There’s a new smartwatch in Samsung’s portfolio and its purpose is stated by its name: the Gear Sport. Launching at a gala event at Berlin’s Tempodrom today, the Gear Sport follows in the path defined by the Gear S3, marrying familiar design cues from the traditional watch industry with the functionality people expect from a modern smart device.
As a fitness tracker, the Samsung Gear Sport will be able to record swimming sessions with the preloaded Speedo On app (it’s rated to be waterproof to a depth of 50 meters), and Samsung has partnered with Under Armour to give owners a 12-month, premium-tier membership and access to the latter’s suite of self-quantification apps: UA Record, MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, and Endomondo. The Gear Sport also has a new continuous heart rate monitor, automatic activity detection, and customizable goals and alerts to help you stay on track with your fitness plan. All of that runs on top of Samsung’s Tizen platform, as with the Gear S line, which I personally find simpler and more pleasant to use than Google’s Android Wear.
The Gear Sport trades away the Gear S3’s cellular connectivity for a slimmer and more ergonomic design
In terms of hardware, this watch is built around a 1.2-inch circular AMOLED display with a 360 x 360 resolution, Gorilla Glass 3 protection, and an always-on mode. Its notched bezel is elevated above a rectangular base that evokes the design of some of the chunkier dive watches we’ve seen in the past, such as the Vostok Amphibia. My one grudge with the Gear S3 was that it lost the elegance and compactness of the Gear S2, and it was trying to appear small when it truly wasn’t. The Gear Sport is the exact opposite: it takes on the appearance of a large watch, but is actually quite light, comfortable, and ergonomic to wear for even people with smaller wrists.
Measuring 11.6mm in thickness, the Gear Sport is thinner than the Gear S3, trading off the cellular data connectivity of its senior sibling for a lither shape. The new watch weighs 50 grams without a band attached and is compatible with standard 20mm wristwatch bands. Equipped with a dual-core processor, 4GB of onboard storage, 768MB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC for Samsung Pay support, the Gear Sport is fully up-to-date on the specs front. And yes, it has GPS and a barometer too, though how its 300mAh battery is going to hold up when all of those wireless radios and sensors are kicking is yet to be determined. Samsung claims a whopping four days of battery life with the Gear Sport, however that shrinks down to a maximum of 14 hours of continuous GPS operation. Both are still highly impressive for a device of this size.
Samsung’s use of the rotating bezel as the part of the UI continues to delight
Looking at the Gear Sport from the perspective of a fitness obsessive, it has obvious appeal by being able to plug into an existing tracking ecosystem with Under Armour and in offering new swim-tracking capabilities. But for the rest of us, the Gear Sport can still be an intriguing device if we just like the way it looks and works. I’d count myself among those who find the Gear Sport’s design attractive: the rotating bezel is once again a delightful UI element, the supple silicone straps make it really easy to wear, and the AMOLED screen is nicely visible outdoors. For a smartwatch, this bucks the unfortunate trend of this year of moving backward with chunkier and uglier designs (Huawei, I’m looking directly at you).
The Gear Sport will be available in a choice of black or blue silicone strap, with Samsung offering a wide range of aftermarket straps, which will come with color- and design-matched watch faces. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones. Samsung isn’t yet announcing a price for the Gear Sport, but we can expect it to land somewhere between the $199 price of the new Gear Fit2 Pro and the $349 starting price of the Gear S3.