I've been a smartwatch evangelist ever since I first strapped on the original Pebble back in 2013, and since then, I haven't looked back. I get that smartwatches aren't for everyone, but for me, having a tiny gadget strapped to my wrist that I can glance at for notifications and data on my physical activity throughout the day is essential.
Because of that, I've been sorely disappointed with the smartwatch selection we've seen over the past year. As a fan of the Gear Live, Moto 360, and Huawei Watch, the recent Wear OS hardware choices have left me feeling very underwhelmed. If you're in the market for a Wear OS watch, your only two options are something huge and overly bulky or a watch that's from a fashion brand and costs upwards of $600.
A full-featured Wear OS watch that's not overly large or expensive doesn't really exist right now, but that's okay. Samsung recently launched its new Gear Sport, and while it may not have every single bell or whistle, it's currently the best alternative to any Android Wear watch on the market. These are my top three reasons why.
It looks appropriate on smaller wrists
Watches like the LG Watch Sport and Huawei Watch 2 are packed to the gills with just about every single feature you could ask for, and while this does make them extremely functional, it does so at the cost of them also looking like huge, offensively large meatballs.
These gadgets might be your jam if you're into the look of bigger watches, but for someone like me that has smaller wrists, they're impossible to use.
The Gear Sport measures in at 43mm in diameter, and while that might not be the smallest smartwatch we've ever seen, it's noticeably more compact than any other smartwatch that offers a similar feature set. The circular display sitting on top of the squircle body does take some getting used to, but this is still a very good-looking watch. It's sturdy, the rotating bezel makes navigating through Tizen a joy, the side buttons are clicky, and – best of all – it looks like it belongs on my wrist.
The Gear Sport doesn't skimp out on features
"But, Joe – what about the LG Watch Style? That's a relatively new Wear OS watch that's super slim!"
LG's Watch Style gets size right, but fails to offer enough features.
That it is, but as good as the Watch Style might look, its feature set is considerably lacking. There's no heart rate sensor, GPS, or NFC for Google Pay – one of the highlight features for Wear OS. I can understand omitting something like a GPS chip to make a smartwatch more affordable, but at this point in time, a heart rate sensor and support for mobile payments is a must.
With the Gear Sport, you've got a heart rate sensor that can do continuous monitoring, built-in GPS, and access to Samsung Pay for NFC payments – all in a body that manages to look and feel good on a smaller wrist.
This is something that Wear OS doesn't currently offer. There are smartwatches out there that have these features, but they only exist in big watches. The Gear Sport is the first Android-compatible smartwatch we've seen in a while that offers so many goodies in such a small body, and that's why this device is so appealing.
A focus on fitness that doesn't overshadow other tasks
As the name of the Gear Sport suggests, this is a smartwatch with a heavy focus on fitness. Samsung Health is a big part of the Sport, and it allows you to use the watch for tracking your steps, calories burned, changes in your heart rate, calories you've consumed throughout the day, water and caffeine intake, and so much more. The fitness feature set that's present here is fantastic and makes the Gear Sport a wonderful companion for hitting the gym or going on a run with.
However, when you're not setting new personal bests, the Gear Sport also manages to be a really good smartwatch for other daily activities. You can easily take action with notifications that you receive on your phone, there's support for downloading Spotify playlists directly onto the watch, and Samsung's Tizen interface is incredibly snappy and fun to use. You don't have access to nearly as many applications as you'll find with Wear OS, but to be perfectly honest, the Gear Sport does everything I need it to do right out the box.
This is a really, really good smartwatch
I've only had the Gear Sport for a little over a week at the time of publishing this article, but that's been more than enough time for me to realize that Samsung knocked it out of the park with this gadget. I'm still eager to see where Google takes Wear OS in 2018 and what it decides to do with the platform, but until then, the Gear Sport is a small, functional, reliable, and downright awesome device that I'll be recommending to all of my friends and family members this holiday season.
For even more info on the Gear Sport, but sure to check out Andrew's full review!
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