Samsung Gear S

Samsung's curvy Gear S smartwatch is its biggest — and coolest yet

So here we are with Samsung's sixth — yes, a full half-dozen — smartwatch in a little more than the space of a year. To wit: The Samsung Galaxy Gear, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Gear Live and, now, the Gear S. That's a whole lot of Gear.

This Gear, however, is unlike the other Gear(s). Well, OK. It's a whole lot like the other ones. It's running Tizen, the Android alternative enjoyed by all of Samsung's other watches save the Android Wear-based Gear Live. And it's got the same basic functionality we've seen on the other Gear watches — tell the time and date and weather and news and track fitness and heart rate show notifications and email and even make and receive Dick Tracy-style phone calls. Been there, done that.

The two things that make the Gear S stand out? It's got a curved display, and it connects to a cellular network on its own, just like your phone does. And, yes, it's a little larger than its siblings. And you know what? It's pretty darn cool.

Let's take a closer look in our hands-on with the Gear S.

Join the discussion in the Samsung Gear S forums

The Samsung Gear S video hands-on

The Samsung Gear S walkthrough

Here's the tl;dr version: It's a Samsung Tizen-based smartwatch, with a really cool curved display. And it's really big. And has its own cellular radio.

Samsung Gear SSamsung Gear SSamsung Gear SSamsung Gear S

A familiar Gear experience, just with more curves.

For the most part, the Gear S is a pretty familiar experience. Strapping it on is the same as with most of Samsung's Gear watches. You set the fit of the strap, then use a clasp system to take it on and off. (The Gear S strap isn't removable like a few of the latter models are, though.)

Samsung's Tizen-based OS hasn't changed a whole lot. Same look and feel. And while it's very possible we were just experiencing some pre-release wonk, but the Gear S seemed a little unresponsive at times. It's also perfectly possible that we were just getting used to that curved display, though. A little more time is needed to make that call. There's also a keyboard built in — Fleksy, actually — in case you feel like typing on a watch. Or you can use S Voice for input and only look marginally less silly.

Samsung Gear S

That display is too much. No, really. It might be too much.

And, really, it's the display that's the main attraction here. Compared to every other smartwatch we've used — be it Android Wear, Pebble or otherwise — it's freaking huge, and pretty stunning. If you weren't already being asked about your smartwatch before (a daily occurrence for many of us), you're going to be asked about the Gear S. The display is a 2-inch Super AMOLED panel at 360x480 — it wasn't all that long ago that phones themselves had comparable resolutions.

It's also completely possible that the display is just a little too big. On some watch faces — particularly the more intricate ones — it's possible for there to be a little too much going on. Do you focus on the top of the display, which is starting over the smartwatch horizon, requiring you to move your wrist? Or at the bottom? The single home button on the face serves as a nice point of reference. But it'll still take a little getting used to.

But, damn, it's cool.

Samsung Gear S

Get ready to turn heads if you're wearing the Samsung Gear S.

It's also pretty conspicuous. The model in the more slimming black seemed to hide its size more than the white one. But either way, it's a wide rubber strap with a big display pointing off it. And gluing crystals to the band is either only going to draw more attention to it, or give it remarkable power. [Editor's note to self: Find out what happens if you wear one on each wrist and bring them together, Samson/Samsung-style.]

And then there's the cellular capability. You'll be able to pop in a SIM card — which U.S. carriers no doubt will offer (along with that extra monthly charge) with shared data plans — and make calls and receive data without being tethered to a phone. It's the true Dick Tracy watch, no phone necessary. The real question is how much is that worth to you? An extra $10 a month on your bill adds up over time, to say nothing of the cost of the Gear S in the first place.

Will the Gear S be the smartwatch that finally has the mainstream — your mom and dad, really — saying "Yes! I need this!" We'll see. But one thing they will say:

"Damn. That's cool."

 

Reader comments

Samsung Gear S hands-on

79 Comments

What more needs to be said today. The Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge arrives and destroys any and all in it's path not to mention the Gear S.

Shut down all other events for the rest of the week. We won't even discuss the Gear VR nothing else will come close to that for a long while.

It's pretty plain and definitely simply nothing else matters period.

From my Galaxy Note 3 on T-Mobile via Android Central App

So do you have smoke coming out of your ears yet trying to decide which Note to buy? Oh who am kidding, as a representative of Samsung, he already owns both.

