Samsung Gear S3 – REVIEW

The Samsung Gear S3 is the Swiss Army Knife of Smartwatches.

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Hey everyone, Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom.  My apologies for such a huge delay on this review, but, as they say – better late than never.  This is hands down the most anticipated Smartwatch on my website, especially after testing the S2 from last year and seeing how great that one felt.  I personally paid for this at the retail price of $349.  Prices are on your screen and indeed, comparing to most of the competition, it’s up there. I’ll place my affiliate links above, click on my links and they’ll give you the most updated prices in real time – you never know when this might go on sale.

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The first thing you’re going to think: the S3 looks huge!  It is a big watch compared to many others on the market, I’ll admit that, but I found, you pair this with nice fitted clothing or in general, if you’re naturally a bigger guy than I am, the watch looks great.  Because of the design, it gives you the appearance of looking more rugged, bad-ass, overall, a masculine look.  The biggest problem though, if you’re an office worker and typically wear long sleeves without rolling them up, this thing is going to snag quite a bit at the cuff.  So, just be aware of that.

In the retail box, there’s small and large silicone wristbands from the get-go.  The bands are beefy and rugged, yet comfortable from the factory.  They feature the tool-less removal method to swap them out – you can always get leather or other materials down the road.  The entire watch is IP68 certified, the 6 meaning this is Dust Tight, and the 8, which is the highest rating you can get on a electronic device today, means it’s submersible in at least 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes of protection.  Getting more specific, Samsung themselves in their user manual say “Do Not immerse the device in water deeper than 1.5 meters or longer than 30 minutes”.  The user manual also says avoid taking a shower with this on or going swimming.  I want to put that out there so you are aware, despite all of these fancy lab tests, Samsung still offers their own limitations.  The S3 also received Military Standard Certification against high and low temperatures, shock resistance, rain, etc. With my time wearing this to simply submerging this underwater, the S3 is a tank.  Not much will be stopping this compared to the competition.

Moving on here, looking at the back, there is wireless charging offered through the Samsung Dock.  While it’s charging, the screen does stay on so you can use it as a night clock if you want.  Samsung is claiming up 4 days of battery life, which is phenomenal.  My personal experience and tests, I getting two days on average, 50% less than what Samsung is claiming.  However,  it’s still better than most, if not all Smartwatches I’ve tested in the past.

The S3 also brings back the heart rate sensor, as seen above.  You can check your heart rate instantly if you’d like with the built-in app. If not, the Gear S3 will periodically take a measurement and save it into your Samsung S-Health app, available on all Android devices – you don’t specifically need a Samsung phone for this to work.  But I’ll discuss heart rate performance and the health features a bit later.

But let’s get into the meat of the smartwatch.  The upper button is your back button, bottom right is your Home button and it works by pulling up the app menu.  The Home Button can also serve as a quick access feature to open an app.  Double tapping can activate S-Voice, open Contacts, open your calendar, open up S-Health, or open up your music player, etcetera.  It doesn’t have every app at your disposal, so what I did for mine was to set it to recent apps, which gives me a bit more wiggle room.

A triple tap on this same home button will activate the SOS feature, a feature that I personally love for peace of mind.  Set this up ahead of time through your phone by inputting who your emergency contacts are, it could be 911 if you’d like, and selecting if you want them to receive text or a phone call from you.  In an event you’re in a car accident or have fallen where you can’t reach your phone, reach for your wrist and again, three taps will activate this.  Your GPS location will be sent via text or if you elected to use the phone call method, your watch will turn on its speakerphone and you can communicate through your wrist.  More on that later.

Back to the face of the watch, that beautiful and very tactile metal bezel makes a comeback and it rotates so you can cycle through your screens and app options.  Scrolling to my left are all of my Notifications and updates – Facebook, Hangouts, Calendar events, you name it.

Rotating the Bezel to the right, there’s weather, contacts, reminders for the day, calendar events, calorie count, an activity wheel for the day, steps, an Altitude and Barometer, news headlines linked with Flipboard, media controls to control my music, and then there’s a silent vibrating alarm which you can setup up on your wrist.  Touching base on this quickly, the vibrations set on high, felt medium to low-strength for me.  Considering the size of the S3, and I’m usually a light sleeper, I was expecting a bit more feedback to wake me up in the morning.  The good thing though, along with the vibration, you can have an audio beep go off at the same time, and if anything, that usually wakes me up. But then again, it defeats the purpose of a silent vibrating alarm.  Just be aware of this and I would suggest you test it out yourself.

