 has a solid steel case and standard 22mm watch straps. Now, it looks practically like an everyday watch. A beautiful everyday watch, I should add. The design and feel of the entire watch feels top-notch, and outdoes any Android Wear watch I’ve ever seen. Its traditional design, created by Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa, looks ultra-sharp. The watch faces I got to see look great, and a larger color-gamut always-on screen mean they look good all the time.
The Gear S3 still runs its own Tizen-based OS, but will work with Android phones. There’s still no word on iOS compatibility.
But the size, it is a little big. Even for my wrist. It’s now a 46mm watch, not a 42mm one. That may not sound like a big difference, but it is. It’s mostly due to the case and bezel. The original Gear S2 was one of the more compact round smartwatches around, and now it’s one of the biggest. It’s considerably larger than the 42mm Apple Watch, and lot larger than the 38mm one.
Why so big? Battery. A 380mAh battery now lasts up to 4 days, according to Samsung, or a 30% uptick. All models have GPS now, too, for tracking runs away from a phone.
In fact, the Gear S3 is packed with new features. Here’s what’s new:
- 380 mAh battery (extra day of battery)
- Onboard GPS
- Speaker/microphone for making calls
- Samsung Pay (NFC and MST)
- Slightly bigger 1.3-inch Super AMOLED 360×360 display, w/ more colors in always-on watch mode
- Gorila Glass 3 SR+ glass, added scratch resistance
- 22mm standard watch strap compatibility
- 1.0 GHz dual-core Exynos 7270 processor
- 4GB storage (same as S2)
- Stainless steel casing
- Barometer and altimeter, plus optical heart rate
- IP68 water resistance, “military-grade” water, dust, heat/cold resistance
- Optional LTE version for higher-speed data and improved call quality
- Spotify app allows streaming via Wi-Fi/LTE
- Two models: Classic, and Frontier (Frontier has optional LTE version)
- Weighs about 62g
There are two models: the Classic is meant to suggest wedding/executive style, while Frontier is aimed at more rugged/sport lifestyle. From a distance, they look pretty similar. More similar, at least, than the Classic and regular S2 looked last year. The build quality looks fantastic. But the price, and release date, are still unknown.
Samsung Pay is onboard this watch, and so is MST payment technology, which works via a magnetic ping at credit card terminals that even lack tap-to-pay functions. All the S3 models now have speakerphones, too — last year’s S2 ditched the feature except on the 3G-connected version.
If you want a standalone watch, there’s an LTE-equipped version of the S3 Frontier. The faster data network could mean better quality and data-loading, and it also means Spotify can stream over LTE from the watch (it can stream via Wi-Fi on the non-LTE models, too). Spotify can’t save playlists to the S3 yet, but after talking with Samsung it seems like the company’s looking into it. It seems like the LTE version of the S3 is not that much larger, unlike the significantly thicker Samsung Gear S2 3G.
If you’re curious at all about how Samsung considers its wearables, know that the S3, S2 and even the Gear Fit 2, which is sort of like a smartwatch, are all on sale together. Pick your style, pick your size. The S3 isn’t so much a successor to the S2 as an addition to the lineup, a feature boost. The Gear S3 will have the same automatic activity tracking features of the Fit 2, adding to an already solid feature set.
The S2 will get updates to its software, too, and it runs the same apps as the S3: according to Samsung, there will be 10,000 by the time the S3 launches later this year. New notable apps include one for Nest thermostats, an ADT personal security app with SOS, an updated Uber app with Uberpool, and a BMWapp (it’s unclear what the BMW one does).
Well, maybe the Gear S3 is a sequel, but it’s a modest one. And to me, it’s all about the battery, the size, the speakerphone, and the style.
And whether you could pull it off on your wrist, or would even want to. The women at CNET who got to see the S3 models — found it ridiculously huge. I could see myself wearing one. But this time around, Samsung’s impressive watch may be targeting a more specific audience.