DNA Review: The Gear Sport strikes a balance with size, style, quality : Page 2 of 2
By Edwin Yapp December 22, 2017
Features and functionality
As a device, the Gear Sport performs well as both a fitness tracker and smartwatch. The fitness portion of the Gear Sport has all the same bells and whistles as its predecessors, the Gear S2/S3. You can easily track steps walked, heart rate, sleep patterns, easily record the number of cups of coffee and/or water consumed to name a few.
The Gear Sport also automatically tracks your activity. Say for example, you’re walking at a faster than normal rate for 10 minutes, it will assume that you’re doing a kind of light exercise.
Should you want to be more purposeful in recording your workout, you can select a host of tracking activities such as running, walking, elliptical training, cycling, treadmill, exercise bike and even set exercises like star jumps, squats, pilates, yoga, crunches.
The Gear Sport does track calorie count directly from the watch but I feel this feature isn’t exactly accurate so it’s best to not rely too much on it if you’re the type who’s counting calories.
The heart rate monitor is fairly accurate to within three to five beats of manual measurements. This however is only true when you’re not running or sprinting very fast as your quick hand movements will skew the heart rate monitor. All wrist-based monitors suffer from this so that’s not a biggie.
As for the smartwatch portion of the Gear Sport, what’s useful that was missing from the Gear S2 is a GPS. This enables you to track your runs or cycleing and allows you to easily go for your activities without your smartphone in tow and get the info synced when you return home. Do note that if you want to run with the Gear Sport, you’ll need Bluetooth-enabled wireless earbuds or headphones.
Another useful feature is the music playing feature of the Gear Sport. You can easily transfer your songs over to your smartwatch as there is up to 4GB of storage on board. The Gear Sport has an added feature of letting you store offline music specifically from the Spotify app, assuming you’re a premium account user. This is something new which most other smartwatches don’t have.
As for sleep monitoring, I find that it’s adequate to get a general feel of how you’ve rested for the night and should not be used as a true indicator of how well you’ve slept. Remember all these features aren’t designed to be medically accurate and are just for leisure purposes.
The resting heart rate feature is another good feature to track as that generally tells you how fit you are. Again, fair warning: This shouldn’t be used as a medical indicator but it could spot trends that perhaps you’re not aware of should your heartbeat be higher than normal.
The Gear Sport runs on Samsung’s proprietary operating system called Tizen and like I noted in my review of the Samsung GearFit2 Pro, many reviewers point to the fact that there aren’t as many apps as there are on Android Wear devices.
While this may be so, I don’t think this issue is as big as people make it out to be as most of the popular apps are already on the Samsung Galaxy Store. The lack of apps, IMHO, is offset by the fact that Tizen is a very efficient and stable operating system, as far as the Gear Sport is concerned. I had very little issues – no crashes, hanging software cycles, connectivity issues – with the Gear Sport.
However, I do feel that Samsung didn’t have to include apps, which aren’t really useful for a smartwatch such as a news reader app, mapping app or even a Microsoft PowerPoint clicker to advance slides forward.
Finally, I think a big plus going for the Gear Sport is the ability to swim with it, something that’s not been available to other Samsung smartwatches. Though not an avid swimmer, I appreciated the fact that I could do so should I want to.
However, it must be said that the SpeedoON app, which tracks my swims in my tests wasn’t as accurate as it could have been. The app is said to be able to track lengths of swims, laps, swim durations and of course heartbeat while swimming.
While these features all look good on paper, the results are anything but. Heart rates aren’t accurate due to the rigorous movements of my arms and laps weren’t measuring as they should, even when I’ve set the right default parameters for swimming such as the lap length.
Wireless and cashless payment
Although not a new feature as it was first introduced in the Gear S3, the Gear Sport comes with Samsung payment options. But unlike the Gear S3, which supports both NFC and MST (magnetic secure payments), the Gear Sport only supports the former. What this means is that you can only use your watch to pay merchants whose POS (point of sale) terminals support NFC.
To do so, you first need to set up your payments feature by linking your credit card to your watch and Samsung Gear Sport app on your phone. Steps to do so are quite straightforward and are the same as how you would set up with the Gear S3. In Malaysia though, there are only a few credit cards and fewer debit cards supported. More information on setup procedures and supported cards can be found here.
To use the Samsung Pay feature on your Gear Sport, long press the top button on your watch (at the 2 o’clock position), enter your four-digit PIN number, and then you’re ready to go.
In practice, quite a few merchants I tried supported NFC, which is basically where you see the Visa Wave signage.
I did however find that some merchants would not accept your payment should the credit card tied your Samsung Pay be a MasterCard and not a Visa. This is probably due to the fact that the merchant is an exclusive Visa partner rather than a technical issue.
Overall, the experience is quite pleasant but after a while, paying with your watch is really more of a fad than a useful feature.
So, the big question is, should you buy one? If you’ve already owned the Gear S3, then the answer is an unequivocal ‘no,’ as the gains are only incremental at best. If you’re a Gear S2 owner, then the answer would be ‘yes,’ as the Gear Sport does bring a lot more features to you. Besides that, the Gear S2 was introduced in 2016 and it’s about time to upgrade should you want to.
The question is really for those who aren’t on the smartwatch bandwagon yet or those who own another smartwatch – should you? Let me say that as a general rule of thumb, smartwatches or what is known as wearable electronics continue to remain niche and would only benefit people who are looking at specific features.
Are there more capable fitness trackers out there? The answer would be ‘yes.’ Are there better smartwatches out there that support much more apps? The answer is ‘yes.’ Where I feel the Gear Sport shines is in bringing the balance of features and functionality together.
The Gear Sport balances the package nicely and would not be suited to real athletes, who will benefit better with say, a brand like Garmin. Those wishing a whole lot of apps and prefer Android Wear are probably better off with LG, Huawei or something else. Ditto for Apple fanboys.
To me the Gear Sport shines as a capable tracker, a great looking watch, a reliable, stable and affordable smartwatch.
If you hurry, the Gear Sport retails for RM1,299 inclusive of GST. And if you purchase from the Samsung via Lazada or in-store options, it before the end of the year, you’ll have a chance to receive two complimentary Gear straps and a limited edition watch collectors’ box while stocks last.