Good morning all! We hope you are loving the new look of our website as much as we are. I am excited to bring you a new product review with the recent launch of our new website and today we will be taking a in-depth look at the Samsung Gear S3. This product is not ‘new’ as it has been on the market since November 18, 2016. However, I do not receive products for free and as a result just got around to affording it late last month. The Gear S3 retails for $349.99 but I was able to find a sale and paid $299.99, plus a whole lot for a two year protection plan.
Unboxing & Setup:
Inside the package you will find the following – the Samsung Gear S3, the charging cable, a second smaller wrist strap, the quick start guide and Samsung Health & Safety and Warranty Guide.
The Gear S3 comes standard with fifteen watch faces, a quite impressive number. There are hundreds more available for download from the Galaxy App Store, many free but some do cost money.
The pre-loaded watch faces range in style from minimalist battery saving options to data heavy options showing steps, calories, workout minutes, floors climbed, world clocks, weather information, sunrise/sunset times, and even music controls with the most recent update.
Widgets & Screens:
The Samsung Gear S3 has many pre-loaded widgets that display on separate screens. On-device widgets/screens include: App shortcuts, Weather, Contacts, Exercise, S Health, Steps, Floors, Step Challenges, Leaderboard, Heart Rate, Monthly Calendar, Daily Calendar, World Clock, Alarm, Altimeter-Barometer, and Reminders. The device also comes loaded with Samsung Pay, S Voice, Phone, Messaging, Flip Board, Calculator, Timer, Find My Phone, and E-mail.
As you can see, it has a ton of standard features right out of the box.
Most of the widget screens have additional screens you can get to in order to see even more detailed information, such as detailed weather information, past workout, step or floor data, etc.
Steps / Activity Tracking:
The Samsung Gear S3 is not just a smartwatch it is also an activity/fitness tracker. It tracks your steps, distance, floors climbed as well as your calories burned throughout the day. It displays this information throughout multiple screens. Additionally, the Gear S3 has an inactivity feature that helps keep you active, moving and on track to met your daily step goal. When you receive a notification to get moving, a simple walk will reset the notification. The Gear S3 will also notify you to stretch and will even give you instructions on ‘Torso Twists’ to stretch out. Finally, the GearS3 also incorporates a Sleep Tracker that will monitor your total sleep and periods of movement during sleep and then calculates your ‘Sleep Efficiency’ the next morning. It takes all this information and sends you weekly reports as a notification on the watch that recaps your week and compares it to your previous week, letting you know if you did better or worse overall.
The step counter on the Gear S3 does a fine job of estimating the number of steps I take throughout the day. During a recent half-marathon (one day after purchase) I wore both the Gear S3 and Garmin Vivoactive HR to compare the two watches head-to-head. On a step count measurement, the Gear S3 had me taking a substantial more amount of steps throughout the day, but had the exact same cadence during the race at a 179 average. Overall, I feel it has the same issues as other watches and bands on the market in that doing daily tasks – driving, showering, brushing teeth, playing with your children, etc. can and do increase your step total. However, if you are aware that these are only meant to be a guide and not a “be-all, end-all” then you will appreciate the information you can garner from the step counter.
Additionally, while were discussing the tracking features of walking, I actually feel it does a much better job of calculating floors climbed compared to the Garmin Vivoactive HR. Often the Vivoactive HR would miss floors climbed, especially in houses, where the Gear S3 paints a much better picture of the floors I’ve climbed throughout the day.
The Samsung Gear S3 features 16 workouts to choose from. On-device workouts now include: Running, Walking, Cycling, Hiking, Elliptical Trainer, Exercise Bike, Step Machine, Treadmill, Lunges, Crunches, Squats, Jumping Jacks, Pilates, Yoga, Rowing Machine and finally, Other Workout.
Within each workout, you can choose a ‘Workout Target’ such as Pace-Setter, Duration, Distance, Calories Burned or Basic Workout. The Pace-Setter feature includes options for light walking, brisk walking, light jogging, light running, power walking, calorie burning, endurance jogging, endurance running, speed increasing, speed endurance, and a new custom pace-setter. These options provide audible coaching during your workout to help you achieve your target. At the conclusion of your workout, you can review and workout and see a plethora of information. Information available post-workout includes: start/stop time, duration, distance (if applicable), calories burned, graph with speed (if applicable) and heart rate, maximum heart rate, time in heart rate zones, average pace, average speed, average cadence, weather recap from AccuWeather and a map with your GPS information. This is an insane amount of information to be able to view right on your wrist and it is presented in a cool design that is appealing to the eye and is easy to understand.
I want to be clear that I did not purchase this watch as a replacement for my Garmin Vivoactive HR for my daily runs and training. With that said, it does have Samsung Health built-in featuring workouts, so I needed to test to see how well it did. In my opinion, the Gear S3 did moderately well – doing extremely well in some areas and struggling mightily in others.
The Gear S3 has a one screen interface that is split into two sections, 70% / 30%. The top section is your primary data field and gives you options of duration, distance, calories, pace, speed, cadence, and your heart rate by a simple turn of the watch bezel. The smaller bottom field displays the same data regardless of turning the watch bezel