Samsung Gear Sport review: Smartwatch and activity tracker with enterprise-focused functionality

  • Editors' rating
    9.3 Spectacular
  • $299.99

Pros

  • Excellent quality stainless steel design
  • Brilliant OLED screen
  • Rotating bezel and touch user interface
  • GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi connectivity
  • Offline music support
  • iOS and Android support
  • Two day battery life

Cons

  • S Voice is still utterly useless
  • No speaker to answer calls

While I absolutely loved last year's Gear S3 Frontier, one of the major complaints I heard on a regular basis was that it was too big. We now have the Samsung Gear Sport that brings Tizen 3.0 with a smaller form factor more acceptable to the masses.

In addition to the updated hardware, Samsung brings enterprise-friendly capability with a native PowerPoint controller, web app support designed to encourage more application development, improved WiFi infrastructure support, and Knox configure. Companies have the capability to provide custom app solutions on the Gear Sport, which can be used to support various programs.

For example, UnitedHealthcare launched an incentive-based wellness program where Samsung wearables track and encourage daily walking goals. Users who achieve the goals can earn up to $1,000 a year for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Using wearables to encourage healthy living and rewarding people is exactly what I envision as a way to expend the use of wearables and help us reduce medical expenses while also helping people live more productive and happy lives.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch (30.4mm) 360 x 360 pixels resolution Super AMOLED Gorilla Glass 3
  • Operating system: Tizen 3.0
  • Storage: 768MB RAM and 4GB internal storage for music and apps
  • Water resistance: 50 meters,5 ATM
  • Bands: Standard 20mm bands for massive variety of band options
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth 4.2, 801.22 b/g/n WiFi, GPS, GLONASS, NFC, optical HR, barometer, gyro, ambient light, accelerometer
  • Battery: 300 mAh
  • Dimensions: 42.9 x 44.6 x 11.6 mm and 67 grams

The Gear Sport is attached to the large strap in the box, but there is also a small strap included. The retail package includes the wireless charging dock and a travel adapter. You can purchase the Gear Sport in blue or black color too.

Hardware

The Gear Sport is several millimeters smaller, 1.3mm thinner too, than the Gear S3 Frontier and 13 grams lighter. It is bigger and heavier than a 42mm Apple Watch while also having a more traditional round display.

The stainless steel construction is excellent. The rotating bezel is smooth and a key to optimizing the Tizen user interface. The standard 20mm straps are attached with quick-release pins so you can easily swap out bands to match your attire or activity.

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You can connect the Gear Sport to your phone via Bluetooth while WiFi networks can also be used for streaming music, transferring music to the Gear Sport for offline listening, and syncing of your data to Samsung servers.

In addition to the touchscreen panel and rotating bezel, there are two buttons on the right side of the Gear Sport. The top one goes back with a single press while a single press of the bottom one jumps to the app launcher. Press and hold the top button to launch Samsung Pay, when the Gear Sport is connected to an Android phone, and press and hold the bottom button to choose to power off or turn off the touch screen. Double press the bottom button to launch S Voice, but S Voice is terrible so I recommend never making this action.

My Gear S3 Frontier has LTE support through T-Mobile so I can use it when it is not connected to a phone via Bluetooth. There is no LTE option available for the Gear Sport.

There is also no speaker available on the Gear Sport, which is something I actually use while running at times on the Gear S3 Frontier. I don't like to wear headphones when I run at night, for safety reasons, but I do like a little light music playing with the Gear S3 integrated speaker. I also like taking calls on my wrist with the Gear S3 and on the Gear Sport choosing to answer a call just starts the call on your phone.

The Gear Sport has a higher water resistant rating than the Gear S3 and is designed for active swimming workouts. You can trust the Gear Sport to function in most any environment.

Watch software

Tizen 3.0 is included in the Gear Sport and brings some improvements over Tizen 2.x, found in the Gear S3. These include a heavier focus on fitness tracking, improved widgets, improvements in the rotating bezel use, more quick controls in the swipe down moment bar, and an updated smartphone app.

The Gear Sport is easy to pick up and use without a heavy learning curve. The display turns on with the watch face appearing. Tap and hold on the watch face to customize it or swipe to choose another face. There are a ton of watch face options and many of these can offer all the data you need at a glance.

Swipe down from the watch face to reveal the Moment bar. Here you will find icons for power-saving mode, airplane mode, water lock mode, do not disturb, watch face always-on mode, display brightness, music play control, and full settings access. The top of the display also shows the battery and connectivity status.

Swipe from left to right on the watch face to access any notifications you have not cleared. Swipe from right to left to scroll through your widgets. You can also rotate the bezel to scroll through either the right or left swipes from the watch face. The rotating bezel also works within selected apps and widgets to scroll up and down or left and right in different menus and lists. The bezel is a joy to use and one thing that sets the Gear Sport apart from the Apple Watch and its awkward rotating scroll wheel button.

Samsung Pay is also integrated into the Gear Sport, but unlike the Gear S3 Frontier it does not support MST so there are some limits on its use. However, most places that accept terminal payments work fine with the Gear Sport.

