Samsung Gear S review: Hands-on

Not yet rated

The new 3G-toting Samsung Gear S has it all in fits and smarts

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Another week and another wearable wants to take up that prime slot on your wrist, but this new Samsung smartwatch has one big difference – it's a standalone timepiece that offers 3G connectivity giving you the option to leave your smartphone at home. But will you want to? T3 goes hands on with the new Samsung Gear S.

From the Sony SmartWatch 2 to the Moto 360, we've seen an influx of watches that want to be your new smart wearable of choice, but so far no single device has really captured the imagination enough to be that must-wear product. While we sit and wait to see Apple's iWatch, Samsung has launched the Gear S in a bid to win us over first.

The Samsung Gear S is a fully connected standalone device that wants to make you think seriously about leaving your house for that run without your smartphone but will it?

Running on Samsung's own Tizen OS, the first thing you notice about the Gear S is that it's bigger than the Gear and the Gear Fit. IN fact it's very big indeed. One the looks front it's almost a design hybrid of the two with slick curves and a sharp futuristic overall appeal.

The next thing you spot is the addition of a nano SIM slot that means this latest Samsung wearable now packs 3G connectivity on top of Bluetooth LE, wi-fi, wi-fi direct and GPS.

While there's no news as yet on whether any UK carriers are likely to offer a multi-SIM single contract that's surely going to play a huge role in how many of us rush out and buy one of these.

Storage-wise it comes with 4GB storage that'll help you make the most of the built-in music player with your tunes loaded up via Wi-Fi direct. Unfortunately there's no SD card slot, so sadly no room to extend the capacity.

Samsung Gear S Features and Apps

Let's start with the watch bit. Like the Moto 360, the Gear S has a choice of clock faces and all of these clocks do more than just tell the time.

Within the watch-face you also get notifications for incoming texts, number of steps you've taken, battery life and other updates.

While the design of the faces is a nod to the classic, they're not really stylish enough to kill off your desire for a Rolex, but the added instant access to notifications is a usable modern twist.

Replying to messages can be done at the tap of a button using the Gear S virtual QWERTY keyboard. Frankly, like any small keypad it's not the easiest to use and to get round this, Samsung has added voice recognition that allows you to dictate your responses by speaking into the built-in mic. In our tests it seemed fairly reliable if not entirely 100 per cent accurate.

In terms of apps and wdigets, you get the familiar selection of options you'll find on any Samsung smartphone including S Health, schedule and a music player but like many wearables, fitness is where the Gear S really comes to life.

Loading apps onto the Gear S requires you to partner it up with another Galaxy device which is not as convenient as we'd like seeing as it has it's own connectivity.

The big news here though is the inclusion of the Nike+ Running app. Using the Gear's built-in GPS, you now get access to Nike's slick run tracking tools with a bespoke Gear UI that's superbly simple to use.

Making best use of the built in heart rate sensor, the Gear also has some rich graphics to present heart rate info as well as route mapping for running, cycling and the like.

Another cool addition is pedestrian navigation. Powered by Nokia's Here maps this feature gives you turn-by-turn route guidance on the wrist. Although we didn't get to test it we're told this can be paired up with the Nike+ Running app to help you navigate a new running route.

For those who like a regular dose of news, there's a news widget that delivers the headlines but sadly you're stuck with Samsung's pre-ordained content providers. You can choose whether you want sport, world news or entertainment but not which media outlets that info comes from. We'd love to see more customisation here.

Samsung Gear S: Build and Design

The Gear S has a 2-inch Super AMOLED display that's impressively curved to fit your wrist and we have to say it does feel rather snug. The screen is also crystal clear and nicely responsive to use.

The navigation is refined too. Out with a lot of the complicated nav and in with a few simple gestures to access its main functions.

A single swipe left to takes you to your notifications where you can access emails, texts and missed calls – most of which offer a single tap reply.

Swiping right gives you access to widgets (INCLUDING WHAT?) while a swipe down takes you to a main menu with all of your apps, including a decent array of key partnerships like Nike+ running, PayPal, Spotify and Here maps navigation.

Just like the Gear Fit, the back boasts a built in HR sensor on the back that logs your BPM but only when you start an activity.

There watch straps are changeable and come in white and black with one wide and one slimline version.

Just like the Samsung Galaxy S5, it's got an IP67 rating that means it's dust and waterproof.

Samsung Gear S: Battery Life

According to Samsung the Gear S will last for two days on a single full charge but that's based on the idea that most people will use it as a companion device rather than something to replace a smartphone. Essentially meaning it'll leave a lot of the heavy lifting to the phone that's already in your pocket.

There's also a separate battery pack that clips neatly onto the watch to give you up to a 50 per cent boost on the move.

Samsung Gear S: Verdict

With a focus on fitness and its own 3G capability, the Gear S is moving the smartwatch closer to where we'd like to see it – a standalone, connected device with that makes some everyday tasks easier and more enjoyable.

That said it still feels like a product that's confused by whether it's for fashion, fitness or just general function. It's almost too shiny to feel like a serious sports watch and too tech to replace your classic timepiece.

But the real determining factor will be the apps. It's the apps that define how useful a a product like this is and with big names like Nike, Spotify and PayPal on board, it does feel like we're getting closer to smartwatch we want.

Kieran Alger
Freelance writer

Kieran is a freelance writer and editor working in the space where health, fitness, sports and technology collide. He covers everything from virtual reality and smart scales to the latest wearable health trackers. Kieran is also a borderline-obsessed runner and is passionate about using the latest technology to hack his health in search of marginal gains.