This means it costs a bit less and doesn't have all the features of the S3.
However, the Gear Sport is Samsung’s first smartwatch that can track your swims, recording lap time, stroke type and even heart rate. So could it be that Samsung has succeeded in creating a watch that looks like a traditional watch but also incorporates the fitness element.
Samsung’s Gear Sport smartwatch runs Tizen OS. It has a super-sharp 1.2” 360 x 360 AMOLED display, 4GB of internal storage and built-in NFC so you can buy things using Samsung Pay. It has GPS for tracking your workouts and an optical heart rate sensor for keeping tabs on your heart rate throughout the day and during exercise. It’s also Samsung’s first proper waterproof smartwatch good to a depth of 50 metres.
Samsung Gear Sport Review
The Samsung Gear Sport is understated in its design.
My first impression was that it was rather smart timepiece I’d feel equally comfortable wearing to the gym and to work. However, its smooth stainless steel casing is a little bland for my taste.
That aside, when you switch it on, the Gear Sport’s has a stunning 360 x 360 AMOLED screen and its slightly smaller 1.2in diameter gives it a higher pixel density as well.
Carrying on with the Gear S2 and Gear S3 before it, the Gear Sport has a rotating magnetic bezel to help you navigate the Tizen interface and I found that it worked very well.
Samsung Gear Sport Review
The Gear Sport is both smaller and lighter than the Gear S3, measuring 11.6mm and weighing 50g but it can still feel a little chunky for some.
The more compact design also means the battery has seen a 27% cut in capacity to 300mAh over the S3, although the watch does still take standard 20mm pins and straps, so if you don’t get on with the supplied rubber strap (it’s supplied with two different sizes) you can easily swap it out.
GPS is a standard requirement for anyone who takes their fitness seriously and the Gear Sport does not disappoint, it worked well in rural areas, picking up a signal in less than a minute and tracking distances accurately.
However, in rural areas it was not so impressive, the first time I used the Gear Sport in the city I was unable to get a GPS fix after several attempts I gave up whilst on my run.
The Sport has an optical heart rate monitor on its underside and this worked well for tracking my heart rate throughout the day, but did vary compared to my S3. Unfortunately, wrist-based heart rate sensors aren't always accurate or reliable, so it's nothing new. Another slightly disappointing ommission is that there’s no option to pair the watch with an external heart rate monitor; it’s a standard feature on other multisport watch brands.
Samsung Gear Sport Review
The Gear Sport does have plenty of useful features. There’s an altimeter/barometer, which keeps track of how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed. There’s NFC, enabling you to make purchases via Samsung Pay, Bluetooth v4.2 for pairing your headphones and phone and 4GB of internal storage so you can leave your phone behind and play music from your watch when going for your morning jog. The watch also has full Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows you to receive notifications on the watch even when you’re away from your phone.
The Gear Sport is also the first Samsung smartwatch that’s rated to 50m of waterproofing, so you can track your swimming sessions. And like Samsung’s other fitness trackers and smartwatches it uses wireless charging. A key missing feature is its lakck of a loudspeaker, which enabled you to make phone calls directly from your wrist, providing you were within Bluetooth range of your phone or connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Fitness and Health
The Gear Sport automatically tracks all your activity including runs and swims, which is great if you’re forgetful. Just walk, run or cycle for five minutes or more and it’ll log it for you. Even energetic sports such as football and tennis can be picked up by its automatic workout detection. When you want to have more precise insights into a workout you can manually track any activity by selecting the appropriate option and tapping Start. For running and cycling, the watch shows your speed/pace, distance, heart rate and calories onscreen, so you know how hard you’re pushing it.
For swimming, you can use the built-in Swimming function or download the dedicated Speedo On app, which lets you set custom pool lengths and has workout programmes where you choose how many lengths you want to swim in advance. The new Water Lock mode also ensures that the activity doesn’t pause when water touches the screen.
Reviewing your general activity levels with the Gear Sport is straightforward. Just twist the magnetic bezel and the Tizen interface jumps between a series of widgets to display important info including your steps taken, calories burned, floors climbed, and heart rate for the day. Tapping a widget then expands it so that you can see your activity levels for the past week, and beyond. It’s equally straightforward to launch the ‘Activity log’ from your wrist, checking important details from your manual workouts such as distance covered, time elapsed and time spent in different heart rate zones. If you find it too fiddly scrolling on a smaller screen, all this info is also synced to the Samsung Health app on your smartphone, which is much easier to use. You can also see insights into your sleep quality here, which is also automatically tracked by the Gear Sport when you leave it on your wrist at night.
Communication and apps
One of my favourite features of the Gear Sport is that it lets you install Spotify. Providing you have a Premium subscription, this lets you store offline playlists and albums on the watch, which is a great feature for those who like to listen to music while they exercise. You’ll just need a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Elsewhere, the Gear Sport is similar to most other current Samsung wearables. The notifications system works well and you can scroll through messages easily by rotating the bezel. There are also handy widgets to display the weather, upcoming events in your calendar and a remote for your phone’s music app. When you receive a WhatsApp message or SMS, you can respond directly from the watch using canned responses, emojis and even a tiny onscreen keyboard.
Samsung Gear Sport Review
My main bug bear with the Tizen operating system is that the apps feel a bit too detached from the widgets, so I hardly used it. Also the number of third-party apps available on Tizen is also much more limited than on Android Wear and WatchOS.
Price and competition
The Gear Sport costs £50 less than the Gear S3, but it’s also £100 more expensive than its full-featured fitness tracker sibling, the Gear Fit2 Pro. Meanwhile, iPhone owners would do well to consider the Apple Watch Series 3 instead. The Wi-Fi only version is only £30 more expensive than the Gear Sport and is the best smartwatch on the market in our opinion.
Samsung Gear Sport review: Verdict
Ocverall the Samsung Gear Sport is a good quality smartwatch. It has an intuitive screen and plenty of features. Full waterproofing gives it more practical flexibility and the option to track your swims. However battery life isn't particularly good, GPS can be a a bit hit and miss and it lacks the option to pair with any kind of external sensors.
Before buying a Gear Sport it is worth considering a Samsung GearFit2 Pro, it is an excellent fitness tracker that comes with nearly all of the same features, and it’s £100 cheaper.