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Samsung Gear Sport review: The company's best smartwatch yet

The quick take

The new Gear Sport is not only a great successor to 2015's Gear S2, but also Samsung's best ever all-around smartwatch. It manages to be notably smaller and lighter than the Gear S3, while keeping nearly all of its capabilities. Samsung's wearables still attempt to do too much with overbearing software on a tiny screen. But that's worthwhile in order to get the great fitness tracking, which doesn't tie you into a specific ecosystem, and an overall great interface.

The Good

  • Awesome display and two-day battery
  • Great fitness tracking
  • Interoperability with multiple tracking ecosystems
  • Rotating bezel is a treat
  • Notably thinner and lighter than Gear S3

The Bad

  • Software attempts to do too much
  • No neutral or women's design option
  • Setup process can be clunky on non-Samsung phones
  • No LTE or MST Samsung Pay payments

The internals

Samsung Gear Sport Tech Specs

CategorySpec
Display1.2-inch Circular Super AMOLED
360x360 (302 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorDual Core 1.0 GHz
Operating systemTizen Wearable OS
RAM768MB
Storage4GB
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou
Accelerometer, Gyro, Barometer, heart rate monitor, Ambient light sensor
Battery300mAh
ChargerWireless charging
Durability5 ATM water resistance, MIL-STD-810G
Dimensions42.9 x 44.6 x 11.6 mm
50 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+

Samsung Gear Sport

Hitting the sweet spot

Samsung Gear Sport Things you'll love

As the Android Wear market continues to struggle, Samsung is keeping on a steady pace of releasing wearables running its own Tizen OS. Focusing more and more on fitness, realizing that that's really the only place smartwatches are growing today, Samsung has the new Gear Sport. It's ostensibly a smartwatch, one that draws upon the Gear S3's design, but with all of the same robustness and fitness tracking capabilities of the Gear Fit 2 Pro. For a lot of people, that's exactly what they want — the best of both worlds, in effect.

Samsung has really refined its wearable hardware, and the Gear Sport is a great piece of tech.

Samsung has its smartwatch hardware quality down, and the Gear Sport is a great example of the heights the company has reached after years of trying different approaches. The Gear Sport's body is a sleek and handsome two-tone metal that feels rock solid, and the buttons and rotating bezel are top-notch to match. The back, which has to be plastic for radio penetration, feels just fine — but is the one place that reminds you you're wearing a smartwatch and not a good ol' mechanical watch.

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

With a case size footprint of 43 x 44 mm and a 11.6 mm thickness the Gear Sport isn't super small, but next to the Gear S3 it feels like a breath of fresh air. The Gear Sport feels totally natural on my wrist, like a mechanical watch size I'd actually wear every day, and unlike the Gear S3 doesn't ever feel like a burden or a compromise of size for technology. You don't accidentally bang it on anything throughout the day, and you can easily slip a jacket sleeve over it.

Style is always subjective, especially when we talk about watches or other jewelry, but I'm quite a fan of the Gear Sport. It's stylish, if a bit masculine, and does a good job of communicating that it's both a watch that's tuned for daily wear but also hardened to take the punishment of running or hitting the gym. The standard watch band attachments give you options to swap to an insane number of bands — from Samsung or any third party — as well, letting your personalize or change it throughout the week for a different look.

The core interface is great, and everything speeds along for two days on a charge.

Beyond the looks, let's talk about the business end of this thing: actually using the watch. Samsung's core smartwatch interface is great, and does a fantastic job of maximizing the use of the circular screen with interface elements that go all the way to the edges and play off of its rotating bezel as a primary input method. The "set of home screens" idea makes perfect sense, and can be as complex or simplistic as you want. You can fill up a set of five or 10 home screens just with the offerings pre-loaded on the watch, and have something that fits your needs — whether that's fitness, or something more specific.

The 1.2-inch fully circular display is a typically great Samsung AMOLED panel, being both colorful and plenty bright enough to see outside or at awkward angles. The way Samsung's watch faces drop into a low-power "always on" state is graceful, and really shows off the great black levels of the screen. That mode's turned off by default (like much of the Gear Sport's capabilities) in order to save battery, but even with everything turned on I still managed two full days without worry. If you want to turn everything off and be more judicious, you can get three full days out of it.

