- Good Looking
- Great Value
- Super AMOLED display
- Rotating Bezel
- Premium Build
- Decent Battery Life
- Tizen OS
- Finicky with other Brands
- Proprietary App
- Samsung Health does not sync with Google Fit
Samsung is a name synonymous with top notch quality and the best selling brand in the smartphone world. Its journey to become the biggest brand there is in the mobile section traces its roots back to the humble Samsung Galaxy S. With the introduction came plenty of controversies in the form of lawsuits from its largest market competitor. It was a beginning of something that no one thought was possible at the time as well, Android being the mainstream operating system that we know and love today. It was then that Android took its foothold in the market with the Samsung Galaxy S being the top selling Android device at the time. That device would also kick start the smartphone race to the top with not just Samsung’s Californian rival. Taiwan based HTC jumped into the race to introduce multiple devices within months apart, in some cases; weeks. Then there is the Japanese based Sony who tried to get a grip with the market with the storm that is Android. Every other manufacturer wanted a piece of the action that Samsung had with Android; an action that Californian Apple had conquered since their first iPhone.
It was also Samsung that introduced the first ever Android tablet as we know it today in the form of Samsung Galaxy Tab. It was a seven incher device that magnifies the Android 2.2 Froyo at the time. It had roughly similar specs with its smartphone companion, Samsung Galaxy S but with bigger screen, thicker body, and bigger battery. It was the genesis that not many remembered somehow. To be honest as well it was not that memorable in the first place. But it was a glimpse to what we are going to get in the future of Android tablets.
Slightly later after that we get what we first know today as the smartwatch in the form of Samsung Galaxy Gear. It was the first Tizen based 2013 smartwatch that would be a pair to the iconic Samsung Galaxy Note II or the Samsung Galaxy S4 later on. It had a square Super AMOLED screen that you might find on the Apple Watch these days with very mediocre processor and RAM in it. It performed just like a normal watch and it was a vision to many of the current smartwatch you see this day. Its battery could last up to 4 days at a time when the role of a smartwatch is no more than push notifications on your wrist. It also had a camera that could record videos and capture photos, all on your wrist. It was a view of the future of mobility that no one had thought of.
Then we come to early 2014s with rumours of a new sort of Android that you can wear on your wrist. A new Android that would be able to track your health records, and tell time at the same time. It will look like a normal watch while being fully digital. It was later known as Android Wear that you will first see on Motorola’s iconic Moto 360 in late 2014. The Android Wear was a vision that Google had for smartwatches and the first Android Wear was built to show that smartwatches do not have to be square and ugly like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch. But it had to be paired to an Android device.
That is when the world thought that Samsung’s Tizen project will be abandoned with the introduction of Android Wear. Instead Samsung pushed on and found a new life of Tizen with the Samsung Gear S2 introduced in 2015. It showed the world what a smartwatch should be like. It lost its camera but gained a new navigating rotating bezel. It separated itself apart from others. It could even be used on its own if you really want to. But of course, early stages of a product is always a little flawed and the Gear S2 was no different. The Samsung Gear S2 was introduced in the early days of smartwatches and of course had quirks of its own. Like the first generation of Android Wear devices the UI was a little clunky, choppy, and unfamiliar.
The devices were also built in a similar fashion to smartphones and therefore there was plenty of plastics and cheap rubber involved in making the smartwatches. In essence they look cheap. It would be fine though if you could swap the straps of the early smartwatches. However that is not a possibility due to proprietary lugs and strap fittings. Like any other smartphone manufacturers, Samsung had no idea how to manufacture a proper watch. Until someone like Tag Heuer showed the ropes of a proper Android Wear. Built to the highest quality and to be a proper watch, it became a benchmark of what a smartwatch should look like.
Which brings us to 2017 and Samsung’s latest entry to the smartwatch section; the Samsung Gear S3. A worthy replacement to the brilliant, forward looking Gear S2 by the looks of it. It sure looks the part of a premium watch with the sort of detailing it gets on the face. It also comes with Samsung’s latest Tizen for watches that could, in essence work without being paired to any sort of smartphone.The unique rotating bezel made a comeback as a highly detailed crown, and the strap lugs are now universal so it fits on any occasions. Is it any good though? I mean, is it worth forking out MYR1,399 on this piece of jewel in your watch collection? Can it really be a part of that exquisite watch collection you have in your closet? Or is this just another smartwatch that is meant to be like the smartwatch that came before it, a toy? Well, strap on, read on and find out.
