Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 review: first look

25 Feb 2014

Samsung's assault on wearable technology has continued at this year's MWC conference in Barcelona, with the launch of three new wrist-bound devices.

The Samsung Gear 2 – the successor to the Samsung Galaxy Gear – is the most fully featured of the bunch, benefitting from a new design, along with a completely revamped software platform. The Gear 2 no longer sports Android, but Tizen – an open-source, HTML 5-based operating system designed specifically for wearable devices.

What does it do?

Despite the new software, the Gear 2  is very similar in function to the original Gear. It's designed to work principally in partnership with a Samsung smartphone. It tells the time, of course, but will also let you know when messages and other notifications arrive on your phone, carry out conversations via the onboard speaker and microphone, and even take photos via the integrated 2-megapixel camera.

The watch can be customised as before, but there's a lot more you can do with the Gear 2 than the Galaxy Gear. There are more watch faces to choose from, and you can also take a picture and use that as your background to create a more personalised device. The addition of a home button below the screen makes it easier to get around quickly, too, and the interface feels much more responsive to dabs and swipes.

Largely, though, the HTML 5-based Tizen OS looks and behaves as before, with the watch face acting as the homescreen and apps accessible with left and right swipes on the touchscreen.

Design and hardware

The big changes with the Gear 2 come with the hardware: the lovely metal finish remains, but the Gear 2 is 6g lighter at 68g, and slimmer than the original. The camera has moved from the strap to the body of the watch, so the straps themselves can now be swapped out, with black, brown and orange ones available at launch; a number of designer options are to follow.

Other features include water- and dust-resistance; an infrared transmitter to enable the watch to double as a TV remote; and a heart-rate monitor on the rear of the watch body, which can be used in conjunction with its pedometer facility to keep a closer eye on your fitness. This seemed to work effectively when we tested it on the stand, but we can't say how accurate it is without further testing.

The reduction in the size of the watch also means the battery is smaller than before – but critically, Samsung is claiming a threefold improvement in battery life, from one day to three, presumably thanks to the increased efficiency of the Tizen OS. We can't vouch for the accuracy of that claim just yet, and although it's a welcome boost, having to charge your watch every three days is still an inconvenience.

The processor has been upgraded to a dual-core 1GHz unit, but the display remains the same as before: the Super AMOLED panel measures 1.63in across the diagonal and has a resolution of 320 x 320; colours are bright and intensely saturated.

Verdict

With the Gear 2, Samsung seems to have addressed many of the problems that afflicted the original Galaxy Gear, while at the same time adding a host of new features.

Whether it will hit the mainstream is debatable, however. You'll still need a Samsung smartphone to take full advantage of all its features, and although its price has yet to be announced (the watch will hit shelves some time in April), we expect it to be similar to that of the original, which was a hefty £300 at launch. Even with a significant price cut, this still looks a little too expensive for the average consumer.

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