Samsung's latest wearable combines the best bits of a fitness tracker and a smartwatch into an attractive new wristband.
Back when Samsung was still figuring out how to do smartwatches, the Gear Fit emerged as one of the company's more palatable wearables. It was lightweight with a small footprint, and had a clear use case which it was pretty good at — tracking your workouts and largely staying out of the way the rest of the time.
Two years on, Samsung has taken what it's learned with the Gear S2 — still one of the better smartwatches on the market — and applied it to the fitness tracker market. And in the process, it's created a product which combines the best bits of a smartwatch and a fitness band.
The original Gear Fit may have been less bulky than other wearables of that era, but this came with one major trade-off. The display was extremely tall and thin, meaning it was difficult to actually read — you'd have to switch to the frustrating vertical mode, or look at everything off-angle horizontally. Samsung has addressed this issue right off the bat, doubling the width of the display and making the UI entirely vertical. And thanks to significantly reduced bezels, it's no larger on the wrist.
Gear Fit 2 is unassuming at a glance, and aesthetically pleasing up close.
The body of the wearable blends almost seamlessly into the strap, which like the Gear S2 comes in two sizes out of the box, attaching with the same tool-free release mechanism. The front face is unassuming at a glance, but aesthetically pleasing up close. The curved sides of the display complement the organic design of the band, while the strap is easily fastened through a press-in clasp.
Samsung's lead in OLED displays allows it to pack a fantastic looking screen into the Gear Fit 2, with a 216x432 resolution and sufficient brightness to be visible even in direct sunlight.
Software-wise, the basic structure of the Gear Fit 2's UI will be familiar to anyone who's owned (or even played with) a Gear S2. The underpinnings of the watch are Tizen-based, same as Samsung's mainstream smartwatch, and that means you get many of the features of that device, including notification alerts, and support for any phone running Android 4.4 and up. And like the Gear S2, some messaging apps even allow you to reply with your voice, or with emoji or canned responses.
This basically is the Gear S2's UI, re-tooled for fitness-tracking duties.
Samsung's also partnered with Spotify to bring curated, workout-focused playlists to the Gear Fit 2, with an app specially designed for the wearable, which gives you more control over playback, playlists and saved tracks than the basic player controls for other services.
But fitness is the real focus of the Gear Fit 2, with fitness enthusiasts the clear target audience. It's designed to be a wearable you keep on you at all times, with automatic sleep tracking, activity recognition and internal GPS. Like the Gear S2, your home screen consists of cards which can be arranged to the right of your main watch face, and in the case of the Gear Fit 2 these are all fitness-focused. For example: There are cards for tracking caffeine intake, step count and floors climbed and caloric intake, among other things.
Humblebragging comes as standard, with the ability to share workouts to Facebook.
Battery life and charge times are a big deal for a wearable designed to be worn 24/7, and Samsung promises three to four days of battery life and up to five days of standby. And the band will charge from dead to full in 90 minutes, so you shouldn't be waiting around too long to get back up and running.
And competition is about to become big part of Samsung's fitness ecosystem, with the launch of worldwide leaderboards based on phone number, so you can compare your progress with friends and compete on a daily basis. Also supported: humblebragging on social networks, with the ability to share workouts directly to Facebook from the Gear Fit 2.
The Gear Fit 2 arrives in the U.S. on June 10, priced $179, and while we'll reserve final judgment for our full review, there's a lot of good stuff going on here in a product that could be a great option for fitness enthusiasts — as well as anyone looking for more serious activity tracking than is offered by the current crop of smartwatches.