Review: Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch

112
80%
80
Highly Recommended

The Gear 2 is one of the most stylish, most comfortable, and most capable smartwatches we've reviewed. The one fatal flaw is that it is only compatible with a limited list of Samsung smartphones.

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Samsung seems to have adopted the strategy that if you just throw enough stuff at the wall eventually something will stick. In a matter of just a few months Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Gear Live, Gear S, and this watch—the Gear 2.

At Mobile World Congress 2015 just days before Apple’s big Apple Watch unveiling, Samsung announced that its smartwatch plans are being “paused”. It seems safe to assume the “pause” is intended to provide Samsung an opportunity to analyze what Apple brings to market, and see how well it works and how it’s received by consumers so it can respond appropriately.

I’ve had a chance to use a couple different Samsung smartwatch models, though, and the Gear 2 is arguably the best thing Samsung has developed so far. Let’s take a closer look at what Samsung gets right, and where there’s still some room for Samsung to improve.

Specs

The Samsung Gear 2 is housed in a relatively slim, rectangular metal body. Samsung says that the Gear 2 is IP 67 certified as dust and water resistant. That doesn’t mean you can wear it while swimming, or even in the shower, but a little rain or sweat isn’t going to destroy it.

The Gear 2 has a 1.63-inch super AMOLED display, accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate sensor. It also has Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, and a 2 Megapixel autofocus camera built in to the top or front of the device. Samsung claims the battery will last 2 to 3 days under normal usage and possibly up to six days with light usage.

Form

The watch itself comes in a few different versions. The one I tested is the brown gold model. It has a brown strap but one of the nice things about the Gear 2 is that the watchband can be changed so you can find a style that fits you best.

Setting aside all of the gadgets, apps, and functions embedded in the device for just a minute, the Samsung Gear 2 is one of the nicest watches I’ve tested. It is right up there with the Moto 360 as something I would wear just as a watch. It’s sleek and stylish and doesn’t look like you’re wearing a Dick Tracy / James Bond contraption on your wrist.

Function

The Gear 2 has a single home button at the bottom of the display. It also automatically detects when your wrist moves and turns on the display. It’s sort of a cool feature because it enables you to look at your wrist to check the time—as one does with a watch—without having the display on constantly draining power or requiring an extra step of pressing a button. You can simply look and see what time it is.

The home button has another function as well, though. You can configure it so a double-tap of the home button opens an app of your choosing. It can be email, messages, weather, pedometer, heart rate, etc. Whatever you want. It just gives you quick access to get to that favorite app. I chose the S-Voice feature—the Samsung version of Siri or Google Now— because it’s very convenient to just double-tap the button and say “Call my wife,” or “What’s the weather like today?”.

There are a couple nice clock faces available—nice stylish ones that fit the style of the watch itself. There are also a couple red and blue ones that are a little hideous in my opinion. The nice thing is that you can completely customize the wallpaper background—or use a photo captured with the Gear 2—and choose that as your clock background as well.

I paired the Gear 2 with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. It connects via Bluetooth to enable the Gear 2 to make and receive phone calls through the associated smartphone. As with other smartwatches I’ve reviewed I’m still not a fan of engaging in a speakerphone conversation talking into my wrist.

I paired the watch with a Jawbone ERA Bluetooth ear piece and that worked fine for listening to music from the Gear 2, but I never did figure out how to use it for a call. It seems to be possible in theory. There is a Bluetooth headset icon in the phone menu along with the ability to mute or just send the call to the smartphone. The icon was grayed out for me, though, and wasn’t available as an option even though the Jawbone ERA was connected.

I wouldn’t plan on using the Gear 2 camera as your go-to device for taking pictures, but it comes in handy sometimes. You can take a picture or record up to 15 seconds of video. There are a surprising number of options available to control the focus, size, and location tagging on the images you capture. You can also enable voice control to take pictures or capture video with a verbal command—or you can just tap the display instead.

