Samsung Gear Sport: Geared for activity
When it comes to design and fitness tracking, the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch works well. But third-party apps remain a problem
The Gear Sport is the latest addition to Samsung’s smartwatch line-up. The family resemblance with the 2017 editions of the Gear S3 Classic and the Gear S3 Frontier is unmistakable. The Gear Sport though is focused on, as the name suggests, sports and activity tracking. Which is perhaps why it is slightly less thick than the Gear S3 Frontier. The rubber strap is able to withstand rough use, though the patterned grooves do tend to catch some fine dust over time. The Gear Sport is water-resistant up to a depth of 50m.
Its minimalistic design in glass and metal comes with a round dial, though the frame itself isn’t perfectly rounded. The blue colour variant looks more interesting than black, but that is a subjective preference. The dial has a turning mechanism too, which comes in handy when you rotate it to navigate apps and other on-screen options. Nevertheless, the Gear Sport should not look out of place whether you are wearing a formal suit or gym-wear.
The Gear Sport has a 1.2-inch AMOLED display with a 360x360 resolution. The deep black colours and the overall vibrancy of this screen makes this a fantastic smartwatch interface. It is very bright in sunlight, and reflections don’t really get in your way. The auto-brightness setting works well, and while there is an always-on option too, it will use up a lot of battery.
At a time when Google’s Android Wear platform for smartwatches is stuttering and stumbling in its evolution, Samsung is reaping the rewards of persisting with its own Tizen wearable OS for its smartwatches over the years. It has improved over time, and remains quite intuitive to use on a daily basis. It is easy to pair this with a Samsung phone (the Gear app detected the Gear Sport nearby and prompted it to pair), and this also works seamlessly with your current smartphone too, once you download the Samsung Gear app (free for Android and iOS). Some of the visual effects on the watch faces are quite nice too, and you can customize the information overlays within the watch faces, to a certain extent.
Fitness tracking is an important part of the Gear Sport experience. The watch itself is well positioned with a bunch of built-in sensors—heart rate monitor, altimeter, barometer and GPS for location tracking. The presence of a heart rate monitor puts this on a par with the Apple Watch Series 3 (around Rs29,990) and also the forthcoming Fitbit Ionic smartwatch, and you also get an idea of how your heart responds to varying exercise intensity. The Gear Sport does have automatic activity detection, but you can also manually select pre-sets such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. With the heart rate metrics available via the sensor built into the watch, the tracking data for your exercise routines is more accurate than that of watches without it.
Apps still remain the Gear wearables’ weak point. The Gear App Store is still filled with poor-quality apps, and you really must stick with the default health-tracking app. If you are expecting Apple Watch-esque quality of apps for things like smarthome control, weather, etc., you’ll be disappointed.
Battery life depends a lot on how often you use GPS to map your activity—it lasts a bit more than one day with heavy usage and just about two days with occasional mapping. We quite like the charging dock design, which when kept on the bedside table, let’s you easily glance at the time on the watch screen without having to lift it up.
With Google going slow on the development of Android Wear watches, the smartwatch ecosystem leaves one with two alternatives—the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear watches. Which means if the Apple Watch is not for you, you are genuinely left only with the option of the Samsung Gear Sport. It looks sophisticated, fitness tracking works well and the Tizen software isn’t complicated to use. However, there is a glaring lack of good third-party apps that you can download on the watch, which is a drawback
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