To be fair, I never liked the look of any smartwatches that came before. So you might find this opinion on the design of smartwatches to be a little over the top and too biased. But this is my review so I will say my piece.
Firstly, I like watches. As in, I really like them. I cannot help but stop at those watch shops that you see in the shopping malls for a while to admire the beauty and the details that go into producing those things. At the same time I could not afford the sort of watches I always look at; they always cost north of 10k and I am, unfortunately not in that position to own such watches. But you know where I am going at. Watches are beautiful things, a piece of art on your wrists. It was a show of status for men, it was always a proper must have for a made man. It was also one of the only piece of jewelry that any man should always have. If you have read the article about my 24 hours with the Gear S3 as well, you would know that watches can tell a lot a bout a person.
But all that aside, we are here to talk about smartwatches; and what I think of them. They are ugly. Or, at least they were. The Samsung Gear S2 and Galaxy Gear looked like toys you get out of a James Bond collection store to be really honest. They are a blend of cheap plastics, and weirdly proportioned rubber and buckle system to latch an AMOLED screen on your wrists. They are a poor attempt at a watch I must say. I have to point out that I like the idea of Gear S2’s rotating bezel though; I thought that was brilliant. Then there were the others, the second generation of the Moto 360, and Huawei Watch; the best iteration of the Android’s latest version of Wear. A blend of high quality metal finished body, and universal lugs that says “we are proper watches, we promise” to tech enthusiasts around the globe. I was not convinced; the featureless body of both the watches does not appeal to me. They appear to be aluminium cylinders of what used to be a feature smartphone five years ago and nothing else. They do not carry the essentials of a watch around them. You cannot imagine an aristocrat wearing them if you might. They look wrong in a sense to be called a watch at all.
So then, what of the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier?
The unboxing experience is similar to any other smartwatch unboxing there is, so no comments on that. But when you first open the box you will find a blank, black 1.3-inch rouded Super AMOLED screen staring back at you. So it appears to be similar to the other smartwatches then; featureless display when powered off. But this is where it sets itself apart, the Samsung Gear S3. Around the rounded display is a proper, good looking bezel that is a gem to look at. It seems intricate with the numerical details you put in the inner bezel, it looks protective. The sink in the inner bezel looks like it is cradling its face of a Super AMOLED display. Then there is the outer ring of the bezel that looks geared (pun not intended). Properly machined and detailed with lines to match the inner bezel ring. The matte finish to give it a complete, rugged look. It looks functional, and it is. It is the iconic rotating bezel to navigate through Tizen.
Then you get to the case, that beautiful stainless steel case that houses its components. It is not just a rounded case, it has complicated grooves that sits beside a notch on both sides. It has a brushed aluminium finish to the lugs that makes it seem so much more. At this point, it is important to note that the newer Android Wear comes with proper industry standard lugs too. Still, I do think that the standard lugs is one of the most significant updates, though a simple one to smartwatches of the modern world. To top it all off you get a machined finish on the buttons that replaces the crown of a watch on the Gear S3’s right side. On the face of it, it looks good. It looks proper, and with the digital dials on the display, you almost cannot tell it apart from a proper watch. It is, to me the most beautiful smartwatch I have laid my eyes on, and a worthy device that you can call a watch.
Go to the back of the device though and this is where it is different to a normal watch. The stainless steel back is spoiled with a glass casing that houses one of its many sensors to keep a watch on your heartbeat. Even though this is the part of a watch that many might not spend time looking at, Samsung has not spared the details here. There are grooves carved into the rear steel casing to make it feel properly like a watch. It feels like it is serviceable with a watch wrench (of course that is just an illusion). It is even finished with proper screws that any watch expert might have lying around their workbench. The details here are uncanny.
What makes this a proper watch to me is less about the internals, and beyond the materials that is used here. It is not just the looks either. To me, it is the attention to details that matter for this Gear S3 Frontier. Everything was made to look as organic as possible. Every machined part was given an attention like no other; like how a proper watch should be like. It looks beautifully made; it is a thing of beauty.
