PROS / The Gear S3 has a built-in GPS chip and heart rate monitor.
CONS / Samsung's app selection is smaller than Apple's and Android's app stores.
VERDICT / Although it has some compatibility issues and a mediocre app selection, the Gear S3's attractive design and long battery life make it one of the best smartwatches.
Smartwatch sales have been in a state of decline, mostly due to the delay of Android Wear 2.0 devices, which has led to a lack of new hardware and, consequently, dwindling interest in the product category.
Samsung has been in the smartwatch race practically longer than any other company, and the Android Wear postponement hasn't stopped the company from developing wearable devices. The company has launched its sixth smartwatch, the Samsung Gear S3, which runs on an operating system called Tizen.
We have tested the Gear S3 extensively and are quite impressed. It’s one of the best smartwatches we've seen. It comes in two different designs and both are chockfull of features that may make you consider finally getting a smartwatch. You can easily make payments at stores right from your wrist, track your run with its built-in GPS and take or make phone calls. We have given the Samsung Gear S3 the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award for its outstanding design, long battery life and overall functionality.
This time around Samsung has released two versions of the Gear S3 – one called Classic, the other Frontier. The main difference between the two is that the Frontier has built-in LTE and doesn’t have to be tethered to your phone via Bluetooth like the Classic model and most other smartwatches do. If you have AT&T, the Frontier edition “clones” your original number so you don’t have to deal with the confusion of having two separate phone numbers.
Both models are made from stainless steel, but the Frontier has a more rugged and masculine look. The Classic’s bezel is brushed and smooth, while the Frontier’s is slightly raised and has more prominent tick marks. We tested the Classic, which includes a black leather band, compared to the Frontier’s silicone band. The straps are easily swappable and you can use any 22 mm watchband of your choosing.
It’s obvious Samsung tapped a Swiss watchmaker to design this smartwatch. We think the Gear S3 is one of the most attractive-looking smartwatches you can choose from. It looks incredibly sharp and is made of premium materials. It’s very big though; we even struggled to cover it with our shirtsleeves. So folks with skinny wrists might prefer a smaller watch.
This smartwatch is protected by Gorilla Glass and should handle small drops or bumps into walls just fine without leaving any scuffs or major scratches. It has a 1.39-inch Super AMOLED display with 360 x 360-pixel resolution. We really like the always-on display. You can always see the time. Most other smartwatches' faces turn black to preserve battery life. With this one, the screen dims so your watchface is barely visible. You can disable this feature if you want to save precious battery life.
The watch has an IP68 waterproof rating, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. We wouldn’t recommend swimming with the watch, but you could shower with it or wear it in the rain. Also, the silicone watchstraps would fare much better than the leather after getting wet.
Our favorite aspect of the watch’s design is its rotating bezel. You use it to scroll, interact with menus and highlight selections. It’s similar to the digital crown on the Apple Watch, and we think it's just as good, if not better – especially since the crown on the Apple Watch is so small and isn’t as lefty-friendly.
We were impressed with the speediness of this smartwatch. It’s powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, which didn’t suffer any hiccups and handled apps with ease. It has 512MB of RAM. The S3 operates more smoothly than the previous version, the S2. With 4GB of internal storage, you'll have enough room for plenty of apps and music.
Its built-in GPS chip helps you route your runs and bike rides. It has other sensors too, like a heart-rate monitor, barometer and speedometer. As for battery life, it’s outfitted with a large 380 mAh battery. We were able to get three days of use with no issues at all. We were greatly impressed with the Gear S3’s battery and wish other manufacturers would follow suit.
Since the Gear S3 has NFC, you can use Samsung Pay to make payments on the go by holding up your wrist to checkout terminals. It also has MST (magnet secure transmission), and the smartwatch emits a magnetic signal that mimics the one on your credit and debit cards then sends it to the payment terminal. Currently, Samsung Pay is accepted at many more locations than Apple Pay. It’s both cool and convenient and really works well.
Most Android smartwatches are powered by Android Wear, but not this one; it runs Tizen OS. You can still use your Gear S3 watch with most Android phones, but if you have an iPhone you’re out of luck. You’ll have a better experience on a Samsung smartphone, though. Sometimes if you delete messages on the watch they don’t sync with your Android phone for some reason. We thought the latest version of Tizen was fast and easy to navigate. Tapping and holding onto the watch face brings up several other faces that you can swap out and customize. They are appealing and well-designed. The watch has a few widgets added by default, including one for accessing your contacts, another for adding reminders, a calendar that lists your events, and a weather app that gives you hourly forecasts. You can download other apps and games like Fruit Ninja or Nike+ Running, no problem. Unfortunately, Samsung's app catalog isn't as expansive as Google's and Apple's.
At the gym we were able to keep track of sets of crunches, lunges and squats. Like the ASUS ZenWatch and Apple Watch, this one will vibrate and remind you to stand if you’ve been sitting too long. All your health data is stored in the free S Health app, which was a breeze to use. It has automatic workout detection, so when you get up and walk, it’ll count your steps as well. We liked using the Apple Watch more for tracking fitness, but this one is better than other Android Wear watches.
Most smartwatches struggle recognizing voice dictation, including the Gear S3. A lot of times it failed to pick up what we were saying. You have the option of typing out a message on a tiny keyboard or using handwriting recognition, but these don’t work well either. You’re better off just using a canned response or pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to respond to messages.
Help & Support
With its stainless steel construction, Gorilla Glass display and premium leather band, we don’t think you will need to file a warranty claim, but you can have some peace of mind knowing that Samsung offers a one-year warranty for this smartwatch. Should you have a question or problem, you can reach customer support via telephone or email. Samsung even offers tech support through an online live online chat.
Samsung's Gear S3 is one of the best smartwatches available, especially if you have a Samsung smartphone. Its attractive construction with swappable bands, built-in GPS and the ability to make mobile payments are all standout features. This watch is definitely worth considering if you are in the market for a smartwatch. However, at the moment it doesn't work with iOS devices, and Samsung's app store doesn't have as wide of a selection as Apple's and Google's stores.