The Gear S3 is the latest Smartwatch from Samsung that’s got me wearing a smartwatch again in a while. It looks like a watch, feels like a watch, and does a lot more than just telling time.
If you’ve ever spoken to me before about smartwatches or fitness watches, you’ll know how picky I am. I don’t just want a notification centre on my wrist or just an extension of what I can already do, I need something more functional.
The Gear S3 is that smartwatch that looks and feels premium; the build quality has improved from its predecessor. The Gear S3 Classic for instance is thicker, heavier, has a larger screen and a bigger battery than its predecessor, however, we’ll be using the Frontier in this review.
The Gear S3 Frontier is rugged, yet classy to wear to a fancy dinner party
The design of the Gear S3 classic is aimed at those who wants something dressy, however, the Frontier is not lacking either. The black version that I have looks like something Hublot or AP would have designed.
In fact, the man behind the S3 design is a well known Swiss watchmaker who’s been in the business for many years. The Gear S3 is the first smartwatch using high-end watchmaking codes.
Yvan Arpa, the watch designer has worked for the likes of Hublot and Jacob&Co, so it’s no surprise to see some design language seen in high-end timepieces here.
Let’s get the boring specs and techy bits out of the way first
Both the classic and the frontier measures 49 x 46 x 12.9 mm (1.93 x 1.81 x 0.51 inches); it’s bigger than its predecessor, but it’s something you’d like if you’re into big watch faces.
The Gear S3 Classic weighs 57 g (2.01 ounces) while the Gear S3 Frontier weighs 62 g (2.19 ounces). You get a bigger 1.3-inch AMOLED screen with 360 x 360-pixel resolution and 278 ppi. It’s bright, contrast is deep and you can read text on it with no problem.
Out of the box, the screen will timeout depending on how long you have set, but with always-on-display (AOD), you can change that. Unlike the Gear S2’s AOD which removes colour and creates a dimmed version of the display, the S3 reduces the brightness, without losing colour quality.
Just like the Gear S2, the S3 comes with a rotating bezel. You can use it to navigate the watch menus and notifications; it feels nice to rotate with a clicky feedback as you go round.
To the right, you have two buttons; one for going back from any app or menu, and a home button and under the Gear S3’s big face is a 380 mAh battery which Samsung claims will power your Gear S3 for up to four days. Flip it over and you’ll see the discrete HR monitor which won’t flash in your eyes if worn to bed.
The Gear S3 uses Samsung’s Tizen operating system which for some would be a compatibility issue (you know who you are), but Samsung said they will make it accessible to those users very soon.
The Gear S3 frontier we have here is the WiFi only version, but there’s also the 3G/LTE version, which will allow you to make and receive phone calls – the LTE version means you can leave your phone at home and not miss calls. In the UK, nothing has been mentioned about its availability yet.
What it’s like using it daily for everything it’s capable of doing
When I say this is the smartwatch that keeps giving, I mean the Gear S3 offers so much from making/receiving calls, sending/receiving messages (with on-screen keyboard), Fitness (sleep cycle, running, steps, S Health integration), Apps (remote shutter, UBER and Spotify coming soon), keeping track of your schedule and more.
With a 22mm detachable rubber watch strap, iP68 water and dust resistant rating, and a corning gorilla glass SR+ screen, the Gear S3 frontier is rugged and robust for the active lifestyle. When you’re not doing something active, it still looks nice on the wrist.
Software performance is good and can’t really fault it. The screen is very responsive and you can even change how sensitive it is. Interacting with the Gear S3 is well catered to; you can use the touch screen, rotating bezel and you have two buttons to help too.
On the fitness side of things, the data is accurate most times with some discrepancies when measuring HR when compared to Fitbit Charge 2. Sleep monitoring doesn’t always pick up when you sleep too, but when it does it’s pretty much as accurate as they come.
When you get a lot of notifications, you can’t clean all at once, but for some, it may not be much of an issue. Compatibility is also another thing because Samsung used their own OS, you won’t be able to connect it to your iPhone just yet.
Altitude and Barometer data is surprisingly accurate too and noticed it functioning well on my flight, although GPS soon cut out and when I was in Lapland, far north, I noticed it doing its magic too.
Finally, as it’s also on Tizen, it means you won’t have access to some of the apps available with Android Wear OS and although Samsung claims that battery should last four days, I struggled to get it past two days using it for all it can do.
So is it worth the £339.99 price tag?
Absolutely, and the reason is that it’s more than a smartwatch, it’s more than a fitness tracker and works well as a timepiece for all occasion.
The Gear S3 classic is also available for the less adventurous out there, but if you want the best of both worlds, I’d go Frontier. It’s premium and should last a while before the need to upgrade to something else.
Battery life could be better and Samsung should introduce Apple iOS compatibility and open up their APIs to more developers so users can have access to more apps, but besides that, it’s an excellent piece of gadget to have.
I write about all things tech!