Finishing up the screen, next up is an option to check my heart rate, and last is simply 4-apps that I frequently use.  All the apps shown can be customized in any order and can be added or removed through your phone….   Pressing the home button brings you to the app menu where rotating again that slick bezel, scrolls through all of the apps.

Now, switching gears a bit, I want to discuss the more unique features of the watch. There is a microphone built in, and you can respond back to text messages via your voice, activate and command S-Voice, and last, there’s the ability to use your Watch as a speakerphone.  This is the non-LTE version, but as long as your phone’s Bluetooth connection is connected, you can answer phone calls right on your wrist.  During my test, I was able to walk upstairs and leave my Pixel XL phone downstairs and I never lost the connection.  As for audio quality, those on the other end were able to hear me quite well.  I can have my arm out in front of me and the microphone still picks up my voice with a good amount of quality.  The speakerphone unfortunately does get raspy and tinny at the very high frequencies when you hear people talk.

Besides using your voice for texting and phone calls, you can go the more traditional method of typing in a text or even hand-writing individual letters.  It works for the most part and I only see this method as being convenient in more dire situations.  It’s not the fastest, not 100% accurate, but it works and it’s there as a unique and cool alternative.

Another feature is having the ability to store music right on the watch itself.  There are 4 gigabytes of internal storage, and via Bluetooth, you can pair your earphones or headphones and listen to music right from your wrist – no need to carry around your phone.  This is also very ideal for runners or those at the gym who truly want to cut the cord.  S-Health, as mentioned earlier, is a great app from my testing in recording your daily steps, sleep if you decided to wear this overnight, and many other health tracking metrics.

Jumping into the health features, even without your phone, you can initiate everything on your wrist for a workout.  Select from a multitude of activities for the Gear S3 to label your event.  I’ll eventually pick running here since it’s the most popular.  I can set a target, turn on GPS as there’s built-in GPS in the watch itself, guided intervals that give you updates during your activity that alerts you at either every mile or at every few minutes on your distance, pace, speed, etc.

While in an activity, you can view in real-time your heart rate and duration, Distance based on GPS, calories burned, pace – which is essential for runners – speed, cadence and then back to heart rate, but with a bigger display.  With my testing on distance, the GPS works every time and the distance is accurate.  The heart rate sensor specifically on the S3 is very good, even compared to dedicated fitness trackers.  S-Health doesn’t have a desktop view, it’s only within the app, so my charts on screen are hard to visually line up, but I did confirm, like all wrist-based HR trackers, they’re not 100% accurate. But the S3, it’s been giving me very good results when I compare it to my chest strap.

The one big downfall that I’ve seen with the Gear S3 and this is assuming those who already have data on these apps, the S3 is lacking Strava and RunKeeper at the time of this review.  MapMyRun and Endomondo were the only two other popular apps that I could find.

But since we’re touching on apps, Tizen, which is Samsung’s operating system has been gaining traction and it’s been out for awhile now, but shockingly, we’re still seeing a limited amount of popular third-party apps being available…  especially when you compare it to Android Wear and Apple’s SmartWatch.  One of the biggest downfalls I’ve seen is the lack of Google Maps and real-time turn-by-turn navigation, something that I loved on Android and Apple.  I will admit though, for most users out there, despite the lack of apps, the S3 still provides most of your needs with what is currently available today. Despite the limitation, I’d still strongly recommend Tizen as an option.

So, with everything we’ve touch based on so far, the Frontier is one Swiss Army SmartWatch.  Rugged as hell, looks bad ass. The screen functions great with zero slowdown or freezes from my experience, the screen offers rich and vibrant colors, visible in low-light of course, but in direct sunlight as well.  I loved the robust work-out functions and how easy it is to use, I loved the rotating bezel.  I very much enjoyed the design and layout of the menu’s and notifications.  There are indeed a few flaws, but it doesn’t deter me from recommending this watch in general.   If you’re going to pay full price for the watch as I did, never once in the back of my mind I said, “man, I wish there was more!” or I never said in the back of my mind, “it wasn’t worth $350”.  If you’re more budget conscious, wait for this to go on sale, and by then, you’re still going to get one heck of a smartwatch.

So I hope this review helped you in some way, be sure to check out the Asus ZenWatch 3 review that we recently reviewed as well – seriously a great watch for the price it’s offering.  Tap or click on that link if you’d like.  And as always, Jim’s Review Room is here to help you make a purchase decision.  You guys take care, I’ll see you on the next one.

[table id=5 hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”a,b,c,e,h”/] Specs from manufacturer. If incorrect, please contact us.