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

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Samsung Gear Sport

With 'Sport' in the name you expect great fitness tracking, and you get it.

With "Sport" in the name, the Gear Sport is of course great at tracking all of your activity. It easily handles the "daily" metrics like sleep, steps, floors climbed, heart rate and general movement levels, combining it all into a "last 24 hours" interface that's super easy to understand at a glance. Then you get to the next level of true activity tracking, with GPS-located running, walking, hiking and cycling, but also swimming, machine-based workouts and step-by-step coaching for free weight work ... provided you're okay taking prompts from a small screen on your wrist. Tracking all of this activity has been precise for me, just like Samsung's previous wearables, and its automatic workout detection means I never miss recording any activity throughout the day.

Just as importantly as recording all of this data is how Samsung has really opened up its doors to let you put that data into the fitness ecosystem of your choice. You can of course use Samsung's own Health platform, which is there by default, but you can also install the Under Armour suite of apps consisting of UA Record, Map My Run, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo. That set of apps doesn't cover every possible platform out there, but there's a much better chance that you're using one of those than Samsung Health if the Gear Sport is your first Samsung wearable.

Samsung Gear Sport

Too much software

Samsung Gear Sport Things you'll hate

Though the general experience of using the Gear Sport is great, there are two key areas where it still comes up short — one in the hardware, and another in the software.

Samsung's Tizen-based wearable OS is really good at all of the basics, and as you read above I'm a big fan of how well it integrates with the circular hardware to give you a robust set of features and interface paradigms. The problem is that Samsung continues to try and do way too much on its wearables, and that's extremely unfortunate. Despite the Gear Sport being more focused on fitness than the Gear S3, it still has all of the crazy capabilities of that larger power user-focused watch.

Samsung still tries to do far too much with its wearable software — it needs to scale back.

There are just as many pages of settings on this watch as there are on a Galaxy S8. And just as many parameters to tweak. Samsung still insists on cramming two full pages of apps into an app launcher on the watch, and including gems like a month calendar widget, a news reader, a picture gallery (???) and a PowerPoint controller, among plenty of others. The Galaxy Apps store is basically an empty field littered with dead or dying watch faces and bad utilities. This is a perfect example of trying to be all things to all people, rather than focusing on the great core interface it has designed. If Samsung decided to make the Gear Sport do less, it'd actually be a better overall product.

On the hardware side of things, it all comes down to addressable market. For as sleek and stylish as the Gear Sport is, it definitely isn't designed to appeal to women — both in its overall size and case styling. Yes it's much smaller than the Gear S3, but the Gear Sport is still going to stand out or feel a bit clunky on a smaller wrist, there's just no getting around that. And with the choice of a gunmetal black or deep blue, with sporty rubber bands to match, it doesn't have any sort of aspirations of being matched up with women's fashion. Samsung's own Gear Fit 2 (or even the Gear S2, to a lesser extent) feels a whole lot more agnostic in this regard.

Samsung Gear Sport

The best of a small group

Samsung Gear Sport Should you buy it?

The smartwatch market isn't that large, and the number of compelling offerings can really be counted on a single hand. The best chance smartwatches have right now is to go after the fitness tracking market, appealing to those who want something that can handle all of their workouts but also look fine over the course of the day as a watch rather than a clunky rubber and plastic band on your wrist.

It's hard to argue for a sport-style Android Wear watch when the Gear Sport exists.

The Gear Sport does a darn good job of approaching things from this angle, and it does it far better than the big, bulky and cumbersome Gear S3. Even though the Gear Sport misses a few niche features like LTE and full MST Samsung Pay support, it does everything else its larger sibling does — and goes a step further with swim tracking and better waterproofing. And because it's smaller and easier to manage, you'll end up wearing the Gear Sport far more — it's comfortable to wear on a daily basis, and with a band swap it can be dressed up or down as your style changes.

Samsung's software is still overbearing and bloated in many respects, but if you don't go into it looking for the Gear Sport to be a replacement for your phone you'll be extremely happy with the core interface, widgets and experiences. Everything is super quick and displayed on a great screen, and even with all of its features turned on the Gear Sport can last you two full days on a charge.

