Over the past couple of years, Samsung has released a number of smartwatches. Its latest entry is definitely for users who like to jog, swim and exercise — three activities that are far from what I typically enjoy spending my free time doing.
The Gear Sport is Samsung’s latest wearable device and the successor to the Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Frontier.
Before getting into the main part of this review, I feel the need to discuss how I tried to approach this review.
While using the Gear S3 Frontier, I felt like it designed to my specific taste. That smartwatch is large, robust, and most importantly, sturdy. It adopts the kind of design anyone with a big enough wrist will be fond of. The Sport, on the other hand, is slim and sleek looking, but feels geared towards someone who lives an active lifestyle, but still wants a stylish smartwatch — that’s definitely not me.
I attempted to use the Gear Sport how I would the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier or the S2, though I felt like I was never utilizing the device to its fullest potential given its emphasis on an active lifestyle.
With that said, here are my thoughts on Samsung’s latest wearable smartwatch.
How it feels to wear
The Gear Sport is sleek, slim and stylish. Despite its ‘Sport’ naming convention, the Gear Sport looks like a traditional round-faced watch. It’s a design I find preferable to competing devices like the Fitbit Ionic and Apple Watch Series 3.
The Gear Sport features a 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels, amounting to a pixel density of 424 ppi. Additionally, the watch includes a gear-like rotating bezel and adjustable straps, just like other devices in Samsung’s smartwatch line. The Gear Sport is heavier than any of the Gear smartwatches, too (I’ll talk more about this later).
While the Gear S3 Frontier adopted a rugged smartwatch aesthetic, the Gear S3 Classic takes another route. It looks like a throwback to a classic, modern watch that also happens have smart features. The Gear Sport, though, looks more like the Gear S2. This definitely isn’t a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a successor to the Gear S3 Classic, as I found it a more elegant offering.
Although I see more of a similarity to the Samsung Gear S2 rather than other Samsung wearables released this year, the Gear Sport definitely has a few differences. The S2’s body seamlessly attached to the smartwatch’s straps, while the Gear Sport has adopted a design that makes the strap and the watch look like two separate pieces.
As I briefly mentioned previously, the device features a 1.2-inch AMOLED display, which looks clear and vibrant but actually feels smaller than any of Samsung’s previous Gear offerings. Measuring in at 1.2 inches, the device also features a 24.3 percent screen-to-body ratio.
While the display size is similar to the Gear S2, that smartwatch includes a 52.6 percent screen-to-body-ratio; the screen-to-body ratio percentage difference is because of its bezel size.
What the Gear Sport has to offer
Let’s get into its specifications. The wearable features an always-On display and runs on a Exynos 3250 dual-core processor with 4GB of internal storage, 768MB of RAM and a 300mAh battery.
In addition, the Gear Sport utilizes version 3.0 of Samsung’s Tizen operating system, and features MIL-STD-810G military certification, similar to Samsung’s XCover 4.
Devices are required to withstand 26 drops from four feet on to 1-inch of plywood placed on top of concrete before they’re capable of qualifying for MIL-STD-810G certification. Smartphones with the MIL-STD 810G certification are also resistant to extreme cold and heat temperatures.
While I didn’t specifically test the Gear Sport’s military certification, thanks my sheer clumsiness I can definitely say the Samsung Gear Sport is a tough smartwatch.
The Gear Sport also has a 5ATM rating, meaning it’s capable of water resistant up to a depth of 50 metres, which is far superior to IP68 — a rating that doesn’t specify an exact upper limit, but can endure at least 1 metre of immersion. Like with the Gear Sport’s military certification, I never got the opportunity to test if the wearable could survive to a depth of 50 metres, but I can say without a doubt that the device is waterproof.
Lastly, the Gear Sport doesn’t feature Samsung Pay in Canada, so pressing and holding the back button will not launch the company’s mobile payment platform like it does in the U.S.
The Samsung Gear Sport also includes an assortment of functionality and features that I didn’t find all too useful, but that will appeal to the device’s target demographic.
First, like other fitness-focused wearables, the Samsung Gear Sport is capable of telling you how well you’ve slept over the course of a night. I, however, didn’t find this feature very reliable.
On the first night I used it, the Gear Sport told I only slept for thirty minutes.
The following night the Gear Sport told me that I had only slept for four hours, instead of the full seven hours I had given myself. I only tried to test the sleep tracking one additional night because I found wearing the Gear Sport odd. A lot of that had to do with the Gear Sport’s weight. The watch is 0.4g heavier than the Gear S3 Frontier, putting it at 67g.
When I used the Gear S3 Frontier, I thought it was too heavy, especially in comparison to the 47g Gear S2. Thanks to its weight, there were moments when I forgot I was wearing the Gear S2. That’s not something that ever really happened with the Gear Sport, which is what stopped me from sleeping with it on my wrist.
One area the Gear Sport surpasses the Gear S3 is that it can do more than just count steps. Adding the calorie widget allows users to keep track of their calorie intake, with the device keeping a net calorie counter throughout the day.
While an interesting feature for the health conscious, I found that I often had to take my phone out to look up a specific food’s calorie count. Without an internal food catalogue of some sort, I found the Sport’s calorie counting feature didn’t serve its intended purpose, at least not for me.
What it was like to use
The Gear Sport also includes some of the functionality that’s found on Samsung’s previous smartwatches.
The Gear Sport, like its predecessors, features a heart rate monitor that allows one to see their heart rate at a glance. The watch also allows users to check and read the news with the Flipboard Widget, reply to text messages, keep in the loop with Facebook and use an assortment of other apps. All of the above-mentioned features worked great and ran smoothly during my time with the Gear Sport. The texting functionality worked about the same as it did on the company’s previous smartwatches; pulling out my phone to send a quick message was still the better option
While Tizen 3.0 is included with the Gear Sport, I didn’t find too many differences between the latest version of the operating system and its previous iteration. This means that switching to the Sport should be easy even for veteran Samsung Gear users.
Music-wise the device requires a Spotify account, but is capable of holding 4GB worth of music.
Battery-wise, the Gear Sport is very impressive. On a full charge, the wearable lasted from one Saturday morning at 11am until the following Tuesday at 9pm, though I rarely ever used the device for music or sharing. I also found that regardless of how frequently I used the watch, it never got hot.
With S Voice, I was able to tell the Gear Sport to call a contact. However, with Android Wear featuring Google Assistant and WatchOS including Siri, I’d hoped Samsung’s newest smartwatch offering would include Bixby, allowing for on-watch web searches and other inquiries with voice commands.
The sporty watch that’s not for me
The Samsung Gear Sport’s interface is far smoother than that of its predecessor. It also has added features that health conscious users will find useful, including calorie counting, sleep tracking and a 5ATM rating.
With its sporty look, it’s difficult for me to say that the Gear Sport is for everyone. I feel others who have tried previous Gear smartwatches or other smartwatches from other brands may feel the same way.
However, if you are an athletic person and need a smartwatch this is a great choice, even at its $399.99 price.
Update 12/27/2017: The Gear Sport does not feature a built-in speaker, unlike previous Gear devices. MobileSyrup regrets this error. You can, however, as I did, pair the Gear Sport with headphones.