Few categories of electronic products can be as confusing as that of intelligent watches-or smartwatches. The first good models of this line began to appear in 2014, led by Apple Watch and by the devices running Android Wear, from Google.
Samsung also started using Android Wear, but soon expanded to a proprietary software solution and introduced the world’s gear S. Today in its third generation, gear S3, the Korean brand demonstrates that it learned a lot from the past mistakes and continues to improve.
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Announced in Brazil in December last year, Gear S3 costs R $2,200 (price suggested by Samsung) and was sent to the Digital look for a few days of testing. Does the appliance surpass the predecessors and the competition? Is he worth the high price? Is there any smartwatch in this world worth that much money? That’s what you’re going to find in the paragraphs below.
For you who do not know what a smartwatch is, follows a quick summary: it is a wearable (a dressable device) that you put on the wrist and synchronizes with your smartphone. From it, you can have quick access to notifications and some basic cellular functions, such as answering messages and even answering calls, depending on the model.
What happens is that, visually, there is almost nothing that differentiates a smartwatch from a common watch. The S3 Gear is a good example of this case. The design applied by Samsung is simple but very bold. It looks like a “normal” watch, but it has several features of a luxury product, facing the executive audience.
The version we tested from the appliance is Classic, with leather bracelet (in two sizes for the different wrists of users). There is another version, called Frontier, with a rubber bracelet and a more “sporting” texture, facing another audience. The watch itself, in both versions, is made of steel.
There’s no way to go much deeper than that. The S3 Gear is a beautiful and discreet watch without any extravagance. It’s not enough to be as minimalist as the Motorola motorcycle 360, but it also doesn’t try to get through a wrist computer. The best description for the S3 Gear is perhaps the word “elegant.”
Loading a miniaturized smartphone into the wrist means having an even more intimate contact with the technology than what we have with the cellphone or the PC. This also means that the usage experience needs to be the most natural and intuitive possible, so that the user does not feel a cyborg by touching the clock in his arm.
Although all smartwatch is a nightmare in this sense, until Samsung can put in Gear S3 some very interesting ideas. The main one is the steering wheel around the screen, which allows the user to interact with their resources beyond the touchscreen. It’s the same interaction mechanism used in the S2 Gear, and that comes back here with the same delicacy and accuracy.
It makes a lot of sense that a smartwatch use its own round shape as a navigation. It’s about the most intuitive and natural interaction you can imagine having with the watch. It causes discomfort to have to use the lateral pins as cursors, as it does the Apple Watch, because it does not seem like such a “organic” movement.
There are buttons on the side of Samsung’s device that, instead, need to be used to perform certain tasks. In a few moments, the use of these buttons may seem confusing, and it takes some time until the user decorates which one does what. But this is just a glitch in a very well-built user interface.
Another feature that makes the experience intuitive is the Super AMOLED “always-on” screen, which stays in a low-light state when the user is not looking and lights up when it detects the movement of the arm to take the watch to the eye height. However, the resource does not work in the most precise way possible.
For more than once, I had to raise my arm, lower it again and lift again, sometimes even shake the wrist, so that the screen would light up and I could see the time. Sign that motion sensors within the clock are not exactly perfect, which can make the experience somewhat frustrating in the day to day.
The screen, moreover, has good resolution and, like its predecessor, the S3 Gear can also maintain the content of the readable screen even under strong natural light-at least when the screen is active. In low luminosity mode, it is very difficult to discern the pointers and digital numbers.
Finally, Gear S3 has IP68 certification, which ensures that it is an almost entirely waterproof device. We say “almost totally” because Samsung does not recommend that you use it to swim or dive, especially not in saltwater. Anyway, the clock promises to hold up to 1.5 metro of water for up to 30 minutes, which we can prove in our tests.
Features and performance
Let’s go to the numbers offered by performance analysis applications. The S3 Gear has a dual-core 1.0 GHz processor, 768 MB RAM and an incredible 4GB of internal storage. The jump in relation to the S2 is crisp and very welcome, causing the S3 to function much better independently than just reflecting the cell’s contents.
These 4GB of internal space can be used to install new applications, but there are not many options in the Samsung store. The great problem of the S3 Gear, in this sense, is your operating system. The software, based on Tizen (from Samsung itself), is much more closed and bureaucratic than Android Wear, used by some competitors.
Stop the clock with a Android cell phone that is not a recent top of Samsung’s a somewhat ungrateful task. We need to install nothing less than three Korean apps just so that the two devices can talk more clearly. In a Galaxy S7, for example, two of these apps have already come to factory installed.
That said, the S3 Gear until it facilitates the “great” work that is to take the cellphone out of the pocket to confer a notification (we’ll talk more of this “torture” just below). There is little delay between the arrival of the alert on the phone and the clock, and raising the arm to activate the screen gives immediate access to the contents of messages from WhatsApp, Messenger or SMS.
What the S3 Gear does not do well is to offer a response mechanism to those messages that are minimally satisfactory. Like any other smartwatch, Samsung’s intelligent watch has an almost incomprehensible keyboard. The audio detection system also translates very poorly our responses aloud, and not answering calls-making that famous secret agent pose leading the wrist close to the mouth-it’s the best of experiments.
Only short responses (“Yes”, “no”, “maybe”) is that they are easy to access. This problem is not unique to Gear S3, of course, but little effort is seen from Samsung’s part to try to fix it. The good side is that the smartwatch bet many of its chips in the independent use of the cellular, especially in monitoring physical activities, when it stands out.
In addition to the traditional steps, calories, sleeping hours and Heartbeat records (which work well, incidentally), the S3 Gear comes with support for Wi-Fi networks. This means that many of its basic functions, such as browsing the map or taking a look at the weather forecast, work even away from the smartphone.
Although it is not completely independent of the smartphone, it is a mild degree of autonomy welcome. It helps the fact that the battery of the appliance (which has 380 mAh power) has a reasonable duration: three to four days away from the outlet. The wireless loading in the dock accompanying the smartwatch, however, is slow as you expect it to be: as if it were a three-year-old cellphone, the S3 Gear takes almost 2 hours to go from 0% to 100%.
Gear S3 is clearly one of the best-but the best smartwatch in the Brazilian market. Which doesn’t mean much, actually. For better, more complete, dynamic and intelligent that is, the device is just a clock with the same functions as a smartphone.
Until today, the technology industry does not seem to have found a clear justification for the smartwatches. As we said before, your main function is to shorten the journey from the hands of the user: you don’t need to take your cellphone out of your pocket to see who’s calling you in the WHATSAPP, just raise your arm.
Some argue that doing this is safer than leaving the smartphone to show, but the chances of someone stealing a cellphone from your hand are almost the same as a thief’s asking for his watch when he realizes that he lights up the screen alone and has touch-sensitive controls.
All this still for R $2,199, the price of a great intermediate smartphone. Although it does not seem to compensate, the smartwatches managed to conquer a slice (very small) from the consumer public. If you even know all this and having a different opinion you want to buy a smart watch, the S3 Gear is an option that doesn’t let you wish.