[First Impressions] Samsung nails the smartwatch UI with the Tizen-based Gear S2

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Following the trend of smartwatches that imitate regular mechanical watches so that they can blend in, Samsung unveiled its first smartwatch with a circular display, the Gear S2, during IFA 2015. It packs a beautiful design and innovative rotatory dial with a matching UI to boot. Almost everyone accepted the Samsung Gear S2 as the best looking smartwatch, even better than Apple Watch and the LG Watch Urbane.

Samsung Gear S2 and Samsung Gear S2 Classic

In India, the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 Classic were launched on January 21, and Samsung immediately sent us a review unit. I've been using the Gear S2 Classic since the past one week, and it's the unit that I purchased for my personal use. The review unit that Samsung India sent me is the Sport variant that has rubber strap, and is suited more towards sport and fitness junkies.

Samsung Gear S2 Specifications

  • Tizen-based Wearable Platform
  • 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLED display, 360 x 360 pixels, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and Rotatory Dial
  • Dual-Core Exynos 3250 processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.1, and NFC
  • IP68 water and dust-resistance
  • Accelerometer, barometer, gyro sensor, and heart-rate monitor
  • 250 mAh battery with wireless charging

Great display with amazing watch faces

Samsung Gear S2 Display Indoors

The 1.2-inch circular Super AMOLED displays on the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 Classic are very good. It is very bright and colourful when using indoors. The situation changes in outdoor conditions though. The display doesn't seem to be as bright as to showcase all the UI elements clearly. It's not as easy as I would've hoped to understand what's being displayed on the screen. However, that is the case with all the smartwatches in the market, except the Pebble Time (due to its E-ink display).

Samsung Gear S2 Display Under Sunlight Legibility

Samsung is shipping the Gear S2 with some really great-looking watch faces. These watch faces are even customisable to a greater extent as you can change the dial, hands, numbers, steps, app shortcuts, and other vital information. There is a good collection of watch faces in Samsung's Gear Apps store, but the third-party app collection isn't as good as Android Wear or Apple App Store.

Samsung Gear S2 Box Package

It's comfortable to wear the Gear S2

Samsung Gear S2 On Wrist

As I mentioned earlier, Samsung ships two variants of the Gear S2 in India, one with a rubber strap and the other with a genuine leather strap. I found the variant with rubber straps to be more comfortable than the leather one. Also, the rotatory bezel ring on the Gear S2 Sport is wider, so it's easier to use it when compared to the bezel ring on the Gear S2 Classic. Both variants are quite comfortable, and it's easy to strap them on and off the wrist.

Samsung Gear S2 Box Contents

Both these variants come with extra straps of smaller lengths for those with smaller wrists. Other things included in the box packaging of this smartwatch are the manual and the wireless charging magnetic dock. It's an effortless experience to put these smartwatches to charge on the provided dock, which is different from what I experienced with the LG Watch Urbane, the Pebble Time, and the Apple Watch. Motorola and Samsung offer the best wireless charging docks for their smartwatches.

Samsung nails the smartwatch UI with its Tizen platform

Coming to the UI of the device, I think Samsung has nailed the whole smartwatch interface with its rotatory dial and rotatory UI, and shot Apple in its face with the Gear S2. There are five main UI parts in the Gear S2's software:

  • Watch Face
  • Notifications
  • Widgets
  • Apps
  • Quick Settings Pane

The main screen (or what you call its home screen) is the watch face. The widgets are placed on the right side of the watch face, while the notifications are placed on the left side of the homescreen. You can rotate the dial of the Gear S2 clockwise or anti-clockwise to access the notifications or widgets, respectively. Quick Settings Pane can be accessed by swiping from the top of the watch face.

Samsung Gear S2 Classic And Samsung Gear S2 Sport Watch Straps

The Tizen-based smartwatch operating system that's used in the Gear S2 offers butter smooth, natural animations. There are two dedicated physical buttons – home and back – on the right side of the Gear S2, which combined with rotatory bezel ring and touchscreen, offer great user experience. Apple's WatchOS feels confusing when compared to Tizen, especially that 'crown'.

Battery life is on par with the LG Watch Urbane

Samsung Gear S2 Battery Charging Dock

When charged fully, the Gear S2 can easily last two days with the Always On display mode deactivated. If you want to activate the Always On mode, expect its battery life to be somewhere around 30-36 hours. I mostly keep it on charge while I get ready for work, and it gets charged around 40 percent by that time. If I want to charge it fully, I leave it on the dock before going to sleep, but that makes me lose sleep tracking. I'll reveal more about its software and user experience in the full review of the Samsung Gear S2.

Reported By

Computer science engineer turned technology blogger. Following consumer electronics industry closely from 2006, he can now predict pretty much where the market is heading. He has a dream to own Android, Windows Phone and iOS smartphones all at the same time.

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