BERLIN—If there is one place where Samsung’s wearables take center stage, it’s IFA. At the Tempodrom here, Samsung unveiled its latest smartwatch, the Gear Sport, along with an updated Gear Fit2 Pro and Gear IconX 2018 earbuds.
Last week, everyone thought Samsung would be announcing the Gear S4. What we got instead was the Gear Sport. Available in black and blue, the Sport has a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED, always-on color display with a 360-by-60 screen resolution, or about 302 pixels per inch. Inside, it houses a 1GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of storage, and 768MB of RAM.
For sensors, it comes with your typical accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, gyroscope, and an improved heart rate monitor. Like the S3, it’ll run Samsung’s proprietary Tizen operating system.
With the Sport, Samsung seems to have slimmed down the Gear S3 and opted for minimalism. The case is quite slim, though like its predecessors, the gear motif around the bezel remains. (You still turn it to navigate between screens as well). The default straps are also narrower at 20mm, which gives it a sleeker profile than a good chunk of the competition. The watch itself has military-grade specs, and is water-resistant up to 5 ATM, or 164 feet. That means, like the Fitbit Ionic, you shouldn’t have any problems cannonballing into the pool with the Gear Sport. On the back, there are also two optical LED sensors.
As for smart features, the Gear Sport works with compatible Samsung IoT devices using Samsung Connect. It can also be used as a remote control with a Gear VR headset, and has an NFC chip for contactless payments. Samsung also noted that the watch can recognize different situations. For instance, if you’re on a plane, it’ll give you reminders to stretch or move around every so often. But if you’re driving, it’ll stay silent so you can remain distraction free.
Samsung Fit2 Pro
We’re fans of the Gear Fit 2, and at IFA it got some incremental, but significant updates. Samsung upgraded its durability so that, like the Sport, the Fit2 Pro has military-grade specs. But again, the big change here is that the Fit2 Pro is water-resistant up to 5 ATM, meaning it’s safe to swim with. It’s also got better heart rate monitoring, and though it runs Tizen, it’s now compatible with iOS.
Otherwise, it has the same crisp, 1.5-inch curved Super AMOLED screen as the Fit 2. Inside, there’s a 1GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of storage, and 512 of RAM. It’s also packing the same sensors as the Gear Sport, minus the ambient light sensor. Looks-wise, Samsung took the Fit2 Pro to a darker place; it’s available in black and red. The black version has some understated ridging, while the Red features some aggressive geometric faceting on the bands.
Gear IconX 2018
Samsung is also betting that hearables are here to stay with its IconX 2018 earbuds. They look identical to their predecessor and have much of the same standalone fitness tracking and music-streaming features.
You do, however, get more color options—black, gray, and pink to be specific. The main update here is that Samsung improved battery life up to five hours for streaming and six hours for standalone music playback.
I tried them on at the Tempodrom, and was pleasantly surprised by their fit. The sound quality was also decent, though it was slightly hard to get a good read thanks to the din of excited reporters and booming techno.
Focus on Fitness
As far as fitness goes, Samsung hasn’t really smashed any glass ceilings. (And it needs to stop trying to make Bixby happen.) In fact, the updates were similar to updates we saw earlier this week from Fitbit with its Ionic smartwatch and Flyer headphones.
Like the Ionic, the Gear Sport and Fit2 Pro are pool-safe. What might give Samsung the edge is its partnership with Speedo. Both trackers come with the Speedo On app, which helps track laps, splits, and stroke types. It’s Speedo’s first app on any device, but it’s hard to tell just yet whether this will actually appeal to swimmers. Auto activity detection tools have also been updated so you can track activities such as dancing and basketball.
Samsung also has some updated partnerships with third-party apps, including Under Armour and Spotify. Both wearables are also compatible with UA Record, MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, and Endomondo for overall wellness tracking.
Samsung has also glommed onto the trend of personalized goal setting. It’s a little nebulous so far as to how this feature will work; it wasn’t a huge focus of the presentation. But at the very least, Samsung says you’ll be able to create your own wellness goals, as well as receive nutrition alerts and activity reminders.
Still, this highlights that at the end of the day, there wasn’t anything terribly groundbreaking about any of Samsung’s new wearables. And as more trackers become pool-friendly, incremental updates won’t be enough. A good user experience will be key to standing out from the crowd, and only time will tell whether Samsung will sink or swim.