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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.

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At 46mm, the two Gear S3s might be too big for some wrists. Also note the always-on display, which makes the smartwatch look and act like an analog model.

At 46mm in diameter, the Gear S3s are some of the biggest Android-compatible smartwatches on the market. Shoot, the Gear S2 was “only” 42mm, and even that’s too big for many wrists.

Nonetheless, I was expecting to put on the Gear S3 and have it feel dense and heavy like the Polar M600, but it was surprisingly light. It was easy to swap out the watchbands, too, and that’s relevant because Samsung’s own bands are a bit too stiff for my liking. I imagine that they’d soften up over time, but at least you can use any 22mm third-party watch band you please.

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Samsung’s many watchband offerings.

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Now you can pay for things with Samsung Pay on your wrist.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of both the Gear S3 Classic and Gear S3 Frontier is wide-open support for wireless payments. Both watches are crammed with both NFC and MST chips, which means they’re compatible with both old school and new school payment terminals. The NFC support is ready when you walk into a big box store that supports wireless payments, while the MST comes in handy when you’re grabbing a bottle of water at the bodega down the street.

Buy Gear S3 Frontier for LTE

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The Gear S3 Frontier can make phone calls if you purchase the version with LTE built in.

The Gear S3 Frontier is meant for active lifestyles, so Samsung is offering an optional LTE-connected model that lets you make phone calls right from your wrist. To this end, the Frontier features a speaker on the side. Samsung hasn’t yet confirmed which of the US carriers will offer cellular service for the watch.

The Gear S3 Frontier’s phone-call functionality definitely has a futuristic appeal about it, but I’m not the kind of person who would ever use this in daily practice. Nonetheless, if you find yourself in some harsh environment and can access a cellular signal, the S3 Frontier could be useful for checking in with a loved one, or making an emergency call. In fact, the S3 Frontier includes an SOS function: Just triple-tap the screen to notify any of your preferred emergency contacts that you’re in danger.

The Gear S2 isn’t going anywhere

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