Samsung Gear Sport hands-on: The Gear S2 refresh we all wanted

When Samsung released the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic, it made the watches substantially larger than the original Gear S2. And in doing so, the Gear S3 lineup kind of lost a lot of its appeal to those who wanted a fitness-oriented smartwatch rather than a general-purpose one. To remedy the situation, Samsung is releasing the Gear Sport: a smartwatch that has its eyes set on fitness and activity, returning to a comfortable size and weight in the process.

Even though the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic are a year old now, Samsung isn't replacing them with the Gear Sport. The new watch actually just replaces the Gear S2, which Samsung was continuing to sell as a smaller, cheaper option to the chunky Gear S3s. Samsung still sees the Gear S3 as the flagship watch with all of the bells and whistles, while the Gear Sport is focused on activity tracking in its design and scaled-back set of features.

The Gear Sport is more or less the same size and weight as the Gear S2, but with the general styling of the Gear S3 Frontier. It has a 1.2-inch circular (360x360 resolution) screen surrounded by a 42.9 x 44.6 mm casing that weighs 50 grams without a band on it. It keeps the side buttons and rotating bezel, which quickly becomes second nature when navigating through the Tizen wearable experience.

Gear Sport specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Display1.2-inch Circular Super AMOLED360x360 (302 ppi)Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorDual Core 1.0 GHz
Operating systemTizen Wearable OS
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/BeidouAccelerometer, Gyro, Barometer, heart rate monitor, Ambient light sensor
ChargerWireless charging
Durability5 ATM water resistance, MIL-STD-810G
Dimensions42.9 x 44.6 x 11.6 mm50 g (without strap)
ColorBlack, Blue
CompatibilitySamsung Galaxy: Android 4.3+Other Android: Android 4.4+iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 5: iOS 9.0+

The case is a combination of a couple different textures applied to the 316L stainless steel, paired up with a plastic back that holds the heart rate monitor. It comes in two colors, nominally called black and blue, but the "black" is more of a gunmetal finish like the Gear S3 Frontier and the blue is so dark in some lighting it just looks the same as the black one. I expect most people will just opt for the black to keep it classic-looking.

The Gear Sport is extremely light and doesn't feel bulky like the Gear S3 does, which is precisely the idea for a watch that's designed to not get in your way when you're on a run or a swim. The smartwatch is designed to be worn all day, though, and that's why Samsung is highlighting its ability to straddle the look of both a fitness device and also a classier watch. With a swap of the bands and watch face the Gear Sport can definitely change personalities, and because it has the same full operating system of the Gear S3 it's capable of handling all of the typical smartwatch tasks we want.

A smaller, lighter smartwatch that can go with you everywhere.

Samsung has new partnerships for app integrations from Under Armour and Speedo. The former brings Under Armour Record as well as the super-popular MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal for tracking both activity and food intake. Samsung Health is still alive and well, but if you want to use the Gear Sport purely to feed into another fitness platform you may already use, that's now a top-level choice.

With its reduced size, the Gear Sport does lose a couple of things when compared to the Gear S3. It has a smaller battery to match its smaller screen, and also doesn't have an LTE connectivity option. It has Samsung Pay, but only via NFC and not the industry-leading MST tech that allows you to pay at any card swipe-style terminal. Those are small prices to pay for most people considering how much more compact and manageable the Gear Sport is in comparison to its larger sibling.

For all of the people who just couldn't handle the size of the Gear S3, or wanted a bit more of a full-featured smartwatch without giving up the sport tracking abilities of the Gear Fit 2, the Gear Sport looks to offer a very happy middle ground. It does a nice job of giving you all of the fitness tracking capabilities you could want, plus the general watch-like form factor that can stay on your wrist without looking out of place with a variety of clothing.

Samsung unfortunately isn't talking about pricing or a specific release date for the Gear Sport yet, simply saying we'll know more around the holidays. Considering that the Gear S3 starts at about $299 for the Classic version, and the last-gen Gear S2 is still on sale (for the moment) at about $200, we can expect the Gear Sport to split the difference around $250.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.