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Hands-on: Samsung's Gear S2 throws a wrench into the wearables scene

Florence Ion | Sept. 4, 2015
It's not the prettiest watch out there, but Tizen OS offers some neat tricks that Android Wear currently doesn't.

Samsung’s been pretty quiet on the wearables front, but for good reason. It was hunkered away in a South Korean bunker somewhere reimagining what its smartwatch should look like. The result is the Gear S2. It’s round, it rotates, and most importantly, it does not run Android Wear.

So, what’s the point? Should you even consider a smartwatch if it doesn’t run Google’s version of its wearable software? Yes, you should. Because although the current crop of smartwatches are much more stylish to wear, the Gear S2 at least offers a different watch experience. Google could actually learn a thing or two from Samsung here, though I never thought I’d ever be typing that sentence.

It’s round and manly

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The Gear S2 classic is the style I gravitated towards the most. Credit: Florence Ion

Samsung heard how you all cooed over the round Moto 360 at last year’s Google I/O keynote, so it rounded its own. The Gear S2 comes in two styles: a regular version with a sporty, integrated plastic band, and a classic version with a removable leather band. Unlike the other smartwatches I’ve seen in Berlin, these weren’t bands I’d consider wearing myself. Samsung made sure to mention how many band sizes are offered, but this is one time I was actually hoping to be pandered to. I am a woman, and I like when companies remember I exist. The Gear S2 is still too masculine for me, though at least it isn’t as huge as Samsung’s first-generation wearables.

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The Gear S2 employs two navigation buttons: a back button and a home button. Credit: Florence Ion

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I wasn’t as keen on the regular, slightly larger Gear S2. It looked too masculine. Credit: Florence Ion

Looks aside, the actual execution of the Gear S2 is impressive. It has a back and home button on the right side, which I’m okay with because Android Wear’s gestures are sometimes confusing to use. Second, the bezel around the Gear S2 actually rotates, so you can use that to scroll through the interface. It can seem a bit gimmicky at first, but I commend Samsung’s attempt to try something new here. Touching a screen is nice and easy, but it’s fun to have that physical feedback, too.

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You can scroll through the Gear S2’s Tizen interface.  Credit: Florence Ion

I found the classic variant of the Gear S2 to be the most comfortable of the two Samsung smartwatches. The leather band is flexible and feels like I would break it in over time. The regular plastic Gear S2 is too rigid and you can only buy proprietary watchbands to fit it.

 

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