Wearables: Gear S2 has great interface but fails to tick all the boxes

The Samsung Gear S2 classic has a sensor that measures your heart rate five times a day to gauge your well-being.
The Samsung Gear S2 classic has a sensor that measures your heart rate five times a day to gauge your well-being.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Intuitive rotating bezel needs Tizen OS to work, and this is a stumble

You cannot fault Samsung for not trying when it comes to the smartwatch.

It has probably released more smartwatches than any other tech firm. There was the original Gear, followed by Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Live, Gear Fit, Gear S and the latest Gear S2.

The Gear S2 ($448) comes in two models, finished in dark grey and silver. Both have a silicone band. There is also the "classic" variant ($548) that I reviewed. It is available in a glossy black case with a black leather band.

 

The watches sport the same circular stainless steel case that will appeal to traditional watch lovers.

The 1.2-inch (360 x 360 pixels) circular touchscreen display does not have a black space at the bottom of the screen - known as a "flat tyre" design - like the Alcatel OneTouch Watch and Motorola Moto 360.

  • TECH SPECS

  • Price: $548

    Connectivity: Bluetooth

    Compatibility: Android smartphones running on Android 4.4

    Weight: 55g (with leather band)

    RATING


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The biggest highlight of Gear S2 is the rotating ceramic bezel for navigating the smartwatch's interface. The bezel has grooves which make it easier to rotate.

By turning the bezel, you can easily scroll through the revamped Samsung's Tizen operating system (OS). The new 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 an e-mail or message.

The best part about this rotating action is that the display will not be blocked by your fingers, whether you are wearing the watch on the right or left wrist.

Two buttons on the smartwatch's right, located at the 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock positions, serve as back and home buttons. They make it easy for you to go back to the previous menu or the watch face. Going around in circles never felt so intuitive.

But the Gear S2's greatest strength is also its biggest flaw. This is because the circular interface needs Tizen to work. But Tizen is nowhere near as rich or elegant as the Android Wear OS and Apple's watchOS.

For example, Tizen uses Here Maps, which is inferior in terms of direction and location information compared to Google Maps and Apple Maps.

The S Voice feature is also frustrating to use. I could not get it to set a reminder faster than by just typing on my phone. In comparison, Apple's Siri and Google Now picked up my commands quicker and with fewer mistakes.

There are also not many apps written for the Tizen platform. The watch comes with ESPN, CNN and Nike+ apps, and I could find some really nice watch faces for the Gear S2 classic.

But there are no Evernote-like utility apps, no Runtastic-like fitness apps nor Shazam-like apps.

Another downer is the lack of a "Dick Tracy" function. You cannot use the Gear S2 to talk when many Android Wear smartwatches and Apple Watch let you do so.

The Gear S2 classic has a heart rate sensor that measures your heart rate five times a day to gauge your well-being. It will also prompt you to stand and walk if you are sitting for too long

Battery life is better than most smartwatches - at around three days before you need to place it on the wireless charging dock.

• Verdict: The Samsung Gear S2 classic is a smartwatch I really like to love with its great looks and intuitive rotating bezel. It should have been an Editor's Choice, but was hampered by the very software needed to support its innovative bezel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Gear S2 has great interface but fails to tick all the boxes'. Print Edition | Subscribe