Here's an idea:
Taken any Galaxy phone (from a friend), initialize the Gear S, install a few important apps then keep using normally. You only need the Galaxy phone again when you need to update software etc.,

Will this work?

You don't even need a Galaxy phone. Just side load the Gear Manager app from XDA-Dev (WARNING, it takes a few minutes and it installs a LOT of minute framework apps).

Does it matter what operating system a Samsung smartwatch ships with (Tizen or Android or Android Wear) ???

In the end, it has the potential to end up being Tizen after Samsung drops Android or Android Wear for their in-house Tizen operating system - just like they did on their Samsung Galaxy Gear 1 sm-v700 smartwatch. Thus no updates available - unless you change the shipped smartwatch operating system to Tizen (from Android or Android Wear). I am worried that if I purchase another Samsung smartwatch running Android or Android Wear, that the same thing would happen again just like my Gear 1 from Samsung. I want access to Google apps with an Android or Android Wear smartwatch and not even think about Samsung dropping support of Android devices.

That is a pretty huge arm band. Be fun to play with but not sure I would wear it. The Samsung device compatibility only again undermines it in terms of purchase for me. The extra SIM/plan may work if carriers allow for shared data plan packages as part of normal allowances. Be interesting to see how it develops.

Same here. But they are probably going to market thus to the female portion of the Note 4 demographics that carry a purse

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It looked massive on the female presenters arm during the Samsung IFA event. She was drawn to the slightly tacky bling version of it though, encrusted with Swarovski shiny. ;)

I'd love this without the SIM capability. I'm gonna have my phone on me at all times anyway. I've had the Gear 1 going on a year now and I've used it for calls maybe 3 times.

I hope you can choose to pair it with your phone or get a sim card for it. I like the looks of the Gear S better than the others, but I don't need a separate phone # for it. It would be nice if I could switch my sim card from my phone to the Gear S from time to time!

Based on the specs for gear S, it has Bluetooth capability and Wifi with your smartphone. Your not required to have a sim installed on the Gear S. I am planning to buy once it hits the stores.

Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a galaxy s_ bent and shrunk onto a wrist?

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Interesting. I'm not sure if it matters that a smartwatch looks feminine... Most people don't have them anyway. They haven't seen enough of them to assign genders to the technology.

Great for jogging, taking it to the Patriot games. I can use that watch, phone or whatever name you want to use, I'm digging the hell out of it. Great for the job site for calls & messages. Love it.

My guess is $399

But, I bet you an ice cold Dr. Pepper that it will be subsidized by the carriers. It should be about $15-$20 on the AT&T Next plan. Hopefully I'm wrong and it turns out to be less.

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Heeeey, liking the new look for the comments, AC! Great job! On topic: Gear S is definitely working the sexy factor, but I've never been a fan of wide watchbands. Hopefully, some of this goodness will find its way to the Gear Fit.

Is it really as thin as it looks int eh pics? I can almost see the screen higher than the band in one pic, but most are not from the side of the display. I can't tell for sure. And that QWERTY keyboard has to be tough to use.

This one actually looks great. I will need a black or dark brown (real) leather band, minus the extra constant radiation (cellular radios)..

QI charging. NO

Full motion display of the other person your talking too.... NO

NOT FOR ME.....

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I LOVE this Gear S, but too bad it's not Android Wear. I also don't want to pay a separate charge to my carrier for it. Ugh! If this was an Android Wear device, it would be a done deal.

I don't think the point is to have an extra plan. The way I see it is you can put your phone sim in and leave your phone behind. Nights out on the lash, riding a motorcycle, jogging. Whatever. Be good not to have to worry about your phone and have full connectivity on your wrist. And I understand you can still pair to the phone as normal otherwise. Seems like a good option to have even if you don't need it all the time.

n5

You nailed it there are plenty of times I would like to leave my phone behind and use this. Wish it wasn't running tizen though but at least with tizen you can make and receive phone calls and with android wear and my current lg smartwatch you can only reply to text by voice if hangouts is your default messanger.

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I think it looks really nice, definitely one of the sexier smartwatches out now. The whole needing to have a Samsung phone kind of kills it for me though.

Still though, I would wait another 2-3 years to buy a smartwatch. Once all the tech and designs are perfected and all the competition creates some beastly smartwatches, that's when things will get interesting.

