The verdict is in.

Is the Samsung Gear S2 an Apple Watch killer?

Answer: probably not.

Reviews so far are mixed. Some love the rotating bezel, while others believe it’s just a different way of interacting with a smartwatch, but not necessarily a better way.

I spent a few days testing the Gear S2 and came away somewhat impressed with what Samsung has done with the Tizen operating system. The circular design will be a plus for some, but I found the display cramped, almost like peering through a tiny portal, especially when I went back to an Android Wear device like the LG G Watch, or gorgeous Moto 360 (gen 1).

That S2 bezel?

It’s a mixed blessing as I discovered. More on that in a second.

Samsung Gear S2: What the tech press are saying

Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch Review

First, here’s a roundup of what others around town are saying about the hotshot smartwatch known as the Samsung Gear S2:

Gizmag nails it with their headline, “awesome potential, incomplete experience” and cited (as many others have) Samsung S Voice as clunky, and (again, as others have) the absence of decent third party apps.

The Samsung Gear S2 is easily the company’s best-realized smartwatch to date.” That’s trusty source TechRadar in their hands-on review. They called the bezel innovative, and said they’d be surprised if rivals did not “respond in kind.”

Inquisitr calls the S2 a disappointment, and, even, a failure. “The failure of the Gear S2 is good news for the Apple Watch, since it shows how much better than the competition the Apple Watch really is.” Hmm, a bit harsh and early I’d say. Though, if you comb Reddit, you’ll find many complaining about S-Voice. It seems as though there’s no substitute for Google Search/Now, and that certainly gives the Android Wear platform a leg up.

“The smartwatch game has really heated up.” That’s Android Authority in their Gear S2 unboxing and first impressions video (these guys do a good job of covering the Android scene). Watch it here:

Digital Trends says the Gear S2 is Samsung’s “best product in years.” That’s really saying something given the plethora (never ending!) flow of innovative phones the company has produced (e.g. S6 Edge). For now, they say in the review, the S2 is the “best reason yet” to consider a smartwatch.

My Thoughts: Samsung Gear S2

Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch Review
Love the full month calendar view on the S2. Very nice!

First off, I had low expectations for the S2. Tizen? No way. Slow. Bloated. Non-intuitive. Based on Tizen’s shaky past those were just some of my initial reactions when Samsung announced the S2 — at a presentation that looked like a (campy) sci-fi pilot for a Netflix series.

Forget about what you know about Tizen, at least until you’ve tried the S2 watch. The user experience is fast, and fluid. Everything works.

But forget about what you know about Tizen, at least until you’ve tried the S2 watch. The user experience is fast, and fluid. Everything works. There’s no lag. And my fears of this watch not being built on Android Wear eased… at least temporarily… ahem… S-Voice.


Solid design. I have small wrists (6-inch) so I appreciate that Samsung includes a smaller set of straps. The S2 feels comfortable on the wrist. The two buttons on the right (back on top, home on bottom) don’t excessively protrude. There’s a sporty class to the overall look that I find appealing and understated.


Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch Review
AMOLED. Gorgeous. The display on the S2 pops. But at only 1.2-inches, I do find it cramped.

Spectacular. This is an amazing AMOLED screen (1.2-inch, 360 x 360). I don’t think I’ve seen any other smartwatch with as nice a display as the S2. Blacks are death black. Colors pop — and this is especially great because Tizen liberally uses color accents (fonts & icons) against dark backgrounds. I love that look. Hopefully Google will soon overhaul Wear and take a lesson here (and from the Apple Watch too).

With the S2 there is an option (not widely reported) for always-on. Just like most Wear watches, it will run in an energy efficient ambient mode, showing a simplified B/W watch face.


The S2 is not as easy to use as, say, a Pebble, or even a basic Wear watch. That’s because there’s several ways to achieve any task, and, also because there’s a lot of customization that can be done. Icons can be ordered. Shortcuts can be added. But, you quickly get used to the navigation. Overall, Samsung has done a nice job with the UI, and, as mentioned earlier, it’s blazingly fast, and is easy on the eyes. Very pretty in fact.


Okay, this is the marquee feature. That spaceship set that Samsung built — at what cost?! — to hype the S2 at the zany press conference punctuated the fact that the rotating bezel would be a key differentiator. That’s a smart move. After all, many smartwatches are beginning to look alike, and manufacturers need to stand out some how, some way in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

The bezel rotates with ease, and, as others have mentioned, has nice, subtle demarcation points that give you a satisfying reference point when being used. With that, you can almost develop a sort of muscle memory to hit certain screens.

