Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Review
Back in September, Samsung announced their latest smartwatch powered by Tizen – the Gear S3. Three months later, it is now slated to launch in the Philippines. We finally got our hands on one so check out our review below.
Design and Construction
The Samsung Gear S3 comes in two models – the Frontier and the Classic. The former, which we have for review, has a more sporty and rugged look, while the latter is more akin to a simple yet luxurious timepiece.
The Gear S3 features a 1.3-inch circular Super AMOLED touch display mounted with Corning Gorilla Glass SR+ which is the company’s special glass for wearables. Surrounding it is a rotating bezel which is used for navigating the watch.
On the left side are three holes for the speaker, while on the right are a couple of textured buttons Back and Menu, and the microphone.
Located under the watch are sensors which track your health status and physical activities.
When it comes to build quality, the Gear S3 is truly premium thanks to its stainless steel case body and bezel. The case’s back is made of plastic but feels solid and of good quality. Our unit has an Active Silicon Band but can be easily replaced by a more premium leather band.
On the wrist, the Gear S3 feels hefty but it’s something you wouldn’t mind considering its premium build. The display quality is also good even in direct sunlight while performance is smooth and responsive. Do note though that this one runs Tizen and not Android Wear. It can work on its own or with an Android smartphone with the help of the Samsung Gear app.
When it comes to the display, the Gear S3 has a 1.3-inch Circular Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 360 x 360 or equal to 278ppi. Screen size is smaller than the Moto 360 (2nd-gen) which is at 1.56-inch but makes up for a higher PPI count as the Moto only has 233ppi.
It is vibrant and visible under direct sunlight while colors are well-saturated which makes the watch’s design pop out. We’d also like to note that the Gear S3 doesn’t have a front-facing sensor at the bottom of the display like the ones found on some Android Wear smartwatches. This means there’s no flat-tire look which gives you more screen real-estate to enjoy.
Setup and Features
Setup is straightforward. First, you’ll need to choose your language, agree to some terms and conditions, set a PIN for backup and data protection, choose your time zone, then set the date and time.
At this point, the Gear S3 can function on its own and be used right away but if you want to receive notifications from your phone, you’ll need to connect it to via Bluetooth using the Samsung Gear app. The Samsung Gear app is
only available for Android so iPhone users could sit this one out available for Android and iOS. Once you have the app installed and the Gear S3 connected, you can then manage your notifications and install apps for the smartwatch. You can also connect it to your home Wi-Fi so it can retrieve data online.
Since the Gear S3 is also a fitness tracker, it can monitor multiple types of exercises, calculate calories, count your steps and stairs climbed, measure your heart rate and sleep, as well as check for altitude and barometric pressure to give you a heads up on the weather. To fully take advantage of said features, it is advisable to download the S Health app so you can also manually input data like food, water, and caffeine intake, as well as add goals and fitness programs.
OS, Apps, and Performance
The Gear S3 is powered by Samsung’s Tizen OS version 188.8.131.52, 1.0GHz dual-core CPU, and 768MB RAM. Navigation is mostly done via touch or using the rotating bezel which is more intuitive to use. There are a couple of buttons to help with navigation – the top button for Exit/Home, the bottom for App Menu.
So far performance is great, sensors are accurate and responsive, and we didn’t experience any crashing, delays, or random reboots. The only disadvantage we see is the limited number of apps available in the Galaxy Apps Store. Although there are a number of good ones like quality watch faces even games, but you won’t see popular apps Runtastic or Strava. App support is quite limited but can it can receive notifications from most. One example is Facebook Messenger as you can read your message and respond with a quick thumbs up. Spotify, on the other hand, can be controlled using the built-in player.
Speaking of apps, the Gear S3 has some pre-loaded like Flipboard and a game called Monster Vampire which can be uninstalled. The rest are Samsung’s own apps like S Health and S Voice. The Gear S3 only has 4GB of storage with around 1.6GB usable after setup.
One of the main features of the Gear S3 is its ability to make and take calls thanks to its built-in speaker and microphone. It syncs with your phone’s contact list and calls logs. There’s a circular dial pad as well for manual input of numbers. During calls, the microphone is powerful enough to register a whisper in a quiet room although the speaker leaves a lot to be desired. It’s audible especially in a quiet room but not enough when you’re outdoors. Audio quality, on the other hand, feels like you’re listening to a weak walkie-talkie. That said, better take calls directly on the phone or through a headset.
The Gear S3 is equipped with a 380mAh battery which Samsung claims to last for four days. In our use with constant Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity as well as heavy fiddling with it, we were able to get three days, better than the Moto 360 (2nd-gen)’s a day and a half. We can further extend its battery life by switching to its power saving mode which uses a grayscale home screen with most features and connectivity off.
To sum it up, Samsung has a top-notch smartwatch in the form of the Gear S3. It has an attractive look, premium build, great performance, loads of features and long battery. The Tizen OS is also worth commending although we hope that more apps will be built for it in the future. Even with the said flaw, the Gear S3 is a tempting smartwatch. We’d get one ourselves but we’re yet to know the price. We’ll know when it launches in the country on December 12.
Author’s note (Jan. 16, 2017): This article was updated to add iOS support.
Samsung Gear S3 specs:
1.3-inch Circular Super AMOLED Display @ 360 x 360, 278ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass SR+
1.0GHz Dual Core chip
4GB Internal memory
GPS, A-GPS, Glonass
IP68 water and dust resistance
380mAh battery with wireless charging
* Attractive design
* Premium build
* Good display
* Good performance
* Lots of features
* Long battery life
* Limited Tizen apps
* Limited support for apps on smartphone