BARCELONA: SAMSUNG UNVEILED the Gear 2 and the cheaper Gear 2 Neo ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week, the sequels to its original Galaxy Gear smartwatch that struggled to impress us due to its poor battery life and bulky design.
Samsung is hoping to have fixed those issues with the Gear 2, with the firm having tarted up the wearable's design, added some new features and, perhaps most interestingly, switched out Android for its own Tizen operating system.
Samsung claims the design of the Gear 2 is "much sleeker" than that of the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but we didn't notice a major difference in size and weight. Maybe we just have weak wrists, but we found that, much like the original Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2 still felt cumbersome and bulky to wear. The Gear 2 tips the scales at 68g compared to the original Gear's 74g.
That said, the Gear 2 does looks better than its predecessor. Thanks to Samsung's decision to move the camera sensor from the strap to above the display, the Gear 2 feels more streamlined than last year's model, and the redesigned strap, which is a textured rubber material, both looks good and sits comfortably on the wrist. Straps will be available in a range of colours, from a muted black version to bright orange. Samsung has redesigned the clasp too, which makes it easier to take the device on and off.
Thankfully, the unsightly screws from the original Gear have been removed too, which means that the device doesn't look quite as masculine as Samsung's original smartwatch. Instead, the metal watch face sports a new home button under the screen, which we found makes the device more intuitive to use.
Another nice design feature is that, much like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Gear 2 is resistant to dust and water, which means you won't need to take it off while in the shower. Also like the Galaxy S5, there's a heart rate monitor built into the rear of the device, with the smartwatch shifting to focus on fitness.
The Gear 2 has the same 1.6in 320x320 resolution AMOLED display as its predecessor, which isn't a bad thing, as the display was one of the main things that impressed us when we reviewed the original Galaxy Gear. Thanks to the onboard AMOLED technology and the small size of the display, it's quite crisp and vibrant, with colours seeming to pop out of the screen.
We found the display very responsive to touch, and noticed no lag while using the device.
The Samsung Gear 2 dumps Google's Android mobile operating system in favour of Samsung's own Linux-based Tizen operating system developed in collaboration with Intel. Despite this however, Samsung has said that the device will still need to hook up to one of 20 supported Galaxy phones in order to function, a 'feature' we'd hoped that Samsung would have resolved with its second generation smartwatch.
Beyond that, however, Tizen looks great on the device, with Samsung providing it with a colourful, easy to navigate user interface. While the app selection is still somewhat limited, Tizen's conformance to HTML5 means that it should be quick and easy to write apps for it, and that shouldn't drain battery life too quickly, with Samsung promising "two to three" days.
In terms of applications, the Gear 2 has a focus on fitness, and you'll find a built-in pedometer and exercise tracker along with the heart rate monitor. There's also a music player - the only app that can be used without a smartphone connected - and S Voice, IR Blaster and Camera apps.
Speaking of camera, the Samsung Gear 2 sports a 2MP camera that now sits above the smartwatch's display rather than on the wriststrap. However, we still don't really see the need for this. Its image quality is poor, it's fiddly to use and the camera interface is tricky to manipulate given the small screen size of the Gear 2. What's more, the device needs to be hooked up to a smartphone - a smartphone that likely will have a more capable camera.
The Samsung Gear 2 is without a doubt a big improvement on the original Galaxy Gear. While still somewhat bulky, it's much sleeker than the previous model, it has a more impressive set of features and, if Samsung's claims are to be believed, its battery will last longer than one day.
Check back soon for our full Samsung Gear 2 review. µ