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Samsung Gear S3 hands-on review: The Gear grows up

Samsung Gear S3 hands-on review: With the Note 7 already out of the bag, this year’s Samsung IFA keynote was wholly devoted to the latest generation of its signature smartwatch, the Gear S3.

Samsung Gear S3: Specs at a glance

Screen size 1.3-inches
Screen resolution 360×360
Case size 46mm
Strap size 22mm
OS Tizen-based Wearable Platform 2.3.2
Processor 1GHz dual-core
Memory 768MB RAM
Storage 4GB
Battery 380mAh
Extras GPS, optical heart rate sensor, Samsung Pay

Samsung Gear S3: Hands-on review

As with last year’s Samsung smartwatch, this year’s model launches in two distinct flavours: the Gear S3 Classic and the Gear S3 Frontier. Like the S2 Classic, the new version once again styles itself on more traditional circular timepieces, with a brushed stainless steel casing and a knurled rotating bezel to match. Samsung’s paired the Classic with leather straps making for a more timeless (no pun intended), sophisticated look overall.

Samsung Gear S3 hands-on review top down

The other half of the Gear S3 story takes the form of the Frontier, which shrugs off the futuristic minimalism of last year’s S2 and replaces it with a rugged, contemporary aesthetic. The steel casing of the Frontier is rendered in a dark gunmetal grey and the laser etching on the inside of the rotating bezel features five-minute numerical increments in place of the unmarked lines on the Classic.

The Frontier also opts for hardier rubber straps in place of leather and the two physical buttons sit flush against the right side of the watch casing, with a slightly textured. In contrast, the Classic’s protruding cylindrical hardware buttons look closer to more traditional watch crowns.

Samsung Gear S3 hands-on: buttons

Aesthetics aside, both watches are actually very similar under the hood. Both are noticeably larger on the wrist versus last year’s S2, which might put off daintier-wristed folk. The 1.3-inch circular Super AMOLED display on the front looks great, boasting a 360×360 resolution and offering some of the best viewing angles in the business based on first impressions.

Samsung’s even gone the extra mile on the watch faces, with some simulating the shine of a brushed metallic backing, glinting in the light and responding as you twist the watch on your wrist.

On the inside, they’re both powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and 768MB of RAM (in place of 512MB on the Gear S2), as well as offering 4GB of storage and a sizeable 380mAh battery, which Samsung says should see most users through three to four days of use per charge. Naturally, these smartwatches retain IP68 dust and water resistance, employ Corning’s wearable-focused Gorilla Glass HR+ atop their displays and charge wirelessly.

Samsung Gear S3 hands-on: Angled Frontier and Classic Samsung Gear S3 hands-on: Frontier front and back

Connectivity-wise, both watches also support Samsung Pay and now carry GPS to support navigation and activity tracking functionality, whilst the Frontier is also expected to arrive later in the year as a 3G/4G LTE cellular variant (market dependant).

On the software side, Samsung’s expanded on the Tizen-powered rotary user interface we encountered on the Gear S2. Apps like S Health offer fitness tracking for a greater range of exercises and through new partnerships, you can use your Gear S3 to navigate airport check-in, work on your golf swing at the course or interact with your car, through a partnership with BMW. A new SOS mode also lets you alert up to four pre-designated contacts in an emergency situation, with just a few button presses.

Samsung Gear S3 hands-on: Straps Samsung Gear S3 hands-on: Arik Levy straps

As personalisation goes, both watches support standard 22mm bands, so you can readily swap out the provided straps with ones of your own choosing, however, Samsung has also partnered with artist and industrial designer, Arik Levy who’s created a series of limited-edition Gear S3 straps and watch faces based on his previous artwork and sculptures.

Sammy is also exploring the security and business potential of wearables with a Tizen-based skew of its Samsung Knox SDK, giving developers tools to create secure experiences that can be managed at an enterprise level.

The Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Frontier are expected to go on sale in the UK from October, with pricing expected to reach around the same region of the current Gear S2 family, between £250 and £300. We also suspect more colourways of the Gear S3 Classic will appear at a later date.

Watch our full hands-on review with the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier and Classic here:

 

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