It’s fair to say that New Zealand hasn’t fully embraced the wearables sector of the smartwatch market yet. When I see people out and about (yes I do get out of the house every now and then) I notice more people wearing fitness trackers than I do fully fledged smartwatches. The smartwatches I do see out there tend to be the Apple Watch and I dunno about you but I find that square design to be one of the ugliest products Apple has created. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to smartwatches, I want them to actually look like a watch. I want something that, unlike myself, is refined and classy. I was a big fan of the Huawei Watch with its round watch face and design that resembled something high-end. Which brings me to the Samsung Gear S3 frontier; Samsung have tweaked their design over the last few years, starting out as a ridiculously big, rectangular monstrosity that thank god has evolved into the elegant, multi-functional rounded watch that is the Gear S3 frontier.
When you take the Gear S3 frontier out of the box the first thing you’ll notice is how “normal” this smartwatch looks. The gorgeous black design makes the Gear S3 frontier look like it’s come right out of a quality watchmakers design house rather than the factory floor of a consumer electronics company. On the right hand side of the watch are two buttons that serve as a a back/home button and the other that works more like a select button for the app you want to go into. The bezel of the Gear S3 frontier has in my opinion the best features of any smartwatch and one that I am glad Samsung are sticking with; that’s the fact that it is a rotating bezel. The rotating bezel is by far the quickest way to navigate around the watch whether you’re selecting apps, scrolling through text or going through your music library it is quick simply the easiest and most intuitive way to do everything you need. About the only downside to the Gear S3 frontier is the rubber 22mm watchband which does detract slightly from the premium feel of the watch but it does have a purpose. The rubber watch band is designed with fitness users in mind so that unlike a traditional leather strap it is much more forgiving when it is covered in sweat. If you don’t like the band though you change it for any other watch band you want.
When I mentioned that the smartwatch looked normal, once you turn it on you’ll quickly discover this is not your normal watch. The 1.3 inch 360 x 360 Super AMOLED display is absolutely stunning. It is crisp, bold and vibrant and quickly becomes the star of the S3 show. Apple may think they have mastered the art of the wearable touchscreen but the Gear S3 frontier has its measure! Everything just looks great on the screen, apps, pictures, text and of course displaying the time because after-all this is a watch!
Sitting below that screen is a 1GHz processor, 4GB of storage, NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The combination of onboard storage and Bluetooth is fantastic because it means you can download music onto the watch and then use Bluetooth headphones or earbuds when doing exercise and not need to take your phone with you. About the only downside to the Gear S3 frontier is that it runs on Tizen and that can cause some issues when using the watch with a non-Samsung device. I’ve managed to pair the watch with the iPhone 8 Plus, Oppo R11, Oppo R11s, Huawei P20 and of course the Galaxy S9. Everything you need to pair with the Gear S3 is built right into the Galaxy S9 of course, the Gear App and Samsung Health being the most obvious apps. But on any other device you’ll need to install those apps plus a Samsung plug-in. Pairing with the iPhone 8 Plus was flawless as well but I noticed that when pairing with the Oppo phones in particular that the Gear S3 would constantly lose connection with the phone even when it was right next to it.
Tizen makes for an interesting operating system. In all honesty it works pretty damn well but app support is noticeably poor compared to Android Wear. The most obvious being that on the Gear S3 frontier, you have to pay to get a third party Google Maps app if you want to be able to drive and have GPS navigation going on your wrist (something I actually find very useful). Those sorts of native Google Apps that we all take for granted today are few and far between on the Gear S3 frontier which creates the biggest drawback for the Watch. I’d like to see Samsung bite the bullet on the Gear S4 and actually switch to running on Android Wear.
The apps that do work on the Gear S3 frontier work exceptionally well. Watch faces are plentiful of course and easily searchable in the Galaxy Apps store. I stick to the free ones but there is a great selection ranging from elegant, to digital to multi-functional. I tend to mix my watch faces depending on what I’m doing; if I’m around the house I use the digital watch face, if I’m at work on goes the elegant one. Spotify is one of the big apps that is on Tizen and it works great on the watch; you can download your playlists for offline playback which is great for exercising.
Which brings me to one of the best uses for the Gear S3 frontier. It is a fitness tracking powerhouse! It comes with a heart rate sensor on the back which is pretty standard these days and of course it tracks steps but it can do so much more. From the Samsung Health app you can start your workout and choose from a whole range of workouts to ensure the watch picks up and calculates your stats correctly. Whether it’s walking, running, cycling, using exercise equipment, doing a gym workout or YOga the Gear S3 frontier can track it. Even if it’s not in the app you can set it to a basic exercise stat tracker. The watch will also integrate with third party exercise apps if you want a bit more customisation and you’ll also be able to make use of the GPS for accurate mapping of things like a run.
Oh and did I mention you can take calls on the watch if it’s paired with your phone? That feature I absolutely love while driving. The speaker is loud enough to hear people talking over engine noise so all hands can remain on the wheel while driving.
The Gear S3 frontier will set you back $599 but it is worth every cent. If you want a watch that is waaaaayyyyy more than a watch. From takingcalls on the fly, listening to music while exercising, tracking workouts and sleep, the Gear S3 frontier can do it all.
The GEar S3 frontier can be purchased directly from Samsung New Zealand.