Samsung's latest smart watch nails it on design, function and battery life.
Samsung's new smart watch is called the Gear S3 and it makes a great companion to the company's Galaxy lineup of phones, or any Android phone. It also works with iPhone but I'd still recommend an Apple Watch for that - more on that later.
I've been wearing the rugged S3 for several weeks now and the bottom line is that it gets a majority of things right. Samsung provided me with a review unit of the rugged Frontier edition with a rubber band; there is also a Classic edition with a leather strap.At first glance, the S3 looks like your typical timepiece. I like the design better than Apple Watch since it actually looks like a real watch. In fact, until the screen lights up people won't even know you're wearing a smart watch on your wrist.
At first glance, the S3 looks like your typical timepiece. I like the design better than Apple Watch since it actually looks like a real watch. In fact, until the screen lights up people won't even know you're wearing a smart watch on your wrist.
The S3 comes with pretty much every feature you need - it has a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, fitness tracking, Bluetooth plus onboard music storage for your MP3's.
It even goes a step further with readouts for speed, altitude and barometric pressure.
What's really unique versus Apple Watch is that you can purchase an S3 with a cellular connection. This means your watch can get calls, texts and even stream music from Spotify without your phone being nearby.
The operating system on the S3 is solid. Samsung decided to stray from the typical Android Wear operating system in favor of one they helped develop called Tizen. It works with both Android and iOS devices.
It takes a little to get used to operating such a small screen, but once you get the hang of it, it's very manageable. I love how the bezel rotates to scroll, select items on screen and adjust the volume. It's a very natural thing.
There are a bunch of built-in customizable watch faces plus many more you can download. The device is water resistant, but not swim proof like Apple Watch.
Compared to Apple's device, the battery on the S3 lasts way longer. Samsung says you could get 3-4 days on a single charge, but in my experience, I could go 2. Of course, it also depends on a lot of things - including how much you actually use the watch, your screen settings and if you have the cellular service turned on.
There is a built-in speaker that lets you take calls, plus lots of ways to respond to messages on-screen. You can scribble responses by drawing one letter at a time on screen, use custom responses the system generates using AI or use your voice to dictate a message.
The biggest downside is a lack of well-known apps. There's ESPN and Flipboard, but no Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Of course, you do still have your phone for that.
Bottom line, if you have an iPhone I'd still go with an Apple Watch because it is just more compatible in various ways. But when it comes to Android, the Samsung Gear S3 is a fantastic choice. It starts at $300 dollars and is available now.
Update: Google and LG just launched two new smart watches featuring Android Wear 2.0, is probably a good idea to take a look at these offerings as well.