What do you do when you’re building a smartwatch for a world that doesn’t seem to care much about smartwatches? If you’re Samsung, you cram in every feature you possibly can. This is the Samsung Gear S3, the wristwatch that does it all.
You’ll know there are actually two versions of the Gear S3, the Classic and the Frontier. This is the latter, a less looky, but better-equipped version built for those who need to do more than they need to wow. This one packs Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC, GPS, and cellular radios and its ruggedized steel casing is framed by thick rubber wristbands.
All that makes for a beefy wearable, and while it’s not as absurdly huge as the Casio F10, it’s still substantially larger than most of the competition.
Full stand-alone phone with LTE: The LTE version doesn’t need your smartphone to function. That includes making and taking phone calls over the speakerphone. It was tinny and a bit shrill on my end, but callers on the other side said I sounded no worse than over a regular phone, and if you want, you can connect a headset to the Gear S3 over Bluetooth and take your calls that way. Now, the watch does have its own phone number, but AT&T; offers a feature called NumberSync that essentially spoofs your regular digits, so you don’t have to deal with the headache of two phone numbers Samsung’s new software lets you do a few things right on the watch that you used to need your phone for like downloading new watch faces and apps. The selection’s thin, but there are some big titles here with more presumably on the way. Besides notifications, the most utility I got out of the Gear S3 was mobile payments. By now, you’re used to seeing people paying for coffees with their Apple watches, and Samsung pay offers the same type of technology, but the Gear S3 works even on old fashioned credit card terminals, the ones that only have a magnetic stripe reader. You just press pay, hold your wrist next to the card slot, and the watch kicks out a magnetic field that emulates the strip on your debit card. Used this at four or five different stores and had a smooth check out every time, even when I didn’t have my phone on me.
The watch has more familiar equipment onboard too. I didn’t find much use for the altimeter, but the barometer warned me to pack my umbrella a few times when the mercury was crashing, and the health sensors are very smart. The watch knows when you’re taking a walk and automatically starts tracking your movements and heart rate so it can log health data for you. All that info is fed into the S Health app, which is fully featured and easy to use, though obviously, you’re going to get more accurate metrics from a dedicated fitness band. If you wear the Gear S3 to bed, it will also automatically track your sleep to paint a more complete picture of your health. Don’t think you’re going to be wearing it to bed too often though. Despite Samsung’s lofty claims of four-day battery life, my typical experience was about two days between charges. That’s no surprise given how much tech is crammed into this package. Also, keep in mind I’m using the LTE version. Like most smartwatches, though, you’re probably going to want to throw the S3 on the charger every night. On the upside, that charger is magnetic, it’s wireless and very convenient as a bedside clock. The downside, since the watch, doesn’t really play nice with other Qi chargers, you need to remember to bring the cradle with you on every road trip.
Whether that’s worth it to you will depend on how you feel about smartwatches. For all its features, the Gear S3 isn’t going to transform the category, and I doubt it will convert those who’ve already written off the segment as a whole, but to smartwatch appreciators looking for an Android compatible alternative to the Apple competition, this is it, and frankly I think it’s older than the Apple watch in many respects.
Samsung Gear S3 price
That seems minor, I know, but this is, after all, a watch. For what you’re paying, it should be the best at the basics too. What you’re paying for the Gear S3 is $349. That goes for the Bluetooth only editions. If you get the LTE version of the Frontier, you’ll be getting it from AT&T; or T-Mobile for a different set of prices, and you’ll be paying a monthly service fee to make it work.
- Out now in both Classic and Frontier flavors
- Originally cost $349.
The Gear S3 started life at $349, which is expensive for a smart timepiece. We’ve now seen the price drop to around $280, which isn’t a huge discount considering it has since been replaced by the Gear Sport and Galaxy Watch.
We’d recommend looking at both the Gear Sport and Galaxy Watch before deciding to buy the Gear S3 as the price is similar but this is an older device.
The Gear S3 looks and feels like a real watch, but does more than a regular watch and without requiring any extra effort on your part. The features that already exist on a watch, the bezel, the crown, and the crystal, can be turned, pressed or tapped for convenience, fun and pure freedom from your phone.
This is an absolutely beautiful display, and it is Samsung’s best software yet. You control it through the touch screen, the spinning bezel, and the buttons on the sides. It takes a couple of days to settle into the flow, but once you do, it’s a lot of fun. The watch face is in the center of the carousel. Notifications stack up to the left as they come in, and widgets are to the right. When you’re not actively using the watch, the always on display is the best I’ve ever seen.
There are some shortcomings. Notifications sometimes take a beat or two to make it from phone to watch. S Voice is still a pretty lacking virtual assistant, and there doesn’t seem to be a quick way to assign a widget to things like the timer or stopwatch.
On my wrist, the only thing that really screams big is the thickness. It’s tough to get a shirtsleeve cuff over it, and if I were to buy one, I’d probably swap the wristband for one that’s a little softer, or I’d just buy the Classic model instead, but if I did that, I’d miss out on one of the Frontier’s halo features. Under Armour Connected Fitness on your Samsung Gear, you now have more fitness tracking options at your fingertips. And when you download the MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal, or Endomondo apps on your Samsung Gear, you will receive one year of premium app membership for free, with additional tools to help you reach your goals.
The S3’s 380-mAh battery can last up to three days on a charge. If you want to use it just like a watch, I’m sure that’s possible. However, even with the display set to turn on only when I raised my wrist, no GPS tracking enable and just a few notifications coming through, I was able to get about 24 hours out of the S3 before needing to charge it back up. Using GPS will drain the watch a lot faster, though; a 30-minute run used up a little over 10 percent of the S3’s battery.
The Samsung Gear S3 is a fantastic smartwatch, that much is certain. If you buy the Gear S3, you’ll probably be better off with the Bluetooth the only version, as long as you don’t often stray from your phone. For a similar experience in a smaller size, the Samsung Gear S2 is still on sale, and it’s still a good buy at its much lower price. There are plenty of other smartwatches resting on wrists the world over.