The thing I don’t like about the rotating bezel is that it feels very plasticky.

I found that the bezel does work better when used with two fingers. I could use one, but often it would slip, and nothing would happen. Regardless, the bezel is clever because with that small 1.2-inch screen, swipe across and your finger will cover most of it. Browsing watch faces using the bezel, for example, is particularly handy. As is flipping across the various widgets (calendar, step counter, music player, etc.).


The thing I don’t like about the rotating bezel is that it feels very plasticky, at least on the non-classic model. Tap it from above and there’s some clicket-y, wobbly stuff going on. Also, swipe the screen left or right and your finger will invariably strike the bezel resulting in a decidely cheap feeling plastic vibration. Ugh. Minor to be sure, but I don’t like it. If you like your watches robust — think Huawei — you’re probably not going to like that either. For others, it may not be a big deal at all. It did bother me.


LG G Watch, Samsung Gear S2, Pebble Time.
LG G Watch, Samsung Gear S2, Pebble Time.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Pebble fan. The original convinced me (Review: Life with Pebble – There’s no going back), with its long battery life, awesome e-paper display and fun, creative faces, that smartwatches were the real deal. Then I backed Pebble Time, and have been wearing that, alternatively with a Moto 360 and LG G Watch (yeah, I’m a smartwatch freak), ever since.

Indoors, there’s no comparison, the S2 screen is a brilliant, vibrant monster. Pebble? A little washed out, but generally OK. Outdoors, of course, the Pebble wins all comers.

Also, there’s a screen philosophy to consider when it comes to smartwatches…

… Pebble says I’m here 7/24 with an always on screen that doesn’t distract. If you need to see me in the dark, shake you wrist, or push a button for some backlight.

… Tizen on S2, and Google Wear says that I’m also here 7/24 (for most watches), but I glow, so that in dark rooms I could be annoying. Your option is to deactivate always-on mode, and then rely on arm movement to light me up… hmmm… not so great.

There’s something about having old school buttons too that I appreciate. When controlling music, I know on Pebble (using the awesome Music Boss app) that volume is mapped to up and down keys. And long presses go back/forward a track. I don’t need to look at my watch, I can reach for it while on an eliptical and not give it a second thought. Not so with the S2. For some odd reason, when I select the music player — which is decent enough, with background art and the controls needed — the watch defaults to the time screen after a short while. So, then, I need to use the bezel to select it again. BTW- this is an issue with Wear too. We need persistent apps!

The S2 does a whole lot more. Or it promises too. Yes, it’s cool to have CNN, Bloomberg, ESPN (needs 3 separate apps to run on the S2!), and others, but, truth be told, I’ll never use them.

As sexy as the S2 appears at first blush, push come to shove, I’d take my $199 Pebble Time with me 7 days a week.


I did have trouble getting priority Gmails to vibrate on the S2. In fact I could NEVER get the S2 to vibrate for those. Strange that. I noticed others have reported similar issues. For me, that’s a deal breaker — I use priority inbox to respond to important stuff for Stark Insider.

Battery life seems OK. Maybe not the 3 days Samsung promises. But easily a full, active day.

In the charging cradle, the S2 did not switch to a nightstand mode.

Text gets cut off on the sides in some situations because of the circular design. Again, I found the screen on the S2 too small.


SOS is a potentially live saving feature that all smartwatches should have.

You choose up to three contacts to notify in an emergency situation. Then, when something bad happens, triple-press the bottom (home) button. That will trigger a text alert to all your emergency contacts, including a maps link with your exact location.

Smart stuff.



Ah, price. Is the Gear S2 worth $299? Well it’s partly a matter of perspective. For those who have watch collections and spend hundreds, and thousands on amassing premium timepieces, well, $299 is a drop in the bucket. So too for those cross-shopping the Apple Watch, which starts at $50 more for the Sport Edition.

[Amazon now has stock of the Samsung Gear S2]

If you, like me, consider a smartwatch first and foremost as a basic smartphone accessory then you might feel, again like me, that the entire smartwatch market is out of whack when it comes to price. I really believe these things should be selling for about $99, maybe $199 for premium models. Apple, however, has other ideas, and has successfully pushed the entire segment up-market. Huawei is one of the first Wear makers to follow. I can’t see this lasting.

