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Samsung Gear S2 Review


The saviour of the smartwatch has landed. Having applied a scattergun approach to the early days of the wearables race, Samsung has taken a step back over the past year, reassessed its efforts and, well, taken a long hard look at what the Apple Watch has done.

The result of this wearable soul-searching is the Samsung Gear S2, a stylishly finished round device with a few innovative surprises up its sleeve. Chief among these isn’t the ditching of Android Wear in favour of its proprietary Tizen OS, but the rotating bezel interface that revolutionises how you interact with the device.

All the usual notification-providing, fitness-tracking smartwatch gumph is present, but it’s this bezel-based refinement that steals the show. This isn’t just a serious challenger to the Apple Watch, it’s a device that’s given us renewed hope for the smartwatch as a whole.

The Good

  • Brilliantly intuitive rotating bezel
  • Nice, smart design
  • Well priced

The Bad

  • Tizen is ugly and under-served
  • Battery could be better
  • No iOS support

Samsung Gear S2 Design: Smart, but not quite a classic

Having previously cluttered the market with all manner of ugly square and rectangular devices, Sammy has now embraced the circle, a la the Moto 360. This seemingly small switch in shape instantly gives the Gear S2 a more approachable feel. It’s something the Apple Watch lacks, and is an elegant way to bridge the gap between traditional and ‘smart’ watches.


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It’s a device designed for everyone, too. It might not come in two sizes, like Apple and Motorola’s efforts, but its 1.2-inch form isn’t overpowering. It’s big, sure, but not farcically so. It’s comfortable too, and even on the skinniest of wrists isn’t overly bulky or cumbersome.

Despite sticking to just one display size, there are a number of Gear S2 models coming, because this wouldn’t be Samsung without a little muddying of the waters. The standard, £249 Gear S2 (the one we’ve been living with) lines up alongside a more traditionally styled, £299 Gear S2 Classic. There’s a 3G-enabled S2 coming too, but we’d steer clear of that one unless you want to look a proper Dick (Tracy) making watch calls.

Aesthetically, the Classic is the pick of the two. More compact than its sibling, the 11.4mm-thick device comes bundled with a leather strap that can be switched out for all manner of standard fixture watch bands – a level of mass market customisation sadly not extended to the standard model. It’s the device better attuned to taking you from a board meeting to a night out with your mates, but that’s not to say that the standard S2 is an ugly offering.


Overall the S2 is a little fuller in figure, with a slightly more futuristic look. Its rounded design and colourful, plastic straps are fun and fashionable. It’s a clean design, with the pair of physical buttons used to fulfil standard ‘back’ and ‘home’ commands discreetly placed on the device’s side.

But despite its metal framing, the Gear S2 doesn’t feel quite as high-end as the Apple Watch. Like its illustrious rival though, and any smartwatch worth its weight actually, there are dozens of customisable watch faces to choose from that further help make the device fit your style.

Samsung Gear S2 Screen: Small, simple and stunning

It’s not just the watch’s overall appearance that looks good. Its screen is winning brownie points for more than just being round. The 1.2-inch, 360×360-pixel, Super AMOLED panel is suitably bright and detailed. This resolution might sound low compared with the QHD smartphone in your pocket, but on such a compact device, it’s more than enough for impressively on-point visuals.


Pictures and graphics are crisp and detailed. Text is sharp, whites clean, blacks deep, and colours bright without being overblown. It’s bright, vibrant and generally easy on the eye.

Yes, at first the screen can look a little recessed in the bulky frame compared with your standard timepiece, but this is a quirk you quickly acclimatise to. Importantly, the couple of millimetres given away to the body don’t diminish the overall viewing experience. We’d rather have this than the flat-tyre base of the Moto 360 screen or the oversized surround of the LG Watch Urbane any day.

Samsung Gear S2 Features: It’s all about the bezel

On the specs front, the watch has more than enough oomph to handle everything you’ll put it through. A Samsung-made Exynos processor lines up alongside 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. It’s also packing in virtually everything you’ve come to want and expect from a smartwatch.