You can record voice memos on the Gear 2 and you can use S Voice through it as well. Samsung could take a hint from Apple or Microsoft and make the S Voice assistant a little more conversational and less computer robot voice.

It has a variety of health and fitness functions. There is a heart rate sensor on the bottom that can take your pulse. It has the semi-obligatory pedometer feature. It also has a sleep monitoring function and various exercise tracking modes for logging walking, running, hiking, or cycling sessions. In my experience the heart rate sensor was pretty fickle, though. I only got it to work about half the time and it required adjusting the watch from where I normally wear it on my wrist up my arm a little so the sensor wasn’t against my wrist bone.

One last feature that makes the Gear 2 really cool is the built-in TV remote. The watch is capable of pairing with televisions from hundreds of manufacturers as well as with cable TV or DVR boxes from most providers. Setting it up is a little tedious, but I had no problem configuring it work with my Westinghouse TV and my DirecTV box. It was nice to be able to turn the TV on, control the volume, and change the channel right from the Gear 2.

Verdict

I really like the Gear 2. It is stylish and comfortable and it’s a watch I would wear just as a watch even if it didn’t have so many other tricks hidden inside.

At $300 it pushes the range of what I consider reasonable for a device like this, but the Samsung Gear 2 has an awesome display, and a smooth interface worthy of that amount. I would definitely consider buying the Gear 2 except that it has one fatal flaw—at least from my perspective—it requires a Samsung smartphone.

It doesn’t just require an Android phone—which would still be a fatal flaw for me—but specifically a Samsung smartphone. Samsung lists the compatible models as Samsung Galaxy S5 / Galaxy Grand 2 / Galaxy Note 3 / Galaxy Note 3 Neo / Galaxy Note 2 / Galaxy S4 / Galaxy S3 / Galaxy S4 Zoom / Galaxy S4 Active / Galaxy S4 mini / Galaxy Mega 6.3 / Galaxy Mega 5.8 / Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) / Galaxy NotePRO (12.2) / Galaxy TabPRO (12.2/10.1/8.4). It also notes that the list may grow, which it apparently has because the Galaxy Note 4 Samsung sent me to test it with isn’t listed here.

Some of the functions still work just fine without pairing it at all. It will still tell time, count your steps, and capture pictures. You can still monitor your sleep or listen to music. Without the smartphone pairing, though, you lose things like your contacts, notifications, email, messages, S Voice and most of what make the Gear 2 really awesome.

For what it’s worth, I did also pair the Gear 2 with my iPhone 6. You don’t get most of the functionality still but I was able to make and receive calls using my iPhone through the Bluetooth connectivity of the Gear 2. I assume that same trick will work with other Android devices and possibly even Windows Phone smartphones.

If you have a compatible Samsung phone I highly recommend the Gear 2. If you don’t have a compatible Samsung smartphone, you might consider a different device. I’m not sure you can get $300 of value out of the Gear 2 without a compatible phone.

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About Author

Tony Bradley is a social media, community, and content marketing wizard--and also Editor-in-Chief of TechSpective. Tony has a passion for technology and gadgets--with a focus on Microsoft and security. He also loves spending time with his family and likes to think he enjoys reading and golf even though he never finds the time for either.

  • Mike Bowman

    I’m a big fan of HTC, but I really like the looks of the Samsung watch.

  • Steve

    Me want funny watch.

  • While I’d prefer an Android Gear device, it does look like a solid competitor in the blooming smart watch market.

  • Xenia Bubel

    I would like to win the watch because I love gadgets and have a compatible phone. Battery life is an issue when you travel. I wonder how how long it takes to charge?

  • Benjamin Fasel

    I wish it was compatible with more than just Samsung phones. That’s a huge limit to Samsung gaining mass appeal.

