samsung-gear-fit2_06With Gear Fit2, Samsung is releasing a follow-up product that largely improves upon its predecessor and aims to compete fiercely with high profile products from Microsoft and Fitbit. The Gear Fit2 refines the user experience with a much better design, thanks to a lighter weight, and more comfortable wear. The large display is very readable and shows information in a way that feels natural to look at. For a device that people can wear at all times (it tracks sleep too), these design elements are critical. In this article, we’ll go over all the details and first impressions of the Samsung Gear Fit2. We will update this page with long-term data later.

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Usage model: what’s new?

Before we dive into the technical details, let’s take a look at “why” Samsung built this device. The Gear Fit2 is an advanced fitness band which is designed to cover all the popular usages for such devices. While you don’t have to use all of the features, it is important for Samsung (and others) to be able to address a wide variety of use cases.

The inclusion of a GPS removes the friction point of having to carry a phone during sports activities. The same idea is true for integrating 4GB of local storage for music files. It is possible to stream music directly from the Gear Fit2 to Bluetooth headphones, without needing a handset. There’s even more to it, but we’ll get to that soon.

Many people call Gear Fit2 a “watch”, but while it technically provides the time of day, along with most notifications that you care about, it’s not a “smart watch” in the sense that it could be compared to an Android Wear watch. In practice, it could act as a smartwatch if your usage model is very basic.

Finally, the industrial design improves the usage model directly because it makes it more likely that the user will wear the device at all times. The ~3-4 battery life is equally important to fulfill this goal. At Ubergizmo, we’ve always said that the hardest part in Wearable Tech is to get people to “wear” a device. Anything that helps this goal should be the #1 priority.

Industrial Design

samsung-gear-fit2_02Let’s start with the industrial design. At 28-40g, how comfortable the Gear Fit2 is cannot be understated. Comfort is a key feature for any wearable, but even more so for a 24/7 device that can monitor your sleep too. It’s not that it is much smaller than the original Gear Fit. But the combination of design, bracelet, and light weight works very well.

The two different weights are explained by the availability of two different wrist sizes (155-210mm), which is yet another thing to maximize the comfort.

The Gear Fit2 has mostly a “plastic” feel, which makes it seem like a sports accessory instead of a classy smartwatch. The color choices reflect this since Pink and Blue are popular choices for sportswear clothing and accessories. The Black model is low-key and would blend much more easily with any style.

samsung-gear-fit2_11The curved AMOLED display has a 432×128 resolution and is about 2X wider than the first Gear Fit. As a result, it is possible to display and read information while the screen has a vertical orientation. The first Gear Fit had a curved screen, but information was displayed horizontally, which made it a bit less natural to read.

The high-quality display is great since the Gear Fit2 can receive all kinds of notifications, including SMS/text, calls, email, calendar, and apps notifications. In short, pretty much anything that could trigger a notification on your handset can trigger one on the band.

samsung-gear-fit2_05The Gear Fit2 has a waterproof design too. With an IP68 rating, the band can be plunged underwater for ~30mn at a depth of 1.5meters (~1.5 yards). In practice, you can swim or take a shower/bath with it (it’s easily sweat-proof of course). The IP68 rating reinforces the idea that you can keep the band at all times, including in situations that would be downright hostile to a smartphone or select smartwatches.

Sensors: GPS added, and many classics featured

With an onboard GPS, Gear Fit2 can track your location-based activities. That’s running for most people, but it could be anything. GPS in phones consume more power, and the constant communication between phone and band does reduce the battery life. Leaving the phone in the locker, or at home is the ultimate goal here.

There’s also an accelerometer, which is required to track different activities (walking, running, etc…) and count steps. A barometer is also present and is used to measure air pressure and estimate vertical movement (GPS data could also be used to augment accuracy). As such, an altimeter is not present in the device.

The heart rate sensor is mandatory for any sport/health band, so one is obviously present. This sensor can be used in conjunction with the motion sensor to analyze sleep, which is an important metric, from a health perspective. Note that while bands can often provide “good enough” accuracy, sensors located around the ears, chest and fingertip remain better, for physiological reasons. These bands are not “medical grade”, but are sufficient for activity tracking.

Hardware Platform Overview

In general, the hardware inside a wearable device isn’t as important is the general functionality, but I’ll mention it to be thorough and have a baseline in case hardware specs explain important differences in the competitive landscape.

The most important technical element is the 1.84”curved AMOLED display (432×128) touch screen. Inside, the computing is done by a Samsung Exynos 3250 SoC with 0.5GB of RAM and a 200 mAh battery, which is a capacity comparable to devices such as the Microsoft Band 2.

The technicals are comparable to the closest competitors out there, except the display, which is better than select competitors. Not surprisingly, Samsung’s Gear Fit2 runs on Tizen, Samsung’s own Linux-based operating system.

Software / Functionalities

To support the sport/health activities, Samsung has included 4GB of storage for music files. Statistics dating from the iPod-era shows that 4GB is more than enough storage for most users. The most popular file formats are supported, including MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG and many more formats.

The Gear Fit2 also feature an onboard Spotify app which lets you access your account’s music, but also curated playlists of “workout music”.

samsung-gear-fit2_10Workout/health data is also easy to share. Samsung has done as much as it could to remove social sharing friction. Since a good number of users want to share their progress or prowess, making it easy is likely to increase engagement.

When used with a smartphone, the Gear Fit2 can become a music remote control. Without a smartphone, the Gear Fit2 can stream audio directly to BT headphones.

At the moment, Gear Fit2 is compatible with all Android 4.4+ phones. This is an improvement over the Gear Fit, which worked only with Galaxy Phones. However, competitors often have wider compatibility. Samsung has not committed to more at the moment, but it is possible that extended OS/platform support will come later.

While it’s possible to use the band without a phone, it’s fair to say that users would be missing out. We recommend using these bands in conjunction with a mobile/tablet/computer.

Conclusion and pricing

At $179, the Samsung Gear Fit2 is priced competitively, but not aggressively. It features enough technology and functionality to compete effectively in the current market. The Microsoft Band 2 now retails for ~$179, and Fitbit Blaze goes for ~$200.

We’re going to update this first-impression review for longer-term data as we try the unit in the wild. The effective standby time, app/health data connectivity and other details can make a big difference for a final recommendation and comparison.

For now, the Samsung Gear Fit2 units we got our hands on felt very nice, and the use cases make sense. Yes, you have to be an Android 4.4+ user, but this is still a very large market that can be addressed.

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