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Samsung Gear S review: Bigger and badder, but not in a good way

Jared Newman | Nov. 27, 2014
As soon as I strapped the Samsung Gear S smartwatch to my wrist, I knew we had a problem.

For some reason, my voicemail notifications failed to disappear from the watch even after I'd checked the message, and they're strangely impervious to the "dismiss all" button that the Gear S provides in its notification menu. To dismiss a voicemail, you must swipe over to its individual notification and kill it there.

The whole point of a smartwatch is to enable quick interactions, but it seems like the Gear S tries to slow you down at every turn.

On a more philosophical level, I don't agree with Samsung's attempt to shrink a smartphone interface down to wrist size. The operating system is filled with tiny buttons that require fine motor skills, and apps that feel like they were primarily designed for phones. The Gear S even has a tiny keyboard you can fiddle with if you want to write a long email or text message, and it's as maddening as you might expect. The keyboard would be much more useful as a way to edit voice-dictated messages, but Samsung didn't think to offer that capability. On the whole, it just doesn't seem like Samsung really thought things through.

If there's one saving grace of the Gear S, it's the battery life, which is better than that of most full-color smartwatches, lasting an advertised two days on a single charge. But in real-world use, making it through those days is a struggle with anything but extra-light usage. In most cases, the Gear S will still need a nightly charge, and its snap-on cradle isn't as elegant as the wireless charging of some other smartwatches.

This is what's probably going to happen: The Gear S will flop, because no one will want to wear this hulking monstrosity. Nor will anyone want a smartwatch that costs hundreds of dollars with an additional monthly service charge, and still isn't as useful as the competition. Years later, other companies will figure out how to do the untethered smartwatch in a more stylish and seamless way, and Samsung's Gear S will be remembered as a quaint historical footnote.

No one will care, of course, because being the first to fail at a good idea isn't worth much. It certainly isn't worth another hit on your wireless bill.


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