  • I_know_a_thing_or_two

    You didn’t mention the dimensions of the watch. My wife could use this at work, where she isn’t supposed to have her phone out, if it isn’t too large. She could also use it when her phone’s in her purse. I’m not sure I’d get enough from the watch to worry about charging it and remembering to put it on my wrist (not being a watch wearer). Maybe a Gear 2 would change my mind.

  • Dana P. Henry

    I like the fact that it would pair with my Galaxy S4 – looks like good battery life also. Will be curious to see how it completes with Apple.

  • helobuff

    I think it’s pretty great that it has allot of functions. The downside is having to pair it with a Samsung Phone. Though it’s great it worked with your iPhone even if you did loose some functionality. It would be better if you didn’t have to pair it with a phone at all. I am wondering if the Apple Watch will require pairing it. If it doesn’t that will have a huge leg up on all existing watches. I do love that it does so many things. Bottom line, I like it! Even if the camera is only 2MP.

  • Tina

    Sounds like an awesome watch. My husband has the Samsung Galaxy phone so this would be a great gift to go with it.

  • DaNeener

    I love my automatic swiss brands, but would like to give one of these a try.

  • Bob Kitz

    I have a LG G watch now and I like everything about it except the battery life. I have to charge it every day no matter how much I use it.

  • Gregory Spencer

    Sounds great! It would be great to use this with my Note..

  • jmcmil9272

    I can’t imagine charging the battery in my watch every 2 or 3 days but I could have fun trying.

  • aaw234

    I’ve always wanted to be able to speak into my wrist like a Secret Service agent. If I win this watch my dream will come true.

  • Amazing technology. I can’t wait to see where Samsung will take us in the future.

  • Edward Scott Sr.

    I have a Samsung Note 3 and this would be a perfect accessory. It’s a hassle sometimes to check messages or notifications when my phone is in it’s holster under a coat or jacket. Having a device like the Gear 2 on my wrist would be great. (and it’s a watch, too!)

  • kenpoole

    Would love to compare to Pebble Steel

  • Jeff Server

    Incredible to see how quickly smart watches are evolving! This would be great to use with my Galaxy S5.

  • Jacob13Green

    This Gear 2 smartwatch would make a great companion for my Galaxy S4.

  • Meg E

    You know, after the release of the apple iWatch just a few hours ago, it’s really hard to justify the sheer price of that device. I am a solid fan of all tech things, and I’ve gotta admit, Samsung has been pretty solid with their devices, despite being dismissed prematurely by consumers for being unoriginal and second rate. Their products have always been very reliable and aesthetically pleasing. I’d love to have this smart watch to add to my Samsung arsenal!

  • Peter Ohs

    This might may me wear a watch again.

  • nikdam36

    Stylish and practical, would go great with all my other Samsung products.

  • konvajw

    Nice review. No flaws for me since I have an S5, so would be great pair for me. Plus nice to see the 2-3 days (maybe longer) battery life compared to the “full” day (i.e., 18 hours) for the iWatch. Nice style also and like the fact you can set home button to your favorite app. TV remote you mention is a bonus too! Would absolutely love to win one, so thanks for the chance!!!

  • miker33

    I’ll pair it with my LG G3 and take my chances. I bet I can figure something out.

  • JohnLClark

    I would love to pair this with ny Tab S and my S4 phone. It is also a nice looking watch , so that is a bonus.

  • PapaKev

    This Dick Tracy watch would be great to win. Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Matt

    I think they’re a wonderful idea, but quite costly at this time. When the price comes down, I’ll get one.

  • Linda M

    This is perfect! I need a new watch, and as it matches up to my Galaxy S5, even better. The fact that it’s not clunky, yet it’s versatile is a win in my book. Can listen to my music all of the time from this unit is a ++ for me. Awesome that I won’t have to look for the remote anymore, once I have this watch! Want to try out with my morning jogs. So how do you contact me to let me know that I have won? 🙂

  • Sean Flanagan

    I got the Samsung Gear Fit for my first smartwatch. I decided to go minimalist at first to see how I liked getting notifications and how much I would actually use it. I love it and think that I would enjoy some of the extra features that the Gear 2 provides.

