Samsung is extending its smartwatch portfolio with two models at this year's IFA conference in Berlin. The Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier combine familiar features from last year’s Gear S2 with fitness tracker functions of the Gear Fit2. The innovations that Samsung has integrated into the new smartwatch, you’ll discover here in our hands-on Samsung Gear S3 review.
release date and price
Samsung brings to market the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier, two new smartwatches that follow up on last year’s Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic. At the present time Samsung has given us no final price and availability of two new Gear S3 models. We suspect that the price of the Gear S2 will fall in the wake of these newcomers. The two new models are likely to cost between $349 and $400. They’re also likely to go on sale in October.
While the Gear S2 and the S2 Gear Classic are available in different colors, the choice for the Gear S3 models is restricted to two. The Gear S3 Classic there will be for sale starting only in silver, while the Gear S3 Frontier will be available only in black. This sparse color selection shows that Samsung is focusing more on the male customer segment with the Gear S3, while the Gear S2 models appeared to be designed more for female customers.
In Asia and most likely also in North America, Samsung will also sell an LTE version of the Gear S3. For this, Samsung is going to provide an eSIM solution. Since the Gear S2 3G versions were shifted to several months after the product launch, we expect that the LTE version of the Gear S3 will follow at a later date.
design and build quality
In terms of design and build quality, Samsung has with the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier not made any major changes. But it’s evident that the two new smartwatches have a masculine look and this is mainly due to the larger housing. While the bezel of the Gear S2 has no no markings, the Gear S3 versions have engraved grids.
Also masculine and massive are the 2mm wider wristbands. Instead the Gear S2’s 20 mm wristbands, Samsung used 22 mm versions. By default, the S3 Gear Classic comes with a leather strap, while the Gear S3 Frontier comes with a plastic strap. The latter has the advantage that it is resistant to sweat and water. It is also IP68 certified for dust and waterproofing.
Just like the Gear S2 and the Gear Fit2, both Gear S3 versions have two physical buttons on the right housing edge. In the classic version this recalls classic pushbuttons, like a real sports watch. In the Frontier version, Samsung has chosen keys to make it flat. With the upper key you can go a step back, while with the lower key takes you back to the start screen.
The displays of both Gear S3 versions are with 1.3 inches by 0.1 inches larger than the Gear S2 versions. However, the resolution remains 360 x 360 pixels. A Korean Samsung representative told us that the Gear S3 now supports anti-aliasing. This anti-aliasing prevents possible unpleasant effects such as jagged letters.
During our brief hands-on time we detected no significant differences in brightness between the display of the Gears S3 and S2. But as soon as we do a our final test, we will share our findings for Gear S3 display performance.
Just as with the Gear Fit2 and both Gear S2 versions, Samsung also uses in both Gear S3 versions the Tizen operating system. According to Samsung, there are now 10,000 apps for Samsung’s smartwatch platform. For the Gear S3’s software there are some improvements, such as that you can now install apps even directly from the smartwatch. This should avoid the need to use the companion smartphone app.
Untouched is the way you navigate through menus. Thanks to the touchscreen’s bezel and the physical buttons, from my perspective, the Samsung Gear S3 is easier to operate than its predecessor. Samsung’s version of Tizen for the Gear S3 is so well adapted that you hardly need a manual to find your way around.
Of course, all new sensors have been paired with the new version of Tizen, so you can now evaluate numerous fitness metrics. Also differences in height can now be displayed thanks to a barometer, as well as your current speed of movement.
Interesting is also the possibility of an emergency call along with position information. If you are in need, then you can activate this by triple pressing the lower button and position data will be sent.
Also new is the ability to execute calls using the built-in microphone and speaker. Whether one would actually want to do this in public is questionable. But at least in the ‘digital home’, this feature is convenient because your smartphone does not need to be taken in hand.
It is also good that Samsung allows the Gear S3 to be paired with Android smartphones from other manufacturers. If you use an iPhone, in the future you could also use a Samsung Gear S3 instead of an Apple Watch. The corresponding iOS app has recently been buildt in South Korea for beta testing. Once this preliminary test has been concluded, a release of the iOS app is theoretically no more of an obstacle.
As described in previous sections, Samsung has made small changes. This also applies to the hardware inside its new smartwatches. It has a dual-core processor, sounding like Samsung has changed nothing. But the innovation is in the detail. The processor will be an Exynos processor, which brings LTE capabilities with it.
The new processor is enlarged to 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal memory is available for the operating system, apps and audio data. Anyone who wants to go jogging can use the Gear S3 as an MP3 player by means of a Bluetooth headset.
In our hands-on time we saw that the menus and apps turned and swiped quickly. Loading times of several apps were owed certainly to the connection quality of a paired Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung has made a great leap forward in battery thanks to larger housing. The Gear S2 had a battery of 250 mAh, but the battery of the Gear S3 versions are now 380 mAh. After all, that's over 50 percent more battery capacity. How this impacts in conjunction with the optimized 1.3 inch Super AMOLED display, fresher processor and new sensors on the battery performance of the Gear S3, we can not say currently. Once we have done our final test, we will show the battery life performance here.
At first glance, the Gears S3, both as Classic, as well as Frontier, are convincing. It’s a combination of fitness features of the Gear Fit2 and smartwatch functionality of the Gear S2, all packed in a smart and larger housing. Samsung has extended its existing wearable portfolio with more of a targeting of men, so that now an almost complete lineup of wearables is available.
The Samsung Gear S3 versions are not revolutionary, but enter the smartwatch market with sense and reason. If even iOS compatibility is guaranteed without restrictions, then I am very sure that many Apple Watch users might switch to the Gear S3. Not all, but this might gnaw on the ego of Apple.