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Hands-on: Samsung's Gear S3 smartwatch is big, bold, and ready to phone home

Florence Ion | Sept. 1, 2016
The Gear S3 Classic goes for posh aesthetics, while the Gear S3 Frontier looks more rugged and comes with LTE support.

Remember when Samsung released no fewer than seven wrist-worn wearables during the course of a year? It’s been two years since that smartwatch binge, and we thought that the mobile powerhouse had gotten its smartwatch ambitions under control. Well, apparently not. On Wednesday, Samsung revealed not one, but two versions of the Gear S3 smartwatch—and just like that, the wearables arms race is back.

The two new Tizen OS-based watches will compete for elbow room with the Gear S2 smartwatch and Gear Fit2 activity tracker in Samsung’s line-up. I had a chance to go hands-on with the new Gear S3 models last week, so let’s take a look at exactly what they offer would-be smartwatch buyers.

Hope you like big watches

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The Gear S3 Frontier (Left) and the Gear S3 Classic (right) are intended for two different types of users. 

The Gear S3 comes in two flavors: the silver-bezeled Gear S3 Classic, and the black-bezeled Gear S3 Frontier, which looks a bit sportier, and supports phone calls right from your wrist. Both smartwatches feature a 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display, a 1GHz Exynos 7270 processor, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of onboard storage, and a 380 mAh battery (Samsung doesn’t yet have battery life estimates).

Both Gear S3 models are compatible with standard 22mm watch straps, and are IP68-certified, so you can take the watches for a swim with nary a worry. Samsung also said the Gear S3s are durable enough to withstand quick changes in pressure and temperature, so you could probably take them sky diving, if that’s your thing.

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A closer look at the Gear S3 Frontier. That black case definitely looks more rugged than its silver counterpart.

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The Gear S3 runs on Samsung’s own Tizen OS, though it offers quite a few apps that you can also get on Android Wear.

Samsung’s Tizen OS 2.3.1 has been slightly updated. Like its predecessor, it features widgets and a rotating dock, as well as apps you won’t find on Android Wear, like Uber, which lets you hail a car right from your wrist.

 Florence Ion

The Gear S3 employs a circular dock for organizing your apps.

Like the Gear S2, you navigate the Gear S3 interface using a physical dial that’s built right into the bezel, and spins 360 degrees. You can also tap around the screen to navigate the watch interface if you prefer.

On the side of the watch, you’ll find Back and Home buttons—just like what you’d find on a Samsung smartphone. It’s nice to have those buttons available, but they do make the physical design a bit more busy. On the Gear S3 Classic, the buttons are traditional circles, whereas the buttons on the Frontier model are oblong, and look a bit more “tactical.”

 

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