I did it — after telling myself that I wouldn’t get a Gear S3, I did. I’ve been using a smartwatch since last March. My daily driver was the Asus ZenWatch 2, which runs Android Wear. But over time, I realized I wasn’t happy with my wearable, so I began looking for something else. The reason for the change wasn’t because I was unhappy with Android Wear, I was unhappy with my watch. The ZW2 feels a square peg in a round hole: square hardware running an OS optimized for a round display.
I did get a Pebble 2 SE when they were available for under $70 on Black Friday last year. Yes, I realize the Pebble is a square watch, but there was just so much different about the Pebble versus Android Wear that I just couldn’t pass it up. But after the announcement of the death of Pebble, I returned it.
The Gear S3
Then I saw the Samsung Gear S3. Several of my friends (yes, I have real friends!) own the Gear S3. A few other writers here also have the Gear S3. The Gear S3 is exactly what I wanted in a smartwatch from the beginning. I’m not looking for a replacement for my phone. There’s no need for me to have an LTE capable device on my wrist. Maybe in a few years, the tech will be different, but not now. I just want to see the time and perform a few basic functions without pulling my phone out of my pocket.
The Samsung Gear S3 is round like a watch is supposed to be. Everything looks good on this watch — the UI, watch faces, and apps. When I receive a notification, then I just check the watch. My phone just stays in my pocket. But there’s more.
Speaking from a pre-Android Wear 2.0 point of view, the watch is so much easier to use. When I receive a notification, there are no cards to interfere with my use of the watch. The orange dot on the left on my watch is an indicator that I received a notification. To see my notifications, I just rotate the bezel (which in itself, is pretty cool) counter-clockwise to see them. Rotating the bezel clockwise pulls up my apps. Accessing apps and watch functionality is so much easier and enjoyable with Tizen, the operating system on this watch. There’s even a nice touch with the screenshot function: it’s built in to the OS. On Android Wear, it’s a time consuming and annoying process accomplished through your phone. This isn’t so with Tizen.
The S3 has Samsung Pay and an NFC chip. Many retailers are beginning to accept NFC contactless payments, but it’s still not in every store. But until that happens, there’s the MST technology used by Samsung Pay. It doesn’t work everywhere, but it’s pretty close to 100% acceptance. Now, Google dropped the ball with payment systems. As of this writing, there’s only one watch with a NFC chip, meaning that there are over eighteen Android Wear watches that don’t support contactless payments. Why is this important to me? It’s just another convenience I can handle with my watch. I already have an app to display my grocery bonus card on my watch — so why not have payments on the watch, too?
As I mentioned above, the Samsung Gear S3 has a rotating bezel. This makes it so much easier to interact with the watch, without touching the display — after all, your finger tends to get in the way. The new LG watches make use of a rotating crown (or as Google calls it, “Rotating Side Button“), but the new Huawei Watch 2 does not. All those older watches that will be upgraded to Android Wear 2.0 lack that functionality in the crown.
A major disadvantage to Android Wear powered watches is the watch band. The ASUS ZenWatch 3 and Huawei Watch 2 all use non-standard watch bands. Also look at the LG Watch Sport. Its bands are not replaceable — at all. However, the Gear S3 uses standard 22mm watch straps. You can buy any 22mm watch strap and change the look of your watch. I know Google is all about openness, but they need to come up with some sort of standardization if they want to save Android Wear.
Considering all this, it’s safe to say that the Gear S3 is the smartwatch we’ve all been looking for. I can’t recommend it enough. From the intuitive software to the easily swappable watch bands, there is so much to love about this watch. Even though the price might be steep for some, it’s well worth it. It will cost you $320 for the Classic, and $350 for the Frontier version — purchase link is below.Buy the Samsung Gear S3