Samsun Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo

Revamped hardware and a plethora of software highlight the second round of Samsung's smartwatch.

Mobile World Congress

Samsung has announced the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches ahead of Mobile World Congress here in Barcelona, Spain. These are follow-ups to last summer's Samsung Galaxy Gear. 

Unlike the original Galaxy Gear, which has a full build of Android 4.2.2 on board, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are running the Tizen OS — an open-source OS Samsung played a big hand in developing. (More on that here.) That's good and bad, of course. It's great for those who have been waiting to see Tizen on a mainstream product (insofar as smartwatches are mainstream, we suppose) and bad for the tinkerers. That's also led Samsung to drop "Galaxy" from the product name.

Thew new OS is just part of the changes, though. The hardware's been revamped as well. The ugly wart that is the camera on the Galaxy Gear is gone, moved from the strap to the body of the watch itself. And Samsung's tucked an IR port in there for good measure, turning the watch into a living-room remote — not really much of a surprise given that wearables will make up a good part of Samsung's Smart Home initiative, announced in January.

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And that's just for starters.

Samsung Gear 2 image gallery

The difference between the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo? Lack of camera in the latter.

Visually speaking, there's not a huge difference between the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo. You get different color options, but other than the the biggest change in that the camera's been stripped out of the Neo. So instead of a larger transparent window, there's just the small circle for the IR port. It's also slightly lighter. Does one look better than the other? Your call.

Overall, the design of both Gear 2s is largely the same as the original Galaxy Gear.

Your still going to need some sort of charging cradle, and the pins have moved from the first time around. You're also missing the speaker grille on the wrist from the Galaxy Gear. And the button has moved from the right-hand side to the bottom of the watch face. 

Also worth mentioning: The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are rated IP67, meaning you can actually get these a little wet. That was a big concern we had with the original Galaxy Gear.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo image gallery

Samsung Gear 2 specs

Hardware-wise, the Gear 2 sports a 1.63-inch (320 by 320) Super AMOLED display, so you'll get the same sort of superb colors we've enjoyed on the original Galaxy Gear. It's all powered by a dual-core processor running at 1 GHz, has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage. 

The Gear 2 has a 300 mAh battery, which Samsung says will last two to three days with "typical" usage, or up to six days with low usage.

Display 1.63-inch Super AMOLED (320 x 320) 
Processor 1.0 GHz Dual Core Processor
Operating system Tizen-based wearable platform
Camera (Gear 2 only) 2.0 Megapixel Auto Focus (1920x1080, 1080x1080, 1280x960)
Video Codec: H.264, H.263; Format: 3GP, MP4; HD(720p, @30fps) Playback & Recording
Audio Codec: MP3/AAC/AMR/Vorbis; Format: MP3, M4A, AAC, OGG
Camera Features Auto Focus Camera, Sound & Shot, Location Tags, Signature
Fitness features 1. Heart Rate sensor; 2. Pedometer; 3. Exercise (Standalone Modes: Running, Walking; Companion Modes: Cycling, Hiking); 4. Sleep & Stress (Downloadable)
Music Music Player with Bluetooth Headset and Speaker
Watch-on Remote Remote Controller via IrLED Sensor
Basic Features Bluetooth Call, Camera, Notification(SMS, E-mail, Apps)
Apps Media Controller, Schedule, Smart Relay, S Voice, Stopwatch, Timer, Weather
Downloadable features Calculator, ChatON, Flashlight, Quick Settings, Voice Memo
Gear 2 strap options Charcoal Black, Gold Brown and Wild Orange
Gear 2 Neo strap options Charcoal Black, Mocha Grey and Wild Orange
Ruggedness IP67 Certified Dust and Water Resistant, Noise Cancellation
Featured apps Banjo, BMW, CNN , Conde Nast, Expedia, eBay, Evernote, Feedly, GARMIN, Glympse, GM (Onstar 4GLTE), iControl, Line, Path, Paypal, RUNTASTIC, Volkswagen, Weather Channel, Under Armour (Map my fitness).
Samsung Services Samsung Apps
Connectivity Bluetooth® v4.0 LE, IrLED< 
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate 
Memory 512MB RAM
Storage 4GB
Dimensions Gear 2: 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm, 68g; Gear 2 Neo: 37.9 x 58.8 x 10.0mm, 55g
Battery life Li-ion 300mAh; Typical Usage 2~3 days, Low Usage up to 6 days

Gear 2 software: Out with Android, in with Tizen

Question is: Do you care what OS your smartwatch runs?

​Tizen is Samsung's own open-source OS that's been hanging out around the fringes for a while now. (It followed Samsung's last failed stab at a counter-culture OS, Bada.)

But so long as the Gear 2 has the apps, the underlying OS might not matter that much. (A full Android build might always have been overkill, really.)

As you'd expect, Samsung has a suite of its own apps on the Gear 2, many of which look familiar. To wit, you get: Bluetooth Call, Camera, Notification(SMS, E-mail, Apps), Media Controller, Schedule, Smart Relay, S Voice, Stopwatch, Timer and Weather. 

Other downloadable apps include a calculator, ChatON, flashlight, quick settings and voice memo.

That's just the start, of course. Other apps that are available include:

  • Banjo
  • BMW
  • CNN
  • Conde Nast
  • Expedia
  • eBay
  • Evernote
  • Feedly
  • Glympse
  • GM (Onstar 4GLTE)
  • iControl
  • Line
  • Path
  • Paypal
  • Volkswagen
  • Weather Channel
  • Under Armour (Map my fitness) 

Gear 2 as a fitness device

Samsung Gear 2 Neo in mocha grayAs you've probably noticed, Samsung's positioning the Gear 2 as a fitness tracker. In addition the apps listed above, you'll be able to use it as a heart-rate sensor, pedometer and generic exercise tracker.

The Gear 2 camera 

The Gear 2 sports a 2-megapixel camera with autofocus that'll shoot in three resolutions — 1920x1080, 1080x1080 and 1280x960. It also has the "Sound and shot" feature to give some context to your images, location tagging and signatures.

The Gear 2 Neo has no camera.

The bottom line

We're going to have to wait to get our hands on the Gear 2 to be able to pass any sort of judgment, But addressing the placement of the camera is a good start, providing that it's as easy to shoot with the camera in the body rather than on the strap. 

Same goes for Tizen versus Android. We've got a sneaking suspicion that the user experience will mostly be the same — the Gear is one of those platforms where OS is more important as a framework than it is user experience, and even then the apps involved are more important than both. That Samsung has so many partners ready to go speaks volumes.

Stick around for more on the Gear 2 just as soon as we've got it.