Wearables

Samsung Gear S3 has the best looks

The Samsung Gear S3 classic and frontier (above) models have fantastic build quality.
The Samsung Gear S3 classic and frontier (above) models have fantastic build quality.
The Samsung Gear S3 classic (above) and frontier models have fantastic build quality.
The Samsung Gear S3 classic (above) and frontier models have fantastic build quality.

Sitting for too long? S3 prompts you to stand up and walk, apart from tracking your runs

If I am to pick the best-looking smartwatch available right now, it would be the recently launched Samsung Gear S3.

The successor to last year's Gear S2, this watch comes in two models - frontier and classic. Both have fantastic build quality.

The frontier is finished in black and has a more rugged design, with a black silicone watch band. The classic is in silver, looks more formal and has a black leather watch band. Both sport the same circular stainless steel 46mm case that will appeal to traditional watch lovers.

I found the S2's 42mm case too small. So I was delighted with the S3's bigger 46mm case. It sits pretty on my wrist and feels totally comfortable. I tried both the frontier and classic models. I prefer the former, as I think it is more versatile, with the black case fully capable of drawing glances at formal dinners or outdoor hikes.

Both models have the same price, display and specifications that include built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, altimeter and barometer.

Both models use standard 22mm watch bands, so you can easily buy third-party watch bands off the shelf to use with them.

The circular touchscreen display is slightly larger at 1.3 inches (360 x 360 pixels), compared with S2's 1.2-inch display.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $548

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    COMPATIBILITY: Android smartphones running on Android 4.4

    WEIGHT: 63g (frontier, without watch band), 59g (classic, without watch band)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

There are two buttons on the smartwatch's right - located at the two o'clock and four o'clock positions - which serve as the back and home button respectively.

Like its predecessor, the S3 has a unique rotating bezel for navigating the smartwatch's interface. You can easily scroll through Samsung's Tizen operating system by turning the bezel. This way, the display is not blocked by your fingers.

The unique circular user interface puts apps in a circular arrangement, so you can go to the app you want quickly. You can also rotate the bezel to scroll up or down to read e-mails or messages, as well as answer calls. Yes, you can now do a "Dick Tracy" and answer calls from the S3.

But the S3 favours a Samsung Galaxy smartphone over other Android smartphones. Some functionalities, such as messaging, are limited when you use it with other Android smartphones, even though you are using the same Samsung Gear app. There is also no iOS support.

One of my quibbles about Tizen OS last year was the lack of third-party apps. But according to Samsung, there are now over 11,000 watch faces and apps, such as ESPN and Uber, for the Tizen OS.

The default watch faces that come with the S3, like the Chronograph, totally go with the look of the watch. You can also buy cool third-party watch faces like the Star Trek-inspired LCARS interface watch face.

The S3 can automatically detect your runs or walks. It will also prompt you to stand up and walk if you have been sitting for too long.

Distance tracked during runs are not too far off - by around 5 per cent more - from readings of my Apple Watch Nike+. But I did find the heart rate readings to be much higher - by 10 beats per minute - at times.

Both smartwatches also support the Samsung Pay mobile payment service. You need to add your credit-card details using Samsung Gear app and also add a passcode to the S3 for security reasons.

Press the back button to activate Samsung Pay, select the card, press Pay on the watch's display and tap the watch on the payment reader. I paid for my groceries at Giant supermarket this way. Easy.

On the downside, the S3 is only IP68-certified, which means it can be submerged in water down to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes.

Compared with the 50m water resistance of Apple Watch Series 2 that can track swims as well, the Gear S3 clearly loses out in this department. However, battery life is better than that of most smartwatches - at around three full days.

•Verdict: If you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, the Samsung Gear S3 is definitely the smartwatch to buy with its great looks and functionalities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Samsung Gear S3 has the best looks'. Print Edition | Subscribe