  • Pingback: Do you even WANT a smartwatch?()

  • Eric Baatz

    At the top of what I like is its looks. What I don’t like is the amount of reduction in functionality when it isn’t paired with a Samsung smartphone.

  • mrmikey101

    May be interesting to see if a smart phone can be useable.
    The price doesn’t seem to over the top to try.

  • J D

    Samsung has by far the best LCD glass, so all my TVs are Samsung. Samsung phones are superior Android devices, so all my phones are Samsung. Pairing with a Gear 2 smartwatch would give me total connectivity.

  • Ron Falkoff

    Tony your reviews are always factual and non bias… Love the feature rich watch. I think it would be cool to win!!! BTW if you ever want someone to test windows phone Please keep me in mind….

  • Jerry

    A watch MUST be durable – dealing with the dings and dips of real life. A G-Shock is a practical watch. This is a nice, if not a overly fragile toy. That and being joined at the hips to Samsung devices only limits its appeal.

  • Mike Irving

    As a developer, wearable apps are my next frontier, and I’d love to include Gear Apps on my journey.

  • Jason Seitz

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I really like being able to possibly pair with my cable box, use as a remote for tv. Always having the remote no further than my wrist sounds awesome.

  • William Howard

    Nice review Mr. Bradley. I would like to win the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch, because at $300.00 it’s just a bit pricey for me. I believe smartwatches are too expensive for what they are. Only time will tell if they have a long term demand.

  • AL

    I think it is still at an early stage for smartwatches, but I would love to win one to try it out. I think the camera is interesting. I can see it for taking pictures to quickly capture information rather than having to pull out a pen to jot down the information.

  • Guest

    I would love to win the smartwatch. For two reasons one is I love tech so that Samsung Gear 2 would look awesome on my wrist. Second how cool would it be to change the channel without getting up & freaking out your friends & family.

  • BeeCee1114

    I would love to win the smartwatch. For two reasons one is I love tech so that Samsung Gear 2 would look awesome on my wrist. Second how cool would it be to change the channel without getting up & freaking out your friends & family.

  • Steve

    man would love this for my Note 4… great review but I don’t know the AppleWatch looks awesome. You be giving away a $17,000 Apple Watch? 🙂

  • Graz65

    Good review. I nearly purchased the Gear watch but due to reviews on the battery life issues and other problems, I decided to wait. Have a Martian now, but it really doesn’t do what the Gear 2 can do as far as interaction with your phone. I may park the Martian and see about getting the Gear 2, especially as I’m thinking about going back to a Galaxy phone…if I won this watch, I’d have no choice but to get that shiny new Galaxy 6 or the Note.

  • Taffywolf

    I like the design of the Samsung gear2 which is more like a watch than some sort of gadget strapped to your wrist also functuallity seems simple downside is compatibility with none Samsung products overall I like the idea of smart watches for the convenience of not having to fumble round in your pocket when you get a call or message

  • DPoZ

    I’m disappointed that to fully use the watch you must have a Samsung smartphone. Given the price of a smart phone, this makes it more like a $1000 gadget.

  • Brian Jones

    I am constantly seeking ways to use technology to simplify and make more convenient some activities around email, notifications and calls when in the workplace and especially while in meetings. On top of that watches can be a great accessory and why not one with some functionality beyond just time and date.

  • David Goldberg

    I have an S5, and will be getting a Note Edge this weekend. It kind of makes me the target demographic for this watch. However, I have a pebble, and backed the kickstarter for the Pebble Time, which is where my loyalties lie. However, if I had a Gear 2, I’d certainly try it out.

  • pop_goez_tha_weazul

    Not sold on smartwatches, yet. Don’t seem to offer enough to justify a “disposable” purchase.

  • Noe Charbonneau

    I want one because I’m old enough to remember Dick Tracy cartoons! Too cool!

