After teasing its new Gear smartwatch ahead of Apple’s upcoming media event, South Korea-based Samsung last evening formally announced a second-generation Gear S family. The Galaxy Gear S2, as it’s called, augments the round display of its predecessor with a rotating bezel for navigating the user interface.
The internals have been refreshed, too, so the Gear S2 has NFC. While it has less storage space than the Apple Watch’s 8GB, the Gear S2 uses a stronger battery that Samsung claims runs up to three days on a single charge.
Samsung announced three different collections of the new Gear S2 lineup that it called “a result of many years of progressive innovation in the wearables category“: the Gear S2, Gear S2 classic and the Gear S2 with 3G connectivity. Here’s a quick overview of the new smartwatches.
Tizen, not Android Wear
The Gear S2 runs Samsung’s Tizen operating system rather than Android Wear.
Samsungs started experimenting with Tizen with the February 2014 release of the Gear 2 smartwatch. The most notable difference between Samsung’s Tizen-based smartwatches and ones it released prior is the ease of use and better battery life versus Google’s Android Wear software.
Whether it’s due to Tizen or a 250mAh Li-ion battery, the new Gear S2 smartwatches should run up to two to three days on a single charge, depending on the usage. On the downside, the move to Tizen means customers have fewer apps at their disposal compared to Android Wear.
The Gear S2, a mere 11.4-millimeter thin, features a circular 1.2-inch 360-by-360 pixel resolution Super AMOLED screen at 302 pixels per inch. The devices are powered by a custom-designed one-gigahertz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM and have four gigabytes of storage, half as much as the Apple Watch’s eight gigabytes of storage.
One of the marque features of the Gear S2 is its rotating bezel used to navigate the user interface. There are two physical buttons on the S2, one takes you right to the Home screen and the other performs the Back function.
On the networking front, the Gear S2 devices feature NFC for contactless payments, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth 4.1.
The smartwatches incorporate accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate, ambient light and barometer sensors and are IP68-certified dust and water-resistant. Like the Apple Watch, the Gear S2 uses wireless charging, with the wireless charging dock included right out of the box.
Driven by Tizen, the Gear S2 runs a custom user interface and includes in-house made apps. At-a-glance notifications allow you to check calendars, emails, news and more. Messages can be replied to with canned responses, emoticons and dictation. Unlike the Apple Watch, the Gear S2 supports software keypads for light text input.
The new Gear S2 lineup introduces additional fitness functions, such as a 24-hour activity log with daily progress and reminders when it’s time to stand, go out and work on fulfilling your fitness goals. Both Samsung’s own S Health and Nike’s Running apps come preloaded on the device.
Samsung and its partners working on a range of additional watch faces and bands for the Gear S2. Some of the stock apps include Schedule, News, Maps & Navigation, Weather, Contacts, Messages, Email, Music Player, Gallery, Voice Memo and Find My Device.
Because it sports a round display similar to the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R, the icons and other user interface elements on the Gear S2 are round. The South Korean company has confirmed that a variety of apps optimized for the Gear S2’s circular user interface will be available at launch, with more to come at a later stage.
The Gear S2 watches also support a power-saving mode feature and incorporate privacy lock protection and safety assistance.
As mentioned before, the new Gear lineup was designed to appeal to two distinct consumer preferences so it comes in two basic flavors—the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 classic—with the Gear S2 provided in two versions, one with and the other without 3G connectivity.
Samsung says the Gear S2 classic with its black finish and a matching genuine leather band is made for “users who prefer a more timeless watch design.” The regular Gear S2, on the other hand, should be “ideal for those who are on-the-go and have an admiration for minimal and modern design.”
By the way, the bands can be easily swapped with one click.
As for the Gear S2 with 3G connectivity, it uses a stronger 300mAh Li-ion battery and rather surprisingly incorporates the all-new e-SIM standard that Apple is expected to adopt as well.
Voice capability is implemented so you can place phone calls through your carrier’s cellular network, use apps and perform other quick functions on the device without being closely tethered to your phone, unlike the Apple Watch and most other smartwatches on the market.
Because it runs on Tizen, Samsung’s new Gear S2 smartwatches are not compatible with Google’s Android Wear for iPhone application which launched yesterday.
The Samsung Gear S2 will be available in a Dark Gray case with a Dark Gray band and Silver case with a White band. The Samsung Gear S2 classic will be available in a Black case with a Leather band.
In addition, the Samsung Gear S2, Gear S2 classic and additional apps will be demonstrated at the IFA show in Tempodrum, Berlin on September 3. Exact pricing and availability is yet to be publicized, but we’ll keep you in the loop as more information becomes available.