Gear S2 owner - an upgrader's review
I should make it clear before I go any further, I've received my Samsung Gear S3 Classic for review at a reduced price (if I decide to keep it and almost certainly will), however, this is my honest review of what I think of the device.
I purchased my Gear S2 just a couple of weeks before Samsung announced their plans to release the Gear S3, so whilst the S3 had considerable improvements I couldn't see myself justifying finding the funds to make the upgrade so soon after.
There was a tech website that recently posted an article claiming that smartwatches were already dead in the water, that the extra features didn't warrant the drawbacks, i.e. cost and battery life, over the simple need of being able to tell the time; I have to disagree, I've bought several watches over the last few years and I've found that after about two weeks they end up gathering dust because the discomfort of something strapped around my wrist was too much to put up with, the extra features of the Gear watches have actually changed that, for me.
So, does the S3 do a better job than the S2? Short answer, yes, long answer, read on.
The display is one of the most obvious upgrades, being noticeable larger it has more real estate to display information, i.e. the weather widget now has enough space to also display precipitation chance along with UV index, below that it even manages to squeeze up/down arrows to cycle through other locations that you may have setup. That's the next noticeable improvement, how responsive the screen is on the S3, on my S2 there were times it would struggle to respond to even gross actions like screen swipes up, down, left and right; the S3, however, I can easily tap on the small arrows on that weather display, despite having pretty large fingers that can have trouble hitting individual letters on my phone's keyboard. One other feature that I've noticed is improved is the "turn on" response when you turn your arm to see the watch, the S2 was really unreliable and would often require flicking my wrist back and forth several times to make it illuminate (I have a suspicion that the S2 is actually set up to be worn on the inside of the wrist, as it responds much more readily when placed there), the S3 turns on much more reliably, often turning on even when you've already half-raised and turned your wrist in preparation of turning your head to look at it.
Apps on the phone, I'm finding myself using things like S Health a lot more readily than on the S2, I suspect mainly down to the improved responsiveness of the watch in general; I'm a pretty lethargic person, if I'm honest, and I'm actually finding myself following the inactivity prompts to get up out of my office chair and walk around, or stretch out. So, despite being a lazy person, I'm actually finding the small nudges are actually making a difference, which has really surprised me. Doing Dick Tracy impressions is a bit of fun, talking to someone via your watch, the practicality is debatable as you really do need to hold your wrist fairly near to your head, no waving it around and trying to do something else at the same time, but there are occassions when it's handy, i.e. comfortably sitting across the room from your phone, or holding something in your arms and it's easier to swipe your watch screen than dig your phone out of your pocket, just be aware that you're using a speakerphone and not something which only you can hear.
Battery life is yet another improvement: the S2 really did need to be recharged every three days, you could try squeezing a fourth day out of it but it would almost certainly need to be switched into low-power mode before you got home, or, just as likely, it would switch itself off; the S3, meanwhile, I'm finding easily goes four days and you can usually risk a fifth day without too much concern, I haven't had to switch it to low-power mode yet as it was late enough in the day when it starts prompting you that I still had plenty of time left to get home and put it on its charger.
Build quality is as good as the S2 despite one extremely slight drawback, because of the larger build the turnable bezel makes more noise if you happen to tap on it with your finger; it makes the bezel sound as if it sits a lot more loosely on the body of the watch, but in reaility when you turn it it feels just as snug fitting and the ratcheting is just as smooth. One point I would like to make about the buttons: if you happened to look at Samsung's renders of the watch, it makes the buttons look huge and that they stick about 5mm out of the watch body; I had wanted to get the Frontier version of the watch, because of this, with it's flat buttons, but in reality they're really quite snug and haven't caused any problems, even when I've been working out on a rowing machine.
One noticeable change between the S2 Classic and the S3 Classic is the supplied watch straps: the S2 had fairly refined leather straps, two types of layered leather that were stitched together; the S3, however, is a solid chunk of cowhide, almost 3mm thick in places, extremely utilitarian and stiff at first. For the first day or two I could feel the strap gripping the sides of my wrist like a vice, but then it started to ease off and break in, it's now one of the most comfortable watches I've ever worn.
So, to finish, should you upgrade from an S2 to an S3? If it doesn't stretch your ability to budget, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a great improvement and would say to make the jump now, you will not be disappointed. If money is tight, I would still recommend it, but wait until you can afford it or happen upon a good deal that doesn't hurt your pocket as badly.
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