Samsung Gear S3 Frontier


If you’re curious about what connected watches are heading towards, the Gear S3 will give you a good overview with several key options: cell phone connection (not available in France), Spotify app integration, contactless payment via Samsung Pay (not yet available in France). But it is still too much like an experiment when it should be a more accomplished, mature product.

Still, the Gear S3 is a connected watch with a bold and imposing design and is very feature-rich. But unlike the latest versions of Apple Watch and Android 2.0, Samsung’s Tizen operating system does not go far enough to offer more applications and improve its ergonomics. And there are few applications that take advantage of the cellular option (LTE). From a hardware point of view this watch is certainly better than the Gear S2, but it doesn’t offer such a significant evolution in terms of software.

We spent a month using the Gear S3 by connecting it to a Galaxy S7 and an iPhone 7. Here’s what we liked and what we didn’t like.

To make a long story short, let’s say that for 399 euros (price of the Classic and Frontier model), you have a neat and very complete watch. But from a software point of view, it’s really no better than the S2. The cellular version we tested (not available in France) is interesting because it allows you to make calls without a smartphone. But its higher price and the need to subscribe to an additional telephone package do not necessarily make it attractive. And let’s not forget the Android Wear 2.0 watches that we should see coming on the market soon.

What’s interesting

Samsung Pay. The presence of the Samsung Pay contactless payment application is a real plus compared to Apple Pay and Android Pay because it is compatible with the MST magnetic technology that works with any credit card terminal.

Spotify. The presence of the Spotify streaming application on the Gear S3 (and S2) is a welcome addition, even if it has a few flaws. You can listen to the songs via a Wi-Fi or cellular connection, but it is impossible to download them. The interface is poor and an hour and a half of use was enough to drain the watch’s battery. But it works fine, as long as you have the paid version of Spotify. We tried the service by connecting AirPods and it worked very well.

The design. The Gear S3 comes in two finishes much closer to a classic watch than the very futuristic Gear S2. The voluminous and thick case will not fit all wrists, but the finish is neat and high-end. 

If you’re looking for a phone to wear on your wrist, the S3 cell phone is probably the best option today. It allows you to take calls and connect applications. Just add a headset or Bluetooth headsets and you can talk discreetly. But do we really need this? Personally, this is not the case for us, especially since we have to take out an additional telephone subscription as a bonus.

S Health. The fitness application is surprisingly good. It tracks your heart rate, activity, coffee consumption and hydration and invites you to move after an hour of inactivity and even stretch if you don’t leave your chair.

iOS. You can install and even connect iOS applications. Samsung’s iOS application is not very good but it’s more versatile than what Android Wear offers. You can also use S Health and many other applications and even download additional dials. But Spotify and Uber are not.

S Voice: The S Voice wizard works very well but Google Assistant for Android Wear and Siri for Apple Watch offer more control over the phone’s functions. However, S Voice allows you to do a lot of things: set an alarm, call a contact, check the weather, do a web search.

What we didn’t like

Tizen and its puny ecosystem. Samsung persists with its OS Tizen whose number of applications for Gear watches has not really increased. Still, there are some fun games, cool dials and some great apps like CNN, Bloomberg, Uber and Spotify. But there are really too few of them to justify the purchase of an S3 on their own.

The interface. Last year, the Gear S2 inaugurated the concept of navigation with icons on a wheel. It was fun and original but not as effective as an Apple Watch Sometimes you have to navigate a lot to find something and the dials are not customizable. A more ergonomic design would be desirable. Sure, it’s better than on Android Wear, but it’s not a big leap forward.

The cellular version of the Gear S3 is very power-hungry and can drain the battery quickly. When used in stand-alone mode in LTE, we usually don’t get to the end of the day.

It’s splash-proof but you can’t swim with it, unlike the Apple Watch Series 2.


 

Conclusion

Would we recommend the Gear S3 to an iPhone owner? Absolutely not. However, the decision is less clear-cut for Android users. There is no perfect connected watch at the moment. Android Wear is not a good option at the moment even if the 2.0 version that has just been released could offer some good surprises. But Samsung still offers interesting options with the Gear S3. The evolution between the S2 and the S2 is significant from a hardware point of view, but not from a software point of view. However well thought out the interface is, access to information must be faster.

Having said that, when it comes to choosing today, we would prefer the S3 to all other current Android Wear watches. A judgment that is likely to change sooner rather than later. Also note that the Gear S2 is still available (299 euros the basic model), but it doesn’t have a speaker. All in all, the S3 is really attractive. It’s bulky, but it’s eye-catching and pleasing. However, this is not the best way to quickly access his essential information. Maybe that’s the problem with all watches. It’s definitely the S3’s.

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