At the IFA, last September, the headliner of the Samsung conference was the Gear S3, its new generation of smart watch. After a very convincing iteration last year, can this new version aimed at adventurers bring enough innovations to justify a purchase? This is what we are going to see here!
DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS
With the Gear S2, Samsung opted for a circular format with a rotating ring, creating a break with previous models (the Galaxy Gear and the Gear S ) that featured a square display. The Gear S3, for its part, is continuing this trend and takes over the foundations of its little sister by improving the concept.
Clearly, the Gear S3 is less cheap than the Gear S2, which looked very much like a toy because of its surfaces too smooth. Here the dial adopts a brushed stainless steel and the finishes are much more worked. Thus, the selector wheel is now notched to facilitate its use and its two buttons located on the right side now have a rough texture easily recognizable with the fingertip.
Even the bracelet is more textured and leaves the rubber smooth for a variant striated. There are also two variants of this one in the package, one of 110 mm and the other of 130 mm. A freedom that allows the smartwatch to adapt to all morphologies in seconds, the transition from one to the other being done very simply thanks to a system of clips. Its chassis remains however a little imposing to adapt to the smaller wrists.
Those who prefer to wear a more distinguished watch, the Classic version offers less raw curves, more discreet push buttons and a leather strap. However, we have not yet got our hands on this version incorporating the codes of watchmaking.
One thing is certain, we are approaching the design of a real watch and those who want as much a fashion accessory as an accessory for their phone will be delighted to discover that smartwatchs are no longer bricks reserved for geeks delighted with power imitating Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) in K2000 by talking to their wrist.
The whole is nice to wear and it just falls on the wrist, although it must admit that its template does not go completely unnoticed and that its weight of 63 grams is felt compared to the 42 grams of Gear S2. There are, however, much heavier tocantes in the jeweler, and we shall not dwell on this detail.
The Gear S3 Frontier’s screen is slightly larger than the Gear S2 (1.3 inches versus 1.2 inches) for the same definition. The difference is not marked enough to be visible to the naked eye. With its 360 x 360 pixels, the smartwatch does not have to blush and displays a fine fineness of details on images and text. It is also possible to zoom or enlarge the text on some screens by tapping twice on it.
The maximum brightness measured by our probe at 600 cd/m² is exceptional and allows you to enjoy the watch in any conditions, even in direct sunlight. On a daily basis, a brightness set between 5 and 7 (on a scale ranging from 1 to 10) is ample.
ROTATING RING AND NAVIGATION
The Gear S3, like the Gear S2 before it, stands out with its rotating crown to simplify navigation. This allows you to move from one widget to another at your fingertips, without even thinking about whether you are wearing gloves or not, navigating within installed applications or scrolling notifications and other notifications with extreme simplicity. The two buttons are used to go back, or on the display of the time.
And this is where the greatest weakness of the Gear S3 lies. By navigating so easily with this selection wheel, we are tempted to forget that the screen and its small icons are tactile, and we would like to be able to select them with a button. However, after selecting an application with the wheel, it is imperative to click on it to validate, what can be done from the beginning. It is then surprising to pester against this defect of design which pushes the instinct to use a wheel basically useless at this precise moment.
Only those who search the menus in depth will find the option to launch the application pointed by the cursor after 2 seconds of inactivity. Note that this only works at this location and not in other menus, as in the options of a notification for example.
This is a very unfortunate defect since the global navigation of the watch is rather appreciable, with a few details, such as moving widgets which sometimes requires to be repeated several times.
TIZEN OS AND ITS APPLICATIONS
The Gear S3 works with any device running Android 4.4 or higher and has a minimum of 1.5 GB of RAM. A list of compatible terminals is also available on the Samsung website. Having tested it with a Galaxy S6 edge, we were able to enjoy a perfect compatibility.
Tizen OS is both simpler and more complete than Android Wear, but also better organized. Notifications on one side, its widgets on the other, the quick parameters by sliding the finger from the top of the screen and the applications available by pressing the corresponding button.
Before switching to applications, it is possible to write text using a keyboard or by voice input and access to different information is more natural than on Android Wear. Some elements of ergonomics are however to be reviewed. For notifications, for example, when they appear on the screen at the reception, it is obligatory to go through the options in order to remove them, while during a second viewing, a swipe extended upwards, although more intuitive, is enough. Hopefully the upcoming updates will fix this problem.
Natively, the Gear S3 offers a number of basic interactions, such as a news feed, a calendar connection, the management of the music player (whether it’s Samsung or Google Play Music), reminders, mail client, but also S Health, the Korean giant’s fitness application, a GPS, a barometer and an altimeter (the reliability of which has yet to be proven since he told me that the second floor of my building was located at 113 meters BELOW the level of the sea … before posting 28 meters above sea level in a second measure much closer to reality).
S Health has many automatic tracking features, in terms of number of steps, number of stages mounted, heart rate – checked every hour – and so on. It is also possible to record training sessions, whether it is running, flexing, abdominal, cycling or other activities. Moreover, with its GPS, its internal memory capable of storing music and its direct connection to a WiFi network or to a Bluetooth headset, it is more autonomous than a large part of the other smartwatchs. It is also IP68 certified and should withstand an immersion of 30 minutes under 1 meter 50 of water. Samsung however does not recommend swimming with.
Finally, the Galaxy Apps offers many free or paying applications, such as Uber, Nest, Browser, GPS or camera trigger, to the most optional, as games – some of which are very addictive – pulling fully taken advantage of the rotating ring. With more than 10,000 apps, the awning is rather well supplied and offers a certain diversity.
Microphone and speaker
The Gear S3 is also equipped with a microphone and a loudspeaker. This not only allows you to use S Voice for basic commands (numbering, dictating an SMS …), but also make a call without having to take out your phone. Talking to his watch is still as bizarre, but this can help in some cases for quick communications if his phone is not at hand.
With its 380 mAh battery, the Gear S3 is supposed to hold 4 days according to Samsung between each recharge. And she does! Activated Thursday afternoon, the watch warned us that it had only 10% battery in the afternoon of Monday. Of all the watches connected having a real screen, it is certainly the one with the highest autonomy and we can only welcome the work of Samsung on this point.
Note however that this record autonomy is obtained only when the screen saver is totally black. If you want to keep your dial active at all times (slightly darker than when using it), count for two days of battery life, let alone if you have a really thorough use of the watch (games can REALLY become addictive …).
For those who need a longer battery life, a power-saving mode (grayscale greeting screen, limited functionality, Wi-Fi disabled and flanged performance) allows you to stay a little longer again.
The recharging is done by means of a dock on which it is enough to place the watch.