The smartwatch market may be small, but there are still people out there looking for a more advanced piece of technology to put on their wrist. At $299, the Gear Sport is a great one to consider — both as a watch, and as a fitness tracker.

4 out of 5

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

54 Comments
  • Gear S3 Classic until the end!
  • I've been very interested and tempted to give Tizen another try. I really don't have any issues with Android Wear and there are a lot of watches out there with that OS and it can only grow. I've gotten accustomed to Google Assistant on my Android Wear watch and I use it daily. Still...tempted to try the Gear S3 or Sport here soon.
  • Andrew any idea when Samsung is going to release all the straps they have been showing with this watch? I have the blue gear sport and love it. Using it with my pixel.
  • I don't ... they didn't give a timeline, and they had dozens and dozens of styles to release too. I would expect we see maybe a variety of ~5 straps released in the next couple weeks, and more trickle out from there. The nice thing is you can replace the straps with any 20 mm straps of your choosing as well — you don't have to wait for Samsung's.
  • Can you take calls while connected to your phone with bluetooth? Edit: Nevermind. The official Samsung site indicates that you can but only when paired with bluetooth headphones. Fine print: "⁵Gear Sport is a companion device for compatible smartphones, sold separately. Respond to calls with pre-set text, paired headphones or smartphone. Full device functionality requires Bluetooth pairing to a wireless network-connected phone. Must use paired phone or headphones to take calls. Speaker is not part of device functionality." https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fshop-links.co%2Flink...
  • Correct there is no speaker on the watch.
  • That's a major BAD point. I use it to answer calls when in another room - or driving. You should update your article accordingly. I was looking to move from a Gear S3 Classic to the Sport - but once I found this little published fact I decided to stick with the S3. The sport is definitely not Samsung's best smart watch. It's only real benefit (albeit a big one that I wanted) is Waterproofing.
  • Solid review! I'm glad to see that the watch face is a little smaller now but I wish that there was a lighter color option and something a little cuter. Otherwise, this sounds like a smartwatch I might not mind using on my small wrists. I hope that they'll make more watches with this size of a watch face.
  • Yeah it's odd to me that there are two dark options and they're not particularly far apart, especially at a glance. Something with a smoother overall look and/or a lighter color option would've done well I think.
  • I'm a lady, and I don't mind the look of this watch. Just got the blue Gear Sport on Sunday (replacing a Gear S2) and using it with the Note 8.
  • Is it at all possible to use Android pay on this watch instead of Samsungs
  • No it's not.
  • Why would you want to? Serious, non-snarky question.
  • Nope.
  • Because I have android pay on my pixel and would just prefer to use one method
  • It would be nice to see a direct comparison to the Gear S3 for things like heart rate tracking accuracy. My S3 on auto sometimes doesn't get a heart rate for hours. The shortest interval is q hour even though it should do it every 10 minutes. The other would be if/when the S3 will get updated with the Sport features since Samsung says the S3 is an upgraded Sport.
  • I approve this post.....well said.
  • Samsung made no claim of increased heart rate accuracy or any new components being used vs the Gear S3.
  • I wear my Gear S3 Frontier every day and also sleep with it every night with no comfort issues at all. When writing an article such as this, personal opinion on items that will be perceived differently between individuals should be kept a minimum. Also, a lack of MST with this watch is a big deal if you like to pay with your watch. Many stores still no not have NFT machines. MST works with these machines when nothing else will. It is an awesome technology. I still enjoy having the watch work for payment when the clerk is emphatically saying that it won't!
  • Haha. Me too! 😁
  • That may be. But ugly as a 1980ies Casio! No way I would spend money on that thing!
  • I wish that someone would make a bigger smart watch. The smallest daily wear watches in my collection have 46mm casings. Since it would be great to have a slightly bigger screen and room for a larger battery I think that a 54mm casing size would be great.
  • 54mm?? As a watch designer who has designed oversized watches as well (50mm+), I can't see 54mm being comfortable for anyone and 50 is borderline obnoxious already. 46 to 48mm and you've got a happy medium.
