Samsung's new Gear Fit 2 has GPS and a giant display

Activity-tracking wristbands tend to promise a lot and deliver not quite as much, but that hasn't stopped wearable makers from trying. Some of them are starting to squeeze more sensors into the same wristband form factor, hoping that the added capabilities will be The Thing that keeps people wearing the band.

Samsung is the latest company to take this approach, with the announcement of its new Samsung Gear Fit 2 today. The activity tracker is the follow up to the original Samsung Gear Fit, released in 2014. The new wristband has an updated design, built-in GPS, and the ability to automatically recognize certain activities, an increasingly common feature in fitness bands and watches.

The first noticeable thing about the new Gear Fit 2 is its size. It's a more flexible band than the original Gear Fit, which felt unforgiving on the wrist, but it's also bigger. This is partly to accommodate a larger — Samsung notes it's twice as wide as the prior model — 1.5-inch, super AMOLED display, which was designed with maximum visibility in mind. All of the data is displayed vertically on your wrist, which means you don't have to turn your wrist to view a horizontal display.

In addition to tracking workout distances using the GPS sensors, the Gear Fit 2 tracks the now-standard assortment of personal health metrics: steps, sleep, various activities, and heart rate. It includes a daily timeline view of your daily activities, and will show entire maps of running or cycling routes after you've finished your activity, because again, that big display. And it will show a variety of notifications from your smartphone.

Samsung is also the second tech company in recent days that has partnered with Spotify to create a dedicated Spotify app for its new wearable gadget. (Pebble was the other.) So there are three options for music listening through the new wristband. You can store up to 4GB of music locally on the device, use the wristband as a Bluetooth remote control for other music apps on the phone, or play Spotify from your wrist — although you'll still need a phone in tow for that, at least for now.

Its expected battery life is better than you might expect for a wristband with a large display and GPS. Samsung says it expects the band to last three to four days with typical usage, and up to five days long in standby mode.

The Gear Fit 2 costs $179 and will ship before the end of the year. That's $20 less than the price of the original Gear Fit, which retailed for $199, and around the same price as the Microsoft Band 2, another activity-tracking wristband with built-in GPS. It's also significantly less than the price of the GPS-equipped Fitbit Surge, which costs $250. I have to give Samsung credit for cramming as many capabilities as it could into a sub-$200 wristband.

However, the Gear Fit 2 has one drawback that those other aforementioned bands don't have: it only works with Android smartphones (4.4 or higher), whereas Fitbits, Microsoft Band, and even Garmin devices work with a variety of mobile platforms as well as desktop software.

Samsung does say that the Gear Fit 2 can be used independently of a mobile phone, so if you did have an iOS device and you still, for whatever reason, really wanted to wear the Gear Fit 2, you could. But I can't see how the limitations would be worth it, considering you wouldn't get "smart" notifications from your phone, and you'd only be able to look at your workout data directly on the wristband.

So Samsung is pulling an Apple, by introducing a wearable that's meant to have broad appeal but is limited to one platform (for now). It's an approach that has worked moderately well for Apple so far; by some estimates the company may have sold between 10 and 12 million smartwatches in its first year, and Apple is ranked third on IDC's list of top wearables vendors for the first quarter of 2016. But Samsung is fifth on that same list, claiming just a 3.6 percent share of the worldwide wearables market, and that sliver is mostly comprised of Samsung's smartwatches, not fitness bands.

Samsung is obviously wagering that the new Gear Fit 2 might be tech-sexy enough to help the company grow its overall share in the wearables market. But I have to offer a stock conclusion for now: until we have the chance to test it for an extended period of time, we won't know for sure.

Photos by Vjeran Pavic

Comments

It looks really interesting. I just wish it would sync to the cloud, like for example Fitbit or Garmin trackers. Also, if Samsung can fit GPS and an optical HR sensor into a form-factor like this, I am excited to see what Microsoft does with the Band 3 (I know, that it has more sensors, but still, it can clearly get better). If Microsoft made it IP68 waterproof, I would buy it without thinking twice.

the Gear Fit 2 has one drawback that those other aforementioned bands don’t have: it only works with Android smartphones (4.4 or higher), whereas Fitbits, Microsoft Band, and even Garmin devices work with a variety of mobile platforms as well as desktop software.

Wow, that’s not just any drawback; that’s a dealbreaker for about half the tracker market.

I’m anxious to see if Apple finally approves the Gear Manager for the Apple App Store. Tizen is incredibly compatible and will work with iOs. Apple has the software in their hands, now it’s about how much they want to keep Samsung out of their ecosystem. The Fit 2 will be the most versitle fitness tracker/ smart watch on the market. Now let’s see if Apple wants to let iPhone users experience it. ..

Not too shabby. $179 seems like a fair price.

Jesus, it looks like you’re under house arrest.

More Lauren Goode please, very professional and she knows her shit.

She’s also well versed in click-bait headline hyperbole as well, it seems.

This is the least of the clickbait around here bud

Apparently not, because overnight she dropped "monstrosity" and moved any mention of it’s size to the byline. Now it’s just "big."

Microsoft Band v2 clone. Nice to see Samsung copying MS for a change.

Not only does it look just like Gear Fit (which came out before the original Band), Band2 looks more like Gear Fit than Band 1.

Correct ph00ny. Wouldn’t it be really cool if people knew what they were talking about before they posted?

The original Gear and the Gear Fit came out way before Microsoft Band. The Samsung hate is strong even in the Microsoft circles. .. I do like the Band, but damaging didn’t copy anything from microsoft

Microsoft is the one who copied Samsung.

Samsung’s original Gear Fit had the same design but came out months before Microsoft did.

Lauren, should have mentioned that there will be two different band sizes. That will be important for people with smaller wrists.

It was looking promising for me for the vertical display a opposed to the MS Band’s horizontal band (which is the deal breaker for me pretty much) until there was mention of no 3rd party app support. I guess this is using the Tizen OS still?

Tizen OS has the best OS for battery life right now.

Give me custom downloadable workouts to the GF2, like the Band 2, and I’ll give you my money, Samsung.

Looks nice but a bit too bulky to be worn all day. Good battery life too. Should be multi-platform though.

Should be multi-platform though.

I think that is their plan, but they need Apple to approve the Gear Manager app.

It really all depends on Apple to approve their Gear App on the App store.

Holy shit!!!!

I’m sooooo here for this. I’ve been an early adopter in the fitness band space. I had a fuelband (several actually as poor quality control required two replacements). I had Fitbit Charges (again several as they kept breaking – and fitbit was gracious enough to replace them no questions asked. That said i never even opened the last one so i have one lying around in-box – if you’re in new york/brooklyn and interested, please inquire).

These devices above worked – they did what they were supposed to which is quantify one’s activity. the particulars of said quantification become more relevant over time – but the actual usefulness of a device that lets you keep track of your activity? Very valuable.

To that end the Apple Watch is over-engineered and not really what I’m looking for. I want something geared to the athlete – not jewelry.

I still have my Samsung Gear Fit – I love the thing. It did/does what it’s supposed to. From dawn to dusk it gives me numbers – and it’s rugged. Hasn’t broken.

for a while I thought they’d given up on the product. I’m super excited about the remix. I’m underwhelmed with the decision to limit platforms – and they BETTER have a desktop app FFS. But I WILL get it.

kudos.

Honestly, all I want out of this, or the Pebble Core, is Audiobook functionality. Spotify isn’t going to cut it for most people. Many will want a music player to load and listen to their own music/playlists, and some will want to listen to audiobooks. Music is fun, but going for a nice jog and listening to an engaging audiobook is the highlight of my day.

If I can listen to audiobooks on Audible, and the GPS is accurate, it’s a day one purchase. If the heart rate is near accurate as well, that’s just gravy, but these types of optical heart rate monitors have never been very good, especially while running. I don’t know what the limitation is right now, but one day I’d love to find one that can replace a chest strap.

The core is supposed to be pretty hackable, so I think with enough enthusiasm that Audiobooks and podcasts could be a thing.

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