Wait... Does this NOT run as a stand alone device? Could I not just take the sim outta my phone and pop it into this and keep on trucking for the day without my phone? That was the way I imagined it. If that is not the case, why?

OK. The $10 add had me confused in this article. That number didnt make sense. I'd assume Verizon would charge just like any other smart phone, not a tablet add on fee. WELL... (Assuming there is a Verizon 3g version... Which probably isnt the case.)

Waaaaay too big for me. I can't wait until these things shrink down small enough for women to wear with business attire.

Also, was that screen pretty laggy or was that an optical illusion. Finally, I'd hesitate to use Tizen since it's likely that none of my favorite Google apps will ever run on it. .....and no, running mobile browser apps isn't the same thing.

Phil, I think you have to talk about the charging process nowadays with every smartwatch reviewed, since that is clearly a major pain point for just about every single smartwatch now (perhaps except the Moto 360).

Is it still a pain to charge? Does it have one of those horrible breakable charging attachments? etc..

When I first saw the fit I said to myself if it was double the width I would buy it. So now I guess I will....

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Is it just me or does this thing look like the ankle brackets the police use to restrict convicts movements in the community? Of course it's Tizen so there's mandatory Samsung sign in and GPS!

The button is too ugly for a watch.. They could have stick to the side

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So Ugly. Please Samsung, hire a real watch designer, please. This looks like a smartphone melted around a short length of PVC pipe. Only the geekiest of geeks would wear this. I guess if you come out with 10 or 20 designs per year eventually one might be ok. Bring on #7!

Oh, and make sure the person in the demo knows how to use the thing. Swiping 6 times and getting nothing doesn't sell smautches.

I personally think the watch looks nice. Got a nice clean design to it, and I can see the physical home button being of use here, seeing as watch screens are typically quite small. The thick band looks trendy as well.

Looks are a personal preference thing, and I think it's one of the better looking smartwatches we've seen.

Only issue is that it seemed a bit laggy in the video, but that could be due to pre-release software. And Samsung tend to release updates after release for their devices with performance issues. Has happened in the past, they even did it with one of their smartwatches in which they changed the OS from Android to Tizen I believe?

I am liking it along w. Note Edge. Will see the price on the watch and if I can use it without separate SIM card and plan.

Ian B

Tizen....Fail.....Needing a carrier for it...fail...That 6 inch (sarcasm) wristband...fail....All the extra useless stuff Samsung will toss on it that will be neat for the first time then never used again...fail .

The Note Edge is neat, too bad it too will be bloated with so much garbage it will have half the advertised storage, not to mention that same Knox crap they seem to be tossing on all there stuff lately

it look pretty amazing, but the size - yeah, that kills it for me. It would honestly look STUPID on my very small wrist. Which sux. Ive been eye balling the Gear Fit, now THAT is more me & would be far better size wise. Im sure a lot of other women will find this also. I was looking forward to the Gear S unveil, yes its stunning & innovative, but I just couldn't handle wearing that!

For a long time I have been waiting for something like Samsung Gear S to be produced. I like the curvy design and especially the fact that it can connect to a cellular network via a separate SIM card.

All the photos were taken from a white model but I prefer black color for this device. As soon as one is available, I will buy one.

All outta my wallet range. But i love my S2 w/gingerbread 2.3.6....when, oh when, will ya put out an upgrade on my version? We lesser priviledged are also devoted !!

Only drawback Tizen. So the question I have is how will it integrate with Android eco system of apps? And will developers now have to have separate Tizen apps developed? Or might it still come out Android wear?

I spoke to a Samsung rep today at Best Buy and it looks like it will be something I would use. He said it is suppose to be set up on your current phone number, so there would not be an additional charge on the phone bill. This is hard to believe since they generally charge you at least $10 for an extra phone on a plan, but if it were no extra charge it would be great to be able to leave the phone behind every now and then. It is suppose to be good up to a meter of water for 30 minutes too. I don't have all the specs, but it would be great if it either had lots of memory for music or had a micro SD slot under the sim chip like some devices do. You could use it as a stand alone music player, phone, texting, gps, and health monitor. Granted it will be small and more difficult to use on some tasks, but as an option I would love it.

He mentioned that you could throw in a GSM card. What about CDMA networks?

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