  • I'm wearing a 63mm Invicta Grand Octane right now and it is comfortable enough though a bit on the heavy side at a full lb.
  • Closest thing I can think of for you is the Garmin Fenix series. They are pretty large at 51mm but smaller than your 54.
  • Also bad. No google assistant or even bixby at the least.
  • That's probably because there's no speaker and I assume no microphone. They definitely sound consider adding Bixby to Gear S3. I doubt that Google would make Assistant available.
  • And no google maps support
  • Yup, not having the tie-in for directions from Maps might be a deal-breaker for some people. I know bikers like to use that feature.
  • The fact there is no speaker in this watch means the Gear S3 is still definitely the best smartwatch Samsung has ever made.
  • I just smashed my Gear Fit 2 and was going to replace it with a Gear Fit 2 Pro but the Gear Fit Sport looks nice. I wonder if their heart rate, sleep and other sport tracking functions perform equally well.
  • Seems to be comparable from my POV, other than the fact that some people may wear a watch a bit looser than a "fitness band" and get worse tracking as a result.
  • No speaker? No Samsung Pay? No Sim? It's better than the S3 just because the author feels like the S3 is too big?
  • yup pretty much thats it. and the new tizen features will come to s3 soon enough.
  • no speaker, no MST Samsung Pay and no LTE are pretty niche features for most people. OTOH a lot of people feel the Gear S3 is way too big.
  • Where did you get the data that a lot of people deem the Gear S3 too big? And that MST Samsung Pay is niche? I have received nothing but positive comments on mine (especially how it can be used at more terminals than any other smartwatch) and the size is typical of a grown male's analog watch.
  • I think "a lot of people" = a perspective thing. Some reviewers say that, but the thing still sells. I don't think having a speaker for an alarm is niche. Samsung Pay isn't niche. I'd actually love to see the data on % of Gear S3 watch users who use Samsung Pay. The software update is coming to Gear S3, too. So to restate, the Gear S3 isn't the best to you, because you think it is too big, right? Well, I'll counter that, with the fact that I wear mine day/night and it never bothers me or gets in the way.
  • I for one don't use Samsung pay, also never used Apple pay with my Apple Watch, my bank card is contact less so never bothered with the other two options!
  • I would like to have seen some report on how much the GPS tracking affects battery life.
  • Still baffled at how people consider the s3 to be "way to big and heavy". Most watches these days are a similar size.
  • I picked one up today to replace a Fitbit blaze. I like the size and the overall build quality. Looking forward to tracking runs and bring able to leave my phone at home
  • Can you take the GPS data from this and add it into an app like Runkeeper? And go running with bluetooth earphones connected to the watch and no phone?
  • In the Samsung Health app on your phone you can set it up to export activities to a few different third parties - Runkeeper is one of them. So once you record a run on the phone, it will sync with S Health and then export to RK. That's the way it works on the S3 at least, but likely the same. Yes, you can pair the watch with a bluetooth headset for media.
  • 55 bpm average heart rate? Who are you, Chris Traeger?
  • How does the size compare to the S2?
  • I wish they would replace s-voice with bixby. At least bixby understands what I'm saying.
  • Now if only Samsung would work on improving the app selection for Tizen.
  • Where is the S4?
  • Can you replace the battery in the Samsung Gear Sport? I do not want to spend the money on a disposable watch! Thank you!
  • Andrew, I'm really confused on the charging capabilities of this watch. Am I tied the only using the wireless dock that it came with? Or can I use any wireless charger, for example that wireless charger that I use to charge my Galaxy S8? None of the many reviews I read really clarify on this so any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
  • Hey, I have the Gear S3 and that is tied to the dock that came with it, I can't use my Samsung wireless pad I use for my S8, I am guessing this maybe the same, I hope it isn't!
  • I want Google to make a Pixel Watch, or something flagship to come out next year. But, is Android Wear really going anywhere? Maybe Samsung powered Tizen watch might be what I'm looking for... wait. Can I use Android Pay on this?
  • Funkpod, you can use Android pay on sport watch, but it is only the NFC version meaning the point-of-sale has to have an NFC unit on it. If you get the Smartwatch 3 oh, it is full Android pay supported, meaning use it virtually anywhere
  • Funkpod. Oops my bad I was thinking Samsung pay, not android pay.