Integrated heart rate monitor, check. In-built mic for smartphone-synced calling, check. Fitness-tracking gyroscope and accelerometer combo, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, water-resistant body, it’s all there. It doesn’t have GPS though, and without this, the Gear S2’s point of differentiation falls on its rotating bezel and Tizen interface. This is a hit and miss affair – the bezel is an unequivocal hit, Tizen at times is a wide-of-the-mark miss.

OK, bear with me here a sec, I’m about to start gushing about a bezel. And trust me, it’s worth all the praise, this thing is brilliant. Sure, touchscreens are great, but when they’re this small, using them can obscure what you’re looking at. Twisting this dial, however, keeps your sight lines clear and offers a smoother, simpler and more elegant way of navigating the device.


Twisting left sends screens in that direction and menus up. Twist right and things go right or down. It’s basic, it’s simple, it’s brilliant. It’s also a feature we now fully expect to be adopted (read stolen) by many of Samsung’s rivals. The big-S won’t be chuffed at the thought of this, but we couldn’t be happier. This bezel-based control hasn’t just made the Gear S2 a great device, it’s reshaped the wearables space. Period.

There is one niggling issue with it, though. The left and right rotations used to scroll through screens and menus are effortlessly elegant; but if the bezel could depress to make a selection – saving you reverting back to the touchscreen – it would be the cherry on the cake. Fingers crossed we’ll see this on the Gear S3.

And sadly, while the rotating bezel interface really is an ingenious and intuitive breakthrough in smartwatch controls, the OS it’s controlling is slightly ugly and under-served.

Samsung Gear S2 Performance: Classic smartwatch issues resurfaced

Neither Android Wear nor watchOS are without fault. And while Tizen is a sleek platform to control, more intuitive than either of its key rivals, it’s just not that pretty. The whole system feels a bit sparse and vacant. It has the look and feel of a platform that’s still very much in development. It’s doesn’t subject you to a clunky, broken user experience, but it just doesn’t wow you either.


It’s not just Tizen’s looks that hold it back. Its collection of supported apps is a little restrictive, and sadly we can’t see this changing anytime soon. With Apple’s watchOS and Google’s Android Wear doing the big numbers, there’s little incentive for developers to prioritise a smaller platform. Sorry, folks.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Far from it. There are plenty of positives about the Gear S2 and its Tizen innards. Notifications are well presented, easy to read and – where possible – simple to issue responses to. The companion app – which plays nice with all Android phones but not iOS – for your phone lets you choose what notifications you receive on your wrist so you’re not spammed by every alert your handset has to offer.

Making and receiving calls through your wrist is straightforward, too, although Samsung’s S-Voice PA isn’t necessarily always the most accurate at interpreting your vocal commands. Fitness tracking is another win. Samsung’s S-Health platform helps collate all your daily metrics in one place, offering guidance on activity levels, step counts, heart rate and calorie burn. A number of third-party fitness apps can be added, but no matter which service you favour, the lack of GPS means you’re not going to be able to leave your phone behind if you want to track your runs.


Like with your smartphone, battery life fears will grip you if you plump for the latest Gear – or any other true smartwatch for that matter. The wearable’s 250mAh battery will get you through a full day, but it’s going to need nightly charges if you’re to avoid walking around with a useless paperweight on your wrist come the end of day two.

As has seemingly become a smartwatch standard, the Gear S2 recharges by being plonked into a wireless charging cradle. It’s a smart and elegant solution to one of the device’s biggest problems, its insatiable need for power.



The Gear S2 is arguably the most well-rounded smartwatch we’ve seen so far. Like any wearable though, it’s far from faultless. At times it feels like it’s finally cracked what smartwatches should be. At others it feels just as lost and confused as many of its rivals.

Cheaper than the Apple Watch and with an elegant design, the Gear S2 is let down by its limited app support. Ultimately though, its rotating bezel interface is a winner – it’s just a shame the OS underneath isn’t a little prettier.


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