Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 review: Gadget Watch

By now, you’ve almost certainly seen a billboard for Samsung’s second generation smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear 2.

Late last year, its predecessor was described as a solid and functional first effort.

But new, Android based competitors from companies such as LG and Motorola are just around the corner.

So is Samsung still the one to watch in the wearable market? It’s time to find out.

Hardware and features

The Galaxy Gear 2 is a smartwatch running Samsung’s Tizen operating system.

Built around a 1 GHz dual-core processors, is dust and water resistant, and includes 4 gigabytes of storage and 512 megabytes of RAM.

It can run a range of apps including Calculator, ChatON, Flashlight, Quick Settings, Voice Memo. There are also third part apps froma  range of developers, including BMW, CNN , Expedia, eBay, Evernote, Feedly, GARMIN, iControl, Line, Path, PayPal, Volkswagen, and The Weather Channel.

It’s available in a range of wrist straps, including charcoal black, gold brown and wild orange.

What’s the consensus?

In terms of design, TechRadar’s Garath Bevis says it’s an improvement on its predecessor:

The overall look is much-refined and there’s a bevy of new technology to make this worth a look if you dismissed the first Gear… The battery life is improved massively, the Gear 2 can splash around in water and dust thanks to being IP67 rated and comes in a range of nicer colours (rose gold and silver) and is generally a much better device

The Sony Smartwatch 2 and the Pebble Steel are both better devices in terms of size, but Samsung’s mixture of industrial design and more refined elements (like the camera and IR blaster integration) still brings an element of premium quality to proceedings.

At CNet, Scott Stein noted that while the notification features can be handy, meany of the apps are “not essential”.

Notifications make the Gear 2 feel like a wrist-pager, much like the Pebble watch. The need to tap a notification to get the full message is either privacy-protecting or annoying; the Pebble shows it all right away. But this new Gear does pinging far better than before. Texts, emails and incoming phone calls can be answered, too. Calls come in via a built-in mic and speaker, or to send a brief message back, you can choose from canned quick responses such as “I’ll talk to you soon,” or “Yes,” or the fairly useless “How’s it going?” Thankfully you can customize your own, but it’s a shame S-Voice can’t be used to take dictation.

Boil them down, however, and here’s what you get: a camera, voice recording and control, health tracking, a TV remote, music playback, a built-in speakerphone, and some pretty deep notification and message settings. I used all of these features, but not all of them ended up feeling essential. And, the more of them I used, the more I felt like a chicken pecking and swiping around on a screen on my wrist, instead of using the Gear 2 for what it really should be: a simple one-glance substitute for staring and pecking and swiping at my phone.

Meanwhile, for Sam Machkovech at Ars Technica, the choice to use Tizen rather than Android and the device’s poor display in sunlight were key stumbling blocks: 

Sadly, there’s no automatic sensor to adjust for bursts of brightness; instead, users are expected to double-tap the screen with two fingers, which brings up a brightness menu. There, they can manually select “outdoor mode” if things get squinty, at which point the Gear 2 will maintain that brightness for 5 minutes before reverting to its default brightness. (The Gear Fit’s equally bright screen offers the same option.) This is not an ideal workaround if, for example, a long jog takes you into a super sunny patch.

I’ve struggled to figure out what drove Samsung to adopt [Tizen]. It adds hurdles to app creation, and the only huge performance increase I’ve noticed is a boost in how quickly the “recent apps” shortcut loads. Perhaps Tizen is somehow responsible for the Gear 2’s boost in battery life, however, which is certainly worth noting.

Should I get one?

At this stage, the Galaxy Gear 2 remains a nice smartphone notification system at heart. However, for most users, there is still no real killer app at this point that makes buying one of these devices a necessity.

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