Apple be damned. I really believe these things should be selling for about $99, maybe $199 for premium models.

Consider this.

Instead of an S2 ($299 USD) you could buy a beautiful firstgen Moto 360 (now massively discounted at $149) and an original Pebble (just $86!).

Or you could buy the brand-spanking new, nextgen Asus Zenwatch 2 (wow, only $149 at Best Buy) which, to my eyes at least, looks pretty darn sweet, what with that gunmetal on brown color combo.


Samsung Gear S2
Like the Apple Watch, the S2 will remind you to stay active.

I’d score the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch 6 out of 10.

It’s well made, Tizen runs smoothly, and the screen is stunning.

But the bezel feels cheep, there’s not many apps, and the watch faces are, for the most part, dreadful (Samsung should get some better designers on board). Wear and Pebble watchface geeks will miss their amazing face selections.

I enjoyed my time with the S2, but it didn’t blow me away.

Then there’s the price. $299. That’s hefty for a commodity accessory. I understand it’s less than an Apple Watch — but that smartwatch is better made and does a whole lot more, and the UI feels far more refined and functional. Meanwhile Wear watches — and all that Google Now goodness missing in the S2 — can be had for dirt cheap.

If you love the bezel, and the small circular design you’ll probably like the S2. But, for me, it’s still my faithful daily companions: Moto 360 (office) and Pebble Time (on the road).

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  • tiger

    I also read in another article that the heart rate sensor is useless…inaccurate and unreliable. S-Voice is junk. No audible alarm in non-3G models because no speaker.
    This is yet another rush job by Samsung.

    • Yep, forgot to mention. In my tests, as pretty as the heart rate interface looks on the S2, the results seemed way off. Disappointing for sure.

      • tiger

        I also read that the animations do show some lag…did you see that?

        I understand that round looks like a watch…but…

        Round face + data/information = no good.

        Has anyone ever seen a round TV? A round smartphone? A round computer display?

        Here’s the thing…Apple is NOT making Apple Watch so that it can look like any other watch. THAT is a mistake by LG, Moto, Hauwei, and now Samsung. Apple set out to make a watch that looks ORIGINAL and pure Apple. One look and you know what it is. Apple has NO dream of copying a regular Timex or a Rolex. It wants a distinctive look…a look that sets it apart.

        If people wanted a regular looking watch, then they would get a regular watch!

        From afar, can you tell a difference b/w Hauwei and Sony smartwatch or a Timex?

        In contrast, can you tell a difference b/w Apple watch and Samsung watch? Apple Watch and Timex?

        This whole thing about making a smartwatch indistinguishable from a regular analog watch will equal one thing: FAILURE. And unlike Apple Watch, every other smartwatch has been a sales disaster, bar none.

        Android Wear is going on year two and is still being molested 24/7 by Garmin, Pebble, etc.. Tizen has even been worst! And now, all these smartwatches all trying to be a Rolex…when will these folks get it?!

        • David Allen

          Apple watch customers are complaining about the Galaxy Gear s2 and they know its better than apple anyday price and skills so stop bullshitting and tell the truth.

          • tiger

            How so? How is it better? Because it is round?!

            Why don’t you show something other than pure ignorance in your next response to me?

          • David Allen

            You are the ignorant one jack ass apple ain’t shit with the phone or watch you need to talk to real people instead you give false information you need to be fired clown.

          • tiger

            What was false about what I wrote?

            You want to talk phone tech?

            Wanna play and see who is ignorant?

          • David Allen

            I know all about you everything so you do not want to go there your best bet is to tell the truth for now on and i want say another word.

          • tiger

            David the Coward…i thought so. And yeah, dude you writing sucks too.

          • Chukwu77

            I own both, and to be honest with myself, the Gear S2 is far better than my apple watch. I dont really get the complaints by the author because as i can tell between both watches, Samsungs watch has exceptional design. Apple watch is fine, but i have a problem with the square face. the UI is really confusing. it almost seems as though Samsung and Apple have switched roles somewhat. Samsung has innovated on a level not seen really since the iphone. 2015 has really been their year. I am in love with the Gear S2. feels premium, is actually so sleak and compact that u sometimes almost dont feel it on your wrist. That to me is engineering excellence. kudos to them.

          • tiger

            So, you have an iPhone AND a Samsung/Android phone?

