REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Gear 2: A pretty, frustrating experience

REVIEW: Samsung just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to their smartwatches.
by Richard Hall Published: June 10, 2014
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Samsung, why do you do this to yourself? To us?

The first Galaxy Gear smartwatch didn’t woo me when I reviewed it late last year, but that didn’t curb my excitement when I got my hands on the Gear 2. I was so sure that the Gear 2 would be heads and shoulders above the original, yet here I am, frustrated and disappointed.

It’s more like a Gear 1.5, because while there are improvements across the board, they’re not vast improvements. And, for all of its pluses, the Gear 2 has a few minuses that really bring down the whole experience.

Overall the Gear 2 is a better smartwatch than the Gear: It’s faster, sturdier, has a better battery and has more functionality. But it’s glitchy, has little app support and has some shallow software features. For $299 you should get a lot more than you do with the Gear 2.

The Gear 2’s hardware updates range from superficial to welcomed. It’s waterproof to one meter for a half-hour, it has a heart rate monitor and the watch’s camera is no longer housed in the strap, instead residing in the watch’s body. Which is a solid design change, because now you can swap out straps if the default color doesn’t suit your style.

The 1.63-inch, Super AMOLED display is a pleasure to look at, and the new charging adapter is easier to use than the Gear’s awkward charging cradle.

Samsung’s Gear Manager app is where you’ll go to change settings and download apps for the Gear 2. Although you can use it on the watch, it’s easier to navigate using one of the 17 Samsung devices it can be paired with.

If you’re upgrading from the original Gear and are hoping to use the same apps, then you’re in for a smack in the face, because you won’t be able to. This stems from Samsung’s decision to have the new Gear tech run on Tizen instead of Android.

Ugh, Samsung. This is what I mean by causing a frustrating and disappointing experience — there’s a thing called an app ecosystem, and this change of software crushes all of it. It’s not like the Gear had a lot of apps to begin with, but any progress made on that front has just been cut off.

Similar to Android

Tizen isn’t all that different from Android in terms of usability and visuals. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any major differences if you compared the Gear and Gear 2 side-by-side. That said, Tizen does offer more tools that are ready to roll once you boot the device up: various fitness trackers and a native media player, for example.

Tizen also offers better notifications than found on the Gear, and the number of apps supported by notifications is quite sizable. On the Gear, the Gmail notifications I’d receive would just let me know I received an email and that’s it. But the Gear 2 shows me a few lines from the email, so at least I know who sent it and what they want. It’s not perfect, but it’s a definite leap forward.

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by Richard Hall
Newsroom Developer
Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008.
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