  • Phil Hsueh

    It looks nice but the idea that’s only compatible with certain Samsung phones is kind of limiting since not everybody who might want one of these necessarily has one of the compatible models. Still, it does seem nice and more capable than my Pebble, but then again I didn’t have to pay for my Pebble so I’m not complaining.

  • Steve Stavrinoudis

    I don’t like the fact that these watches are not water proof. I do not like taking my watch off in the rain, swimming or in the shower.

  • Navydoc201

    I like the health functions. It would come in handy!

  • Ken Schmidt

    I have been wanting a smart watch for a while, and this one seems to be the best available now based on your review and others. I do like the Asus as well, and both are on the short list of smart watches that are stylish and boardroom-ready. Most of the rest remind me of the leading edge geeks of the past who first rocked calculator watches…great idea, but we looked like tools. 🙂

  • soxnabox

    Don’t have a Samsung phone (yet) so compatibility is an issue, good to know; wish more reviews highlighted compatibility issues (like the crazy ASUS x205ta rectangular charger plug)

  • Doug Price

    Not sure on the smartwatches yet. I think I’d need a weekend trial with one to see if one is really right for me. I do wear a watch, but I am in an “analog automatic” mood these days.

  • Steve Ducar

    Nice watch, like it better than original

  • want2bawinner

    Nice function, but kind of bulky for this woman’s wrist.

  • deamesd

    Nice battery life. Nice style and price is right. Much better than $10,000+ 😉

  • Michael Slansky

    Like your review. I personally like the ASUS Zenwatch which I have since December. But, I wouldn’t mind be proven wrong!

  • Joshua Cohen

    I would enjoy having one of these. It’s nice looking and sounds very functional as well.

  • Dave Peck

    Nice review. I have an S5 so it would be great for me.

  • Zach

    I like the look of the watch and all of the functionality. I had been wondering whether or not this watch was completely tied to Samsung devices, so this review helped a lot with my questions. Thanks

  • pdnRPH

    Watches are over priced, for what they do for you. A device needs to offer a lot, be reasonable, and be easy

  • Nolzman

    Good review. I really like the functionality and form factor. This would pair nicely with my Galaxy S5. Come on lady luck!!!

  • Scott

    Owning a smartwatch would be cool!

  • Bruce Bevitz

    I like gadgets plain and simple, and I like to be the first one on the block to have one.

  • JerrySG

    Nice watch, would be a great gadget to have.

  • Carl

    I have been seeking a wrist device that monitors heart rate and sleeping as I have Sinus Bradycardia and Sleep Apnea. Most of the sport/activity monitors do not do both and a surprising few do heart rate. This would be just the thing as it could be warn anywhere it has so much style.

  • Dave

    Would like to compare this to my moto360 and how they both work with the note 4.

  • Brian Whittam

    Good review. I actually have a Gear 2 Neo and I love it! I could easily see going 2-3 days on a charge, but I charge mine every night out of habit. I also probably don’t do as much as I could with it. I would love Gear 2.

  • km

    looks like it would be “very Interesting!”.

  • Igor Pismensky

    Gear 2, two thumbs up

  • Lee

    I want one because now when I say “Talk to the hand”, I really mean, talk to the hand.

  • Hoofhearted

    I need something like this like I need another hole in my head but really. Who wouldn’t want a watch as interesting as this one, like Maxwell Smart?

  • Israel Colon

    nice watch but price on the high side…

  • Brian Ennis

    Could be a good champion to my Samsung Galaxy Note 3..

  • Phil

    I have resolved to never again wear any sort of wristwatch, but I know someone who would practically kill for this.

  • Gary V James

    Good style. Will it last 5 to 10 years? I hope the battery life is that long.

  • Ian Murphy

    Interesting review. Think I’ll wait for another generation before committing to wearables in general.

  • Brian McMichael

    A good review. The one flaw in this and for most “smart watches” is that they are not smart enough to be useable without pairing to a smart phone.