            So, 2015 is Samsung year? 2015 is where Samsung got trashed by Android community for abandoning them? Where profits hit all time low…except last quarter only because their chip manufacturing did good (thanks to iPhone 6s)? Oh yeah, 2015 is the year for Samsung alright! LOL

            Tell me what is so “innovative” about S2?

            These are the facts:

            1. S-Voice sucks…so, respond to messages or emails is useless.

            2. Heart rate sensor is useless…so, there goes fitness. But, good news is that this is consistent among Android crapware.

            3. You canNOT create reminders from watch.

            4. No speaker…so, no audible alarm.

            5. Cannot use Samsung Pay.

            6. Cannot even see total calories you have burned per day. So, you have to pull out your calculator and add the calories from various activities together!! LOL

            7. Band change mechanism is just asking to be broken after a few changes.

            9. Plastic back? Let’s see…plastic lens on heart rate sensor…good idea? (HINT: no)

            10. No 3rd party app support.

            Oh yeah, engineering excellence here!! LOL

            Wanna bet that this S2 will be a TOTAL FAILURE in sales?

          • David Allen

            Tiger is a fake ass clown he dont tell the truth i have both watches to Tiger can not afford them so why listen to the bull crap he be talking about the Galaxy Gear S2 is better then that sorry apple watch o wait a minute i see whats up he has a apple watch on.Apple pays his salary so he can tell lies for them he works for them fake as clown.

          • tiger

            Huh? Dude, learn how to write! WTF did you just write?!

          • David Allen

            Store crying trick and tell everybody the truth if you don’t i will chump.

          • tiger

            Huh? Dude, go to school first and learn how to write!
            Are you retarded? Yikes.

          • ConceptVBS

            No, its already a success.

        • neonix

          Considering that the Apple Watch is the only smartwatch that reaches the $10,000+ price range, it would appear that it is the one trying to be a Rolex.

          • tiger

            Yeah, I wish you can get a nice Rolex for $10k!!

            Does it look like a Rolex?

    • I’m eggsellent

      I placed a order but in my excitement I did not see the fine print that there was no speaker wth.?.turned around sent a mail back to Samsung cancel pleas. ..still waiting for refund

  • Philip Cordrey.

    The chaging system is the make or break for me. But no one mentioes it. My early two Sony watches both broke at the silly charger. My gear neo 2 failed with the gold contact wearing away. These are major fail matters. So I am surprised that chage methods are not mentioned.

    • tiger

      I believe that it is conductive like Moto 360 and Apple Watch.

    • ConceptVBS

      It is wirelessly charged magentically attached charger.

  • Edward

    What’s wrong with samsung anymore they have gotten lazy with there design first there new phone line up looks like the iPhone and now there gear s2 looks like a moto 360 come on guy’s pull your head out of your ass or your going to lose customers….

    • David Allen

      Tiger works for apple if you dont believe me research it.He is talking junk about Samsung because apple pays him to talk trash about anything Samsung comes out with.Tell the truth Tiger and stop lieing to the customers clown all of the these Tech guys are lieing to everyone just to get customers to buy apple products apple is a fraud and a rip off the charge to much and their product is crap its not worth your time and money.

  • byteseyes

    Funny. If you really browse through all the reviews so far, the majority are overwhelmingly stating the Gear S2 is the best smartwatch available. Not really mixed at all.

    It’s easier to use than android wear or apple watch. Tizen looks and functions better than either of them. It has great proportions and looks premium. The physical design definitely exhibits the most understated elegance out of any smartwatch at the moment.

    Except for the LG Urbane, most other android watches look grotesque because they’re like thick hockey pucks sitting on your wrist.

    And the bezel really is genius. There’s a hypnotically satisfying feeling whenever you use it. Makes you feel like a giddy kid again.

  • neonix

    Why does this article ask if the Gear S2 is an Apple Watch killer?

    I understand when people refer to phones as iPhone killers because iPhones are *arguably* the best phones available, but as far as I can tell, Apple has failed to replicate the experience in their smartwatch and so it should not be held up on a pedestal as if it is the smartwatch to beat.

    • hamandjeezsandwich

      I agree. The Apple Watch committed suicide and killed itself.

  • Napoleon Valerian

    I’d definitely go for the Gear S2 if I had to pick. I would’ve preferred Android Wear instead of Tizen, but I’ve tested the smartwatch and the interface seems pretty nice.

    As for the heart rate sensor, I must agree with you guys: it’s far from being the best out there, but that wouldn’t be an impediment for me.

    I’ve covered the topic more broader here, if you’re interested: