Wearables

Smartwatch that needs no smartphone pairing

The Samsung Gear S3 frontier (LTE) smartwatch has built-in GPS, so it can track your runs accurately. It also supports Samsung Pay.
The Samsung Gear S3 frontier (LTE) smartwatch has built-in GPS, so it can track your runs accurately. It also supports Samsung Pay.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

With an eSIM permanently in the device, it is constantly connected to the Internet

Samsung has released an LTE version of its Gear S3 frontier smartwatch. This LTE variant uses embedded SIM or eSIM, instead of a normal nano SIM card.

An eSIM is permanently fitted in the device, so it will be constantly connected to the Internet.

This smartwatch can take or make calls, receive e-mails and social-media updates on its own, without the need to be paired with a smartphone. But that also means you need to pay extra charges per month for the data line as well as for the costs of the eSIM (prices vary according to the telco).

To set up the LTE frontier, you will still have to pair it with a smartphone first. This is done by downloading the Samsung Gear app (Android or iOS) on your phone and following on-screen instructions.

Once the set-up process is done, you can opt to use the smartwatch independently of your smartphone, or with it paired to your smartphone. For this review, I chose the former option.

This smartwatch can take or make calls, receive e-mails and social-media updates on its own. But that also means you will need to pay extra charges per month for the data line as well as for the costs of the eSIM.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $598

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, LTE (eSIM)

    COMPATIBILITY: Android smartphones running on Android 4.4 or above/ iPhone 5 or above running on iOS 9.0 or above

    WEIGHT: 63g (without watch band)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Apart from the LTE addition, the smartwatch is the same S3 frontier, with the exact same design that features a circular stainless-steel 46mm case.

Finished in matte black with a rugged design and black silicone watch band, the smartwatch looks great for any occasion. Two buttons on the right - located at the two and four o'clock positions - serve as the back and home button respectively.

Its rotating bezel lets you navigate 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 make and answer calls.

However, having a conversation during calls when you are outdoors is hard, unless you use Bluetooth headphones. Even at maximum volume, I could hardly hear my caller unless I was holding the smartwatch close to my ears. I also sounded muffled to my caller, even though I was holding the smartwatch close to my mouth.

Conversations worked best when I was in a quiet room, when both sides could hear each other pretty well. But such ideal conditions will be hard to come by for most people.

Sending SMS messages using the smartwatch is also a chore. Its 1.3-inch display allows only T9 input in UK English, which I haven't used since my Motorola Razr days. I tried using the dictation feature, but found the S Voice to be quite slow in picking up what I said.

In addition, battery life suffers when the smartwatch is connected to LTE directly instead of being linked to a smartphone via Bluetooth. When paired with a smartphone, the LTE frontier can last three days. Using the LTE connection alone, the smartwatch lasted at most two days.

On the bright side, the LTE frontier is all you need if you go for runs. As it has built-in GPS, it can track your runs accurately. No need to take along your smartphone.

It also supports Samsung Pay, so you can pay for that post-run drink by tapping the smartwatch on the payment reader. No more having to take along spare change.

Moreover, you can call for help using the smartwatch in the event of an emergency, or call your spouse on what to "tarpau" for dinner after your run.

• Verdict: If you want your smartwatch to be liberated from your smartphone, the Samsung Gear S3 frontier (LTE) is now your best bet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Smartwatch that needs no smartphone pairing'. Print Edition | Subscribe