Samsung Health is a major focus of the Gear Sport with several available widgets, automatic tracking options, and the Samsung Health app ready to go. You can choose a workout to include running, walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, elliptical, exercise bike, step machine, treadmill, lunges, crunches, squats, jumping jacks, pilates, yoga, rowing machine, and other custom workout. I would love to see more multi-activity options where the Gear Sport takes you through several bodyweight exercises at once. For example, I use the Seven app on the Apple Watch and 7-minute workout on the Fitbit Ionic for a nice overall bodyweight routine.

Smartphone software

To get the most out of the Gear Sport, you need to install the Samsung Gear and Samsung Health apps on your iOS or Android smartphone. iOS use has improved significantly over last year when it would constantly quick on me, making my Gear S3 Frontier useless with an iPhone.

The Samsung Gear app has two main screens, info and settings. Info is the status screen for your Gear Sport where connectivity, battery, storage, and RAM stats are presented. You can access the Samsung Gear store to install more watch faces or apps from this info screen. At the bottom you will find a quick link to Samsung Health.

The settings screen is used to manage notifications, apps that are installed on your Gear Sport, find your Gear Sport, manage Samsung Pay, check the firmware of your Gear Sport, and more.

Samsung Health is one of the most capable and functional life tracking utilities I have ever used. While it provides details of a stunning amount of data collected by Samsung wearables, it still has no connectivity to Apple Health or Google Fit. This doesn't affect me much since Samsung does have connectivity to other services like Runkeeper, Strava, and Microsoft Health. Samsung also has support for excellent Under Armour apps like MyFitnessPal, Endomondo, UA Record, and MapMyRun. You can use the data through these apps to then connect down the line to Apple and Google.

iOS vs Android usage differences

I spent a couple weeks using the Gear Sport on Android phones, including the Galaxy Note 8, and a week using it with my Apple iPhone X. There are a couple of differences between using the Gear Sport on an Androd phone compared to a Samsung Galaxy Android phone, including limited functionality for calls, messaging, and email. Otherwise, notifications, Samsung Pay, apps, S Health, and watch faces are all the same on Android.

The major difference when using an iPhone with the Gear Sport is that you have no ability to use Samsung Pay. Pressing and holding the top button, when connected to an iPhone, does nothing and there is no option in the Samsung Gear app to setup Samsung Pay.

Email is also not supported when connected to an iPhone. Notifications are supported, but you do not have the ability to select specific app notifications and you will see all of the same notifications you have established on your iPhone appear on the Gear Sport.

The Apple Watch is clearly the best smartwatch for iPhone users, but if you don't want an Apple Watch and like to jump between iOS and Android the Gear Sport is a decent option for iPhone users too.

Price and competition

The Gear Sport is a smartwatch first and activity tracker second. Competition in the smartwatch area is primarily limited to the Apple Watch and Android Wear. There isn't a current Android Wear device I would consider any competition at all. The Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $329.

Looking at watches that focus first on activity tracking, the competition includes the Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivoactive 3, and other Garmin and Suunto devices. The Fitbit Ionic and Vivoactive 3 are also both priced at $300. These have at least double the battery life of the Gear Sport, but the Gear Sport is a better smartwatch than both of these devices.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Gear Sport is clearly a better smartwatch for Android users than any current Android Wear device. Android Wear has taken a step backward in usability and there isn't a single Android Wear watch I would recommend.

The Gear Sport offers a smaller form factor than the Gear S3 while offering nearly all of the same capability. I personally plan to stick with my Gear S3 Frontier because the size doesn't bother me and I like Samsung Pay with MST and LTE functionality.

The $300 price is fair for the Gear Sport and if you buy one soon you can take advantage of the $50 limited price cut. For $250, the Gear Sport is clearly a buy it now recommendation for Android phone users.

Samsung listened to users and launched a smaller Gear smartwatch with improved capabilities for consumers and enterprise customers. It's an extremely capable smartwatch with a heavy focus on tracking various sports. It tracks accurately and reliably in a variety of situations and provides great smartwatch and GPS sports tracking functionality.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, heart rate, altimeter, ambient light sensor, barometer, gyro sensor
Vibrating Alert Yes
Color Category Blue
Max Depth of Water Resistance 164 ft
Compliant Standards MIL-STD 810G
Protection 5ATM waterproof
Processor
Clock Speed 1 GHz
Communications
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11b/g/n, NFC
Battery
Capacity 300 mAh
Wireless Charging Yes
Style
Product type GPS Sport watch
Header
Brand Samsung
Product Line Samsung
Model Gear Sport SM-R600
Packaged Quantity 1
General
Size 1.2 inch
Wearing Style watch style
Clock Display Yes
Integrated Components heart rate sensor, navigation
Set Goals Yes
Tracking Data activity, steps taken, swim laps, swim stroke rate, time, calories burned, distance, heart rate, speed
Audio Output Speaker
CE Input Device
Type rotating bezel, touch sensitive screen
Band
Size Large
Name strap
Width 0.8 in
Features
Sensors accelerometer, heart rate, altimeter, ambient light sensor, barometer, gyro sensor
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 11.6 mm
Height 1.8 in
Weight 2.36 oz
OS Provided
Type Tizen OS 3.0
System Requirements
Supported Host Device OS Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) or later, iOS 9 or later
Supported Host Device Platform Android, iOS
Case
Case Shape round
Case Details blue
Connectivity
Wireless Interface IEEE 802.11b/g/n, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

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Where To Buy

Samsung Gear Sport (blue)

Part Number: SM-R600NZBAXAR
Price
$299.99