I have been a fan of smartwatches since the announcement of the first Pebble. The idea of having all notifications accessible on my wrist and being able to control my music without having to take out my phone made a smartwatch a must have for me. However, after seeing little to no innovation in smartwatch design and software over the past couple years, I got bored and stopped wearing one.
That changed when I found out about the Samsung Gear S3 Classic. I found the round, "normal" looking watch design and rotating bezel very interesting, so I decided to check it out. Here are my thoughts after using the Samsung Gear S3 Classic for about a month.
I love how the Gear S3 looks. I was given the option to choose between the Gear S3 Classic and the Gear S3 Frontier, and I chose the S3 Classic because it looks like a normal watch. While I didn't mind the flat tire on the Moto 360, not having any was even better. Also, the bezel on the S3 Classic does not look big (when compared to the overall size of the watch) and blends very well with the overall design of the watch.
Most smartwatches I used only lasted around a day at most, so I had very low expectations before putting the Gear S3 on my wrist. However, I was blown away by the longevity of this thing. The Gear S3 lasted consistently around 4 days. This is the best battery life I have got out of a smart watch (the OG Pebble being the only exception). It was great going to bed not having to worry about charging yet another device.
The screen is very good on the Gear S3. It is sharp, vibrant, and very bright. I did not have any issues viewing what was being displayed in any lighting condition. Easily one of the better panels you'll see on a smartwatch.
The Rotating Bezel
The only thought I had after trying out the rotating bezel was "why don't all smartwatches have this?!". The bezel is very responsive and the scrolling functionality has been implemented in the OS very well. Once I got used to where all of my shortcuts were, I didn't even have to look at the screen before rotating the bezel to get to where I wanted to be. The bezel is easily my favourite feature.
The Fitness Features
A watch being able to track footsteps, heart beat, and calories burned is nothing new, but I liked Samsung'a take on it. Different health features have their own shortcuts so it is easy to get the heart rate, steps, calories burned individually instead of having to stay in the same app and scrolling down or across to view the results.
Also, I really liked how the Gear S3 reminded me to take a walk or move a bit after noticing I had been sitting for too long. I work in marketing, so it is normal for me to sometimes stick to my desk for hours at a time, and getting that reminder was always nice. I definitely walked more than I normally did while wearing the Gear S3.
This was my first time trying out a product Tizen, Samsung's OS and I was impressed by the polish I saw. The watch was very responsive to the touch and I didn't encounter any slowdowns. There is a decent number of native apps available such as Spotify, but I mostly stuck to reading notifications, replying to messages, tracking fitness, and controlling my music. It handled every task I threw at it very smoothly and I have no complaints about its performance.
The Gear S3 is a watch made for people with big wrists. It was a bit uncomfortable wearing the watch the first couple days before I got used to the weight and size of the watch.
When I got the watch, I was very excited to try out its sleep tracking functionality, but I never wore it to bed because of its size.
While I love the features the watch offers, I'd love it if Samsung took away some things and made a slightly lighter and smaller watch.
Does not work well on iPhones
I am using an iPhone as my daily driver these days and I must say the Gear S3 felt crippled on iOS. I could only read notifications for most apps and some apps didn't even show full content (Gmail being the biggest offender). Fortunately, I was provided a Galaxy S7 to test the Gear S3 with. None of the problems I experienced on the iPhone came up when I used the Gear S3 on the Galaxy S3.
S-Voice is the voice assistant present on the Gear S3 and it is easily one of the worst voice assistants I've used on any device. It can be activated by double tapping the button or by saying "okay Gear". While the button worked every time, the command "okay Gear" didn't work about 50% of the time. Apart from the watch not being able to recognize the command, S-Voice failed to provide answers to very basic questions such as "nearest gas station" or "nearest Tim Hortons", something I haven't experienced on Google Assistant or even Siri.
For that reason, I only used S-Voice while driving.
After seeing little to no innovation in Android Wear watches, I was very impressed by what the Gear S3 brought to the table. It's easily one of the best watches available for Android devices and it would easily be the best in my opinion if Samsung figured out a way to use Google Now or Google Assistant. I'm excited to see how improved Bixby, Samsung's upcoming voice assistant, is compared to S-Voice.
If you are looking for a well designed smartwatch to use with your Android device, have medium to large wrists, and don't mind S-Voice, look no further and get the Gear S3.