  • Prasad Nidamarty

    A little pricey. I wlll get one when the price goes down a little.

  • E.T.

    Compatibility is a huge flaw

  • RAWLCM

    I would be more interested in a smartwatch that functioned independantly rather than as an extension screen for a phone.

  • Dayton Christofferson

    Would love to have this smart watch. Good luck to everyone!

  • tmmacara

    I still don’t NEED a smart watch but I’ll try one out if someone gives it to me.

  • chrisv78

    This is so much more than a wrist watch. At least for me, I keep my phone in my pocket, and can control most important functions from my wrist with the Galaxy Gear, Upgrading to the Galaxy Gear 2 will be nice. Learned a lot from this article. And, playing Dick Tracy is fun!

  • tkc

    Just wish this is truly cross platform.

  • Love how it looks, and that it’s not an Apple product…

  • Sharon Ann Witteck Austin

    very thorough review. some cons I noticed that I disliked: not waterproof for swimming, and, only 2mp/15 seconds camera, it requires a Samsung smartphone; some pros I noticed that I liked: watchband is changeable, bluetooth, customizable background, bluetooth for music, pulse and pedometer,
    I really would love to win this, despite the shortcomings.

  • Shane Knuth

    Not sure how necessary a smartwatch would really be in anyone’s life, but I’m definitely down to win one and try it out!

  • Jz Lauratis

    Sure, I’d switch to a gear 3

  • d_adams

    Still trying to figure out why smart watches are such a big deal right now. Maybe if you guys give me one to try out, I’ll be able to better understand 😉

  • Gregg Medina

    I’d like to look cool with a smartwatch…But I also want functionality! This seems to cover both!

  • Tony

    Looks Good!

  • Mikeh10

    Love the battery life and it would be great with my note 4

  • soulmindfist

    Probably would not buy one, but hey if I win one I’ll take it!

  • Papatom

    I want a Samsung Dream 2
    Now I love my phone
    But a phone alone
    Can’t do what the phone and Dream 2
    Do

  • Andrew

    The Gear 2 looks nice, and if the claimed battery life is even remotely close to reality, it’s a lot longer than that of the iWatch.

  • Joshua Graham

    Loud speaker on a watch. I do think thats strange as well.

  • lin turner

    would love to have this and i do have a compatible phone. i probably wouldn’t buy it at this price but if i were to win one i would certainly use it

  • Bob Krause

    I don’t think I’d buy this at $300, but it would work well with my current Galaxy S4, or with the Galaxy S5 I plan on upgrading to as soon as the S6 comes out (and the S5 prices drop). I haven’t worn a watch in at least 5 years, but would probably go back to wearing one if I got this one for free. 😉

  • Brian Carabine

    I think that the ability to make quick voice memos makes this awinner

  • Jon Kahl

    Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!

  • Stan Peters

    I like that it looks like a regular watch.

  • jgravino

    It sound nice but a bit bulky. I like the health related apps it has. I have a Samsung Galaxy 4 already so it would work with it. I wouldn’t spend that much on a watch though

  • Laura H

    I like that it looks soo sleek 🙂

  • Ididntdoit

    Pretty slick.

  • Chris

    It looks nice and all, but I’d like to see one that has Swiss Army durability.

  • breiff

    Sounds interesting, could be nice on a workout.

  • jl_wamble

    I have a friend who has this smartwatch and it is so cool. He took pictures at a wedding with it and people kept asking if he was in the CIA. Since this watch has been on the market longer than the Iwatch, I’ll bet it works better and has less issues. This is crazy cool. This would go with my phone.

  • John Caruso

    Though compatability is an issue, the Gear 2 looks terrific.

  • jl_wamble

    a friend won one of these and I am soooo jealous. It is fabulous. sleek and has lots of stuff on it. The camera makes it seem like you’re in a Bond movie. Beautiful design. Wouldn’t mind having one myself.