Samsung Gear S3 review: My, how you’ve grown!
“If something is good, refine it, don’t revamp it” is a principle that the best designers tend to follow, and that’s mostly what Samsung is doing with the Gear S3. After all, the Gear S2 was one of the best smartwatches of 2015, thanks to its small, compact size that was a great fit for small and large wrists alike. Its twistable bezel provided a superb level of control over its built-in apps.
So it’s no surprise that Samsung’s reprised its rotating bezel for this year’s smartwatch, the Gear S3. There’s just one problem: the small changes that Samsung has made mean it’s now absolutely huge compared to its svelte predecessor.
Samsung has added some width to the twistable bezel. On paper, it’s only an additional 4mm wider in total. In practice, on any wrist that doesn’t fall into powerlifter territory, that’s a big increase. It’s close to 10% wider than the Gear S2, and on your wrist, that’s a lot. On my tiny wrists, it’s vast.
This is made worse by another apparently innocuous change: unlike last year’s model, the Gear S3 now has interchangeable 22mm watch straps. “Great,” you’re probably thinking, “now I can get different straps like my Apple Watch-wearing friends”. And yes, you can – and the straps are nice. But it also means there’s now lugs on the watch, and each pair of lugs adds a sizable amount onto either side of the device, taking its overall dimensions to 46 x 49 x 12.9mm. That’s fine if you’re the type of person with large, manly wrists, but women may not find the Gear S3 quite so appealing as the Gear S2.
It’s a shame, as Samsung’s really stepped up the Gear S3’s fitness capabilities this time around, adding built-in GPS to both versions. This means you can leave your phone at home when you go out for a run, as the Gear S3 will track your route for you. Likewise, its built-in speaker means you can now also use the Gear S3 Frontier and the Gear S3 Classic to answer calls, reducing the importance of your smartphone even further. There will be an LTE-equipped model, although we don’t know if this will come to the UK, but either way the speaker will be useful.
The differences between each watch are actually fairly minimal. The Frontier has a pair of buttons on the side for back and home keys, while the Classic has a pair of crowns. Likewise, the Frontier’s straps are also slightly larger and thicker, giving it a more robust, sporty look than the slender and slightly more dainty Classic. Otherwise, both have the same 1.3in, 360 x 360 Super AMOLED always-on display, and each one supports exactly the same number of customisable watch faces.
Samsung’s improved the Gear S3’s battery life as well, claiming its 380mAh battery can last for up to four days in total. That’s almost double what I managed with the Gear S2, so I’ll be very impressed indeed if I can get close to this figure once review samples are available. Just like last year’s model, the Gear S3 will charge wirelessly via WPC inductive charging.
Elsewhere, you’ll find both watches have a dual-core 1GHz Exynos 7270 chip and 768MB of RAM powering its Tizen OS 2.3.1 interface, and it has 4GB of onboard storage for apps and music. Each version supports Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and you’ll also find an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart-rate monitor and ambient light sensor. It’s water- and dust-resistant, too, as both versions are IP68-certified. This means they can endure up to one metre of fresh water for up to 30 minutes, so it won’t stop working if you’re caught in a heavy rain shower, for instance.
The only pieces of the puzzle still missing are the UK price and release date. However, I’m expecting both watches to launch by the end of the year at the very latest, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up around the £300 mark. After all, the Gear S2 cost £250 when it first launched last year, so the Gear S3 will most likely land in a similar ball park. As always, we’ll bring you our final verdict as soon as review samples are available, so check back soon to see how it matches up to its highly lauded predecessor.