Of course, being a fully digital item there are things beyond the looks that makes this smartwatch tick. For that, you do get a healthy helping of what they call high end in the smartwatch world. Some features, you may not even find on other smartwatches. In truth though you may not fully appreciate the internals of this thing as they can handle way more than a watch. But it is good to know what you are paying for.
|Display||Super AMOLED panel|
360 x 360 pixels
Corning Gorilla Glass SR+
|Operating System||Tizen for Wearavble 2.3.2|
|Battery||Non-Removable Li-ion 380 mAh|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
Bluetooth 4.2 LE
Heart Rate Sensor
Built-in Mic and Speaker
Samsung Gear app
Samsung Health app
The Samsung Gear S3, as mentioned earlier runs on Samsung’s latest Tizen for wearables. More specifically it runs on Tizen 2.3.2 that is customised for the Gear S3 and its unique rotating bezel. Android users will find some familiarity on the navigation of the Tizen. You swipe left and right to browse through menus and what not. What may be the difference is the notification system that is set to only the left side of the dial screen. Your quick launch and widgets are obviously on the right side so you the screen to the left. The app menu though is slightly different on the Tizen based Gear S3. You press the bottom button on the right side of the watch to launch the app drawer. The app drawer/browser is also unique with its own animations and is arranged in a circular fashion to accommodate the rotating bezel navigation. Like any smartphones you tap the applications that you want to launch. Unlike a smartphone though the icons are way smaller even on the generous 1.3-inch display. Swipping left or right on your app drawer screen will bring up more apps you have installed on your Gear S3. Obviously this being a smart watch there are no crowns to be found on its body.
But why would you use the regular swiping navigation when you have the rotating bezel? The rotating bezel on the Gear S2 was probably its most iconic and recognisable feature. It was also probably the Gear S2’s biggest selling factor for that matter. That iconic rotating bezel obviously made it into the Samsung Gear S3 on both the Classic and Frontier variant. On the Classic, the bezel is a smooth rounded edge that makes it look like a purpose built sports digital watch. On the Frontier that we have here though, the gear-esque design of the rotating bezel makes it look like it is ready to take on anything you can throw at it. But enough about the looks of the bezel; we are talking about its user interface for that matter.
The rotating bezel is very reminiscent of Google’s NEST smart home controller. With the bezel you can navigate through the watch without ever touching the screen. Like any other smartwatch you will have your watch face; which will be your home screen anyway. Then you have other screens that fits your preferred widgets for easy access to information. Rotate the bezel clockwise and you’d find that you can scroll through the widgets pretty quickly with the light action rotating bezel. There is also a very soft, yet satisfying click when you turn your bezel to the next screen. That click also lets you know that you have scrolled to the screen. Rotating, from the watch face anti-clockwise will bring you to your various notifications. The more notifications you have the more notification screens it will accumulate though. Some might find it a little on the annoying side but I do find that more optimal for viewing from the wrist.
There is, however no way to launch the app drawer by using the bezel though so you would still have to click on the lower button on the right side to browse through the full list of apps you have in the menu. Because the apps are arranged in a dial, using the bezel to rotate makes so much more sense. It adds a little more fun and a sort of flair to the UI too. To launch the app of your choice you simply have to tap the center of the screen when the dot that you call a pointer sits on top of the app you want to launch.
To sum it up, the UI is actually very intuitive to use with the rotating bezel navigation. At the same time everything looks beautifully made and very much ‘Samsung’ if you know what I mean. Icons look colourful and as bright as ever, and that makes them very attractive and beautiful. It looks more grown up that the previous Gear S2 as well giving them that more serious vibe when needed. Unlike other smartwatches, you can actually reply text messages through the built-in keyboard on the Gear S3 frontier. Obviously with the size of it you are left with the old keypad layout keyboard on that small screen (there are other paid options for keyboard in the Galaxy App Store). It also is not the ideal way to type a full text message. You can use S Voice to spell out messages though so that makes things plenty easier. Or, you can always reply with the templates that are already provided to you with the watch anyway. Oh, did I mention that you can add some games into it too? Yes, there are games that work with the rotating bezel for the Gear S3. Deal sealer? Not really, but it is something that no other manufacturer does for now.
The Tizen based smartwatch packs a lot of punch for a smartwatch. True to Samsung as well it features the Korean’s very own Exynos 7270 dual-core SoC package that churns at 1.0GHz. In all that cramped space too Samsung manages to fit 768MB of RAM alongside the 4GB internal memory. Still, side by side comparisons might not give the Samsung Gear S3 that much of an advantage over the other smartwatches out in the market. You probably have the extra internal memory (which I do not really use). But you still have to remember that the Gear S3 can be a standalone watch even without pairing it to your daily driver. The Android Wears of today cannot yet do that.
The 4GB internal memory is plenty of space to load up your favourite smartwatch apps and watch faces. Unless you download more than five games and plenty more applications that we can deem pretty useless 4GB is really more than enough. It is even enough to load up some music for your daily travels. Yes, you can hook up its Bluetooth to a headphone or speaker instead so that is an option. Doing that is very easy as well. That is one part of the performance covered.
Here, we have to start with a minor disappointment with the missing eSIM function that our friendly neighbour, Singapore gets. It is, in my opinion something that should set this smartwatch aside from its competitors in Malaysia. Unfortunately we are not getting it so let us move on.
It does have an array things that matches other smartwatches too though. It has Bluetooth (4.2 LE), Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n antenna, NFC, and even GPS. It is almost like a complete smartphone as its own, except that there is not place for a SIM card (we are still quite sore with the exclusion of eSIM, obviously). So technically you cannot make calls with it. Or can you?
To pair it with your chosen device, you simply pair it over Bluetooth and the Samsung Gear App (more about the app later). If you do it right it takes less than 5 minutes to get going, very fast. Once you pair it over Bluetooth, as long as your device is within its detection range (up to 10m) your smartwatch should automatically connect to it. If it is out of range though the Wi-Fi connection comes into play. Wait, did you think that the Wi-Fi is for internet browsing?
Well, yes and no. You can actually download a browser app on your Gear S3 Frontier (paid app, as we have found out); but why would you browse on such a small display? “Ah,” you say, “that means that the Wi-Fi is an unnecessary in the watch,” that is where you are wrong. There are going to be moments where you bring your smartphone with you to the living room, but leave your smartwatch in your bedroom. In those moments you might lose Bluetooth connection to your smartwatch as it is just too far away. In that case, your smartwatch is still remotely connected to your smartphone through Wi-Fi. You still get to control some aspects of the Gear S3 Frontier in this case as well. It apparently works even if you are under a different Wi-Fi umbrella as well, though we have yet to try that. At this point also you might be wondering what is the point of having a remote connection as well. Think about this, put the situation in reverse; you might have left your phone in the living room while you are in the bed room. Any phone calls will still be displayed on your Gear S3 Frontier, or any messages that comes through will be shown on the watch (then the frantic search for your smartphone begins).
Tizen wearable platform, as mentioned in the previous section is very different compared to plenty of the wearable interface of the modern world. It plays with different graphics and works somewhat differently too. In a way the UI looks much better with more interesting graphics. Especially when displayed on the Super AMOLED display that the Koreans are so famous for.
You can transfer photos from your phone to the watch and keep them there. Of course the photos are going to be smaller to view in the watch. But the display is as vivid as ever. Colours are well saturated and details are sharp even with a mere 360 x 360 pixels packing in the display.
As I mentioned earlier, I can be quite rough with my watches; it hits every single wall corner that I walk past, gets caught on every table possible, smashes into whatever hard objects that i come across, and sometimes just drops to the ground because I left it on top of a book somewhere and forgot that it was there. The Corning Gorilla Glass SR+ built especially for smartwatches (and people like me) keeps the display in check though. The body takes most of the brunt of the damage though, thus some of the scratches on the bezel.
In bright outdoor sunlight the Gear S3 Frontier will turn its brightness up so that you can see it. See it you can, the AMOLED displays usually shine at this part; super bright images with very deep colours. If you look at it in the dark as well you would appreciate that blacks are really black. Any sort of graphic will look good on it, especially games.
This is one of the places that the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is a little on the odd side. In a good way though.
Upon turning on your Samsung Gear S3 Frontier you would find an app called Monster Vampire. If you open that app for the first time it will ask you to update the app through your paired smartphone. Once you do that though the app launches and you are now in a game that works with the rotating bezel. The mechanism takes a little time to get used to but it eventually is very intuitive and simple. It is something that you can enjoy on your way to work or keep your kids occupied (like the promotional videos). It is not much, but it is something.
You may not see smartwatches being the gaming device of choice at most times. Despite that Samsung insisted that this could be a casual gaming device and sneaked a few game titles (available in the Galaxy Store) for the Gear S3 and Gear S3 Frontier. All their games though work with the rotating bezel and all of them works. Graphics are satisfyingly smooth and response time is pretty much at smartphone levels. The graphics, for such a small screen is even good for some of the games; it looks very well thought out.
Of course, smartwatch gaming is a little bit of a niche and a distraction from your daily routine to a certain extent. It will not replace your smartphones even for a proper gaming experience. It is something new and different though.
The battery technology in electronics since its inception is, let us face it quite rubbish. This particular technology has not made any significant progress for the past 100 years and its age is starting to show. Devices do not last for longer than a day most of the time. That leads to manufacturers going to the route of cramming larger batteries in devices that we expect to be thinner and lighter than paper. In fact, there is no avoiding size gains if you want longer lasting batteries in modern devices. This is a problem for device manufacturers when it comes to creating products; not only that they have to cram a huge battery in a little body, they have to find ways ensure that their hardware consumes less power than an ant to extend battery life. This makes it an even bigger problem for smartwatches.
For whatever reason, plenty so smartwatches (save for the pebble) have battery lives that extends to up to two days. Two days! That is if you just leave it on your wrist without doing anything on it. Obviously it has to be paired via Bluetooth to your smartphone so that is that. Then you have to keep the notifications to a minimum on your watch as every single time the screen turns on, or every time it vibrates your smartwatch consumes power. Given normal circumstances, I could extract only a day and a half of battery power from another pretty popular smartwatch running on Android Wear. It was frustrating. But at the same time, you have to remember that these smartwatches are technically little, tiny smartphones you strap around your wrists that is paired to your daily main driver. So in some sense, one day and a half is not too bad is it not? In that sense, battery life for such a small device is pretty much standard and, in some cases considered way above par.
But we are talking about watches here, anything that requires you to constantly charge on a daily basis is very annoying. If you use your smartwatch to track your sleep patterns (because you can) you have to charge it the next morning meaning you cannot actually use it when you leave home. All but one smartwatch of the previous generation suffer from this battery life problem; the Samsung Gear S2.
For the Samsung Gear S2, reports come in of battery life that lasts up to four days. The last time we tested the Gear S2 it could last us up to 3 days. For the Gear S3 Frontier, we have also heard reports that it could last up to four days. Unfortunately in our case the Samsung Gear S3 never lasted more than 3 days. We do believe that the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier could last up to four days with minimalist watch faces, some tweaks on the brightness settings and with the ‘always-on’ display setting off. With our tests though we made a few phone calls, replied some texts, played Spotify, checked the calendars, and obviously check the time consistently throughout the day. With always-on display turned off, we extracted nearly 3 days worth of battery life. With always-on display turned on though it lasted a little longer than 2 days so it is not like you are losing much battery life with always-on.
Despite lasting longer than most smartwatches out there we do think that the battery life of the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier battery life is only decent at best. We do expect battery life of these smartwatches to constantly improve and evolve with time though and the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier does show that with powerful hardware, you still can get a decent battery life. We are yet to see a smartwatch that is as powerful as the Gear S3 Frontier lasts as long as the pebble but for now, it is a given. That said, it is plenty less annoying to have to keep charging your smartwatch the moment you take it off to end the day though.
As pointed out by a friend, a Pebble could be a better smartwatch as per the industry goes. That could be true, except for the fact that they went bust in the end. If you remember it right the Pebble smartwatches offer simplicity to smartwatches. It pairs with any smartphones out in the market right now, it does not require you to charge it every few days or so, it responds very quickly to the touch, and it is simple to maintain and own. It was also the cheapest smartwatch anyone could put their hands on. It could be the daddy of smartwatches; but it did not. It died off. So, what about the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier then (we are here to read the review of the Gear S3 Frontier, right?)
The Gear S3 Frontier as a packaged though is probably one of the best smartwatch in the industry right now. As mentioned earlier, with 4GB of memory the Gear S3 Frontier can act as a standalone watch that can technically function as a phone as well. We were quite saddened that the Malaysian version does not come with eSIM (enables you to make calls remotely without pairing it to your smartphone) but we will take what we have currently. But other than that, the Samsung Gear has never missed a beat.
Disregard the Pebble for this matter (Pebble is dead now anyway so – Pebble is now irrelevant). As a smartwatch, it competes with the likes of Apple’s Watch and a plethora of Android Wear out in the market. You have to keep in mind also that Android Wear and Apple Watch currently have more community and manufacturer support that the Samsung. Which means that there will be slightly less apps developed on the Gear S3 platform. Despite that though you will not miss anything from the Android Wear side. You still get plenty of apps that the Android Wear counterparts have. There are also watch faces out there that works for both Android Wear and Tizen (you have to do a little bit of a search, but there are). The apps work very well and the watch is very responsive all the time. Lags are very uncommon and graphics are smooth all the time. Of course you will sometimes see stutters or a slow down in reaction due to the amount of features packed with the device. Most of the time though that small stutter is plenty negligible. It also has a built in Microphone and speaker as well for you to make calls without having to rely solely on having your phone on your ears. Alternatively, you can connect the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier to a separate Bluetooth headphone to listen to music and make calls. So, as a smartwatch it really is one of the best out there with probably the most features.
As a normal daily watch though the Gear S3 Frontier is in a class of its own.
Samsung S Voice on the Gear S3 Frontier
If you have not already known, Samsung has been tirelessly working on their own voice activated assistant software that works very much like Google’s Google Now (Google Assistant now), and Apple’s Siri. It is called the S Voice. First introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2 devices (correct us if we are wrong) and lasting all the way to The Samsung Galaxy S7 series, it was one thing that set this South Korean manufacturer from the rest of the field. At its infancy, it was known to be quite handy but at the same time clunky and finicky. But it worked nevertheless. Since then though there have been endless updates and improvements that are made to this highly underrated voice activated assistant.
Just like the Apple Watch and Android Wear as well, S Voice is found on the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier. Makes sense since it actually has a microphone and a speaker. All you need to do to activate S Voice is by either going into the app menu and selecting the S Voice app (marked with a microphone icon), or double click your power button. You can also voice activate it with your own preset ‘wake-up call’, all you need to do is set it in the app itself (on the watch). In that sense, launching the app is pretty much a straight forward gesture, or command.
Using S Voice with the Gear S3 on the go though is a tough call. It works well in plenty of situations especially in the car when you need to make a quick call to anyone. You do not even need to reach for your smartphone as the smartwatch acts as your Bluetooth speaker and mic as well, which is great. It also does not require the Gear S3 Frontier to be connected to any sort of internet connection. But it is also at these times when things can get very annoying. In extremely noisy situations S Voice seems to struggle a little bit in terms of speech recognition. There are times that the S Voice on the Gear S3 Frontier took so long to respond we ended up just pulling out our phones to do whatever we wanted to do in the first place. Either that or we end up scrolling through the menu of the Gear S3 Frontier to find whatever we wanted to find. We do find that turning your in-car-stereo down a little does help with speech recognition though.
That said, speech recognition is highly accurate on the Gear S3 Frontier. Most of the time (if not all the time) it will accurately reproduce what I said when it comes to things like sending a text, or replying to a text with voice. Given, you would have to speak at a regular speed with a loud and clear voice. Then again every voice activated systems require you to speak up a little bit. We have not tried it with any accents though so do not ask.
Anytime you give a command, S Voice will usually repeat what you tell it to do (when you want to make calls; it will say something like “calling Rocky” or something like that). That way, you know that it does what you want or not want to do and abort where necessary. You could turn it off, or you could make it even more chatty by turning on a function where the Gear S3 Frontier announces whatever that is on your screen (though that is not actually an S Voice function). We cannot however, find anywhere to change the sort of voice you get from the Gear S3 Frontier (it is a robot woman’s voice, comment below if you have anything other than that).
Most of the time, despite the occasional failure and slow response the S Voice works just as it is. We do honestly think that the S Voice is one of the most underrated voice activated assistant out there. In the Gear S3 Frontier it does shine through especially when you really do not want to touch your smartphones (when you drive, or when it is just an inch too far on your couch; in that case, you lazy bum). It performed to near flawlessness when it does work. Yes, we did mention that it does occasionally fail; it seldom does though. Through out our usage period of over a month, the amount of times that it fails to register our speech or our command was about twice. In one of these two occasions we gave it another go and it is back to working. Is it as good as the Android and Apple equivalent? Easily, yes; it might just be very slightly better at times.
Samsung Gear App and Samsung Health
Just like its Android Wear equivalents, you do need an app on your device to pair it with. That app is Samsung’s proprietary Samsung Gear App. Because this is not an Android Wear device it will not sync with anything other than the Gear app itself. This could be where the problem starts from the Samsung Gear S3 range.
The app itself, very much like Android Wear is designed to remotely control the smart watch. From the app itself you can choose the sort of notifications you want on your Gear S3 Frontier, you can choose and download more watch faces on the gear also through the app; though the app actually migrates you into the Galaxy App Store instead. Through the app you can change your device name to whatever you fancy. You can load up music or photos into your Gear S3 Frontier through the ‘transfer files’ function. You could even locate your watch when you misplace it through the app. If you are sure that someone has stolen it, you can lock the watch like your watch as well. You can almost set everything about the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier through the Gear app itself, save for some hardware settings.
The Samsung Gear App, when connected to the Gear S3 Frontier looks over-simplistic for some. If we are honest too, we do wish that we could have more controls over the Gear S3 Frontier over the app (always-on, Wi-Fi, hear rate detection; among other things we would like). But it is plenty informative enough to let you know how your smartwatch is doing in terms of battery life, the amount of available storage (out of 4GB), and how much RAM is being occupied at any given moment. You can even do a RAM and storage clean up from your smartphone, and even check how long your battery would last you.
Of course the Gear S3 Frontier can double as a health and fitness tracker as well. That was why smartwatches were invented in the first place; to combine the benefits of a purpose built fitness tracker, a digital watch, and a smartphone. In this front the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier will sync to the Samsung Health app by default. For those of you looking to synchronise to Google Fit though, you might find this a turn off; it does not. We tried to connect both apps to no avail and so we were stuck with the default Samsung Health app (this goes for you as well if you get the Samsung Gear S3 or the S3 Frontier). The Samsung Health app is not a bad fitness tracker though. It is rated higher than Google’s own Fit app in the Play Store which is saying something.
From the App itself you could monitor your heart rate (not a real time tracker though; but also amazingly accurate), your apparent blood pressure, your sleep patterns (I prefer not to divulge my sleep pattern; it is horrible), and also apparently your stress levels. Of course it can also keep track of the amount of steps you take (while wearing the watch). It can also detect when you start your work out, though usually it will just categorise it as ‘basic workout’. The watch is smart enough to tell when you are running though; in that case it goes into ‘running’ mode. In ‘running’ mode, not only it detects the amount of steps/strides you take it even calculate the total distance of your run and can keep a record of where you run using the built-in GPS (disclaimer: I hate running). If you really like you could even monitor your calorie, caffeine, and liquid intake by manually inputting them into the Gear S3 Frontier. There are also other sports that is preset in the Health app and Gear app; you just have to manually trigger them most of the time. Also, you can trick the watch into thinking you are actually walking by registering the right amount of shock and vibration to the watch.
The Samsung Gear app has an Achilles Heel that comes with it though. It does not play well with plenty of other devices. Though we do have to point out that if you own a Samsung device you are pretty much going to be alright. The Samsung Gear app is available on the Google Play Store for free. You can install it on any device you own. The problem is that if you do not own a flagship device, the app will most probably be more problematic to you than anything else. We tried pairing the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier to an HTC U Play and got annoyed after 20 minutes of failure, so we gave up. Do note however that it could be a case to case basis with the issue, it might work normally on other devices. We do think that the issue happens quite randomly to random devices. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier that we have is paired to a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 if you must know.
Is the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier For You?
The smartwatch market, though not as populated as the regular analogue/digital watch market is now full of competition. From the Android band alone you get two to three different manufacturers pushing their own similar but different products. Then you have the Apple Watch – a premium smartwatch that looks like a mini smartphone on your wrist. Then you have other smaller manufacturers that comes up with their own sort of platform or ride on Android Wear in the market. They are sometimes also cheaper alternatives to owning a smartwatch. Lastly you have a unique one, the Samsung Gear S3 variants.
At some point, before delving too deep into software and contents, the only thing that seems to separate the many smartwatches out there is their design approach. When you do look into it though there is much more going on underneath the stainless steel housing, standard rubber straps, and optional leather straps. Hardware for these devices are pretty much similar too, they can technically be wrist strapped smartphones. Of course there are one or two bits that separates each of these products in some ways. But how can you tell? Which should you go for? Those are the questions we can answer probably another day, we do think that topic deserves its own place.
The focus here is the Samsung Gear S3 though. If I were to simplify this section it should be “which Gear S3 is for you?” but we cannot do that (for the interest of being subjective). So, should you buy one is the question today. We also would assume that since you are reading this, you are considering to buy a smartwatch already.
First of all a few other questions to answer. Is this the best smartwatch of all? In my own honest and humble opinion, yes. But at the same time preferences are subjective. To me this is the best out there at the moment because it got plenty of things right. Of course, there are a few things wrong with it and sometimes that does get annoying (lack of Google Maps integration, for one). But there are alternative apps to mitigate those issues as well so now it does not seem that bad. It looks great too, it is subtle – it does not shout about telling people that it is a smartwatch. It looks just like any other watch. It runs on Tizen, and that I admit is a little on the odd side. But even then the interface works so well and makes so much sense that Android Wear seem a little inadequate and boring. It made Apple Watch look to be a little on the expensive side too. Of course you can act like a secret agent while making phone calls with the watch; who would not want that?
Then there is the question of is it worth the money. It retails in Malaysia at MYR1,399 including GST. That pricing though is pretty much standard across the Android Wear devices save for a few. So it is hitting standard pricing. The same prices may get you more established watch brands. But these brands do not have Tizen, these brands does not have the rotating bezel as a navigation option. For the same sort of money too you are getting a few more bells and whistles that other manufacturers do not include in their smartwatch. So if you consider it only while only basing your consideration on features alone – it is worth the money.
Now comes the big question; is it for you? Should you get it?
At this point I have to point out that smartwatches these days are not in their pioneering stage anymore. It is still in its infancy though. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, therefore is not considered a new product. It is the culmination of the Gears that came before. It is now a product that is expected to perform in a larger scale. Because of that it is now tougher than ever to answer this question. So, to justify it we have to look into a few things.
The Gear S3 Frontier, in my opinion is made for people with an active lifestyle. The Gear S3 line itself, in fact is made for people who are constantly on the move. Its long lasting-ish battery life is made so that you would not have to keep your device docked every single night. Its full integration with the Samsung Health app is a show of its focus towards fitness and activity. If you do not turn it off as well the watch will constantly remind you to keep moving. But at the same time having a smartwatch is way more than that. If you just need it to keep track of your activity; what is wrong with a plain fitness band? They are way cheaper and their batteries last longer on a single charge. So in some sense as well the Gear S3 Frontier is made for people that wants to be different.
It cannot be more different than the other smartwatches out there. It has a proper functioning bezel for navigation. It works as a loudspeaker and remote for your smartphone in fact. It is an extension of your smartphone. Sure there are some compatibility issues – that is expected though since you are running two different platforms with one of top of the other. But the things is with the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, the amount of time I spend looking at my own smartphone shifted tremendously. Of course it always looked like I was pressing for time whenever I check notifications on the smartwatch but that is a given. But you really can use the smartwatch without even looking at your smartphone. You can reply texts, launch basic navigation apps, make calls, listen to music without even taking your phone out of your pockets.
It also cannot look anymore different than any other smartwatches. When other smartwatches go with the minimalist design or elaborate design, Samsung’s Gear S3 sticks to functional designs rather than going over the top to make it look way too bulky or way too simple. It hit that right balance of having the functional look while making every single design aspect is meant to be there; like they are meant to be used, functional.
There are plenty of other options in the market that does almost the same things albeit a few minor differences. The thing is though, the Samsung Gear S2 was already one of the best smartwatches in its time. The Samsung Gear S3 already builds on that which makes it even better than before. So if you are in the market for a smartwatch – really your question at this time should be “which of the two Gear S3 should I be getting?” Because really, its that good.