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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.

Tizen is actually intuitive

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Yes, Tizen uses Samsung’s S Voice, which is a bummer, though it redeems itself in other ways. Credit: Florence Ion

I’m conflicted about Tizen OS. In the past I’ve been sort of reluctant about its existence alongside Android, as if Samsung was attempting to eclipse all the work Google had done and branch off on its own. That’s not the case here, however. Samsung actually made the Gear S2 compatible with any Android smartphone running KitKat and above. Not all of the notifications and Gear S2 features will work on every phone, but at the very least you have the choice to buy a Samsung smartwatch and keep your non-Samsung phone as your daily driver.

The Tizen watch interface is so much easier to get a hang of than Android Wear. Sure, Android Wear got easier to use after the update last April, but Tizen offers some fluidity that Google’s wearable interface doesn’t. The application launcher circles around the interface, so I can easily choose the app I want by rotating or tapping. When it launches, it’s live, and when I want to get out of it, I just hit the back button. I need this sort of tactile feedback in a wearable interface because that’s how I’m used to using my phone, and I like that Samsung translated it from its phones to its watch. Ease of use doesn’t necessarily mean minimalistic; it means it should be intuitive, which Tizen’s wearable OS is—surprisingly!

Tizen OS also offers some of the same goodies as Android Wear, including standalone Wi-Fi support, which doesn’t require a phone to configure, and widgets. By default, the Gear S2 displays six widgets on screen, though you can add up to 12. You can cycle through them on the Home screen of sorts with the scroll wheel or with your finger. Samsung also enabled standalone 3G support and NFC capabilities, so you can tell your mom you’re out on a run and then grab a Gatorade on your slow walk home.

I like it, but…

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I’m simply not feeling most of these watch band choices. Credit: Florence Ion

In a perfect world, I could have the functionality of the Gear S2 coupled with the style of Motorola or Asus’ new smartwatches. Samsung’s new smartwatches offer some nice-looking bands, but I’d probably pair them with my fiancé’s hipster-man wardrobe instead of my own. Not even a perfectly pressed women’s J.Crew shirt would go with the stainless steel style of the Gear S2. It just isn’t happening.

Regardless, there’s a lot to learn from Samsung here. The Tizen wearable interface is a breath of fresh air from all the other copycat Android Wear devices out there. Android Wear is boring to use, while Tizen is fun! I’m not worried about app availability, either, because Samsung is a big name in the industry and, frankly, Tizen had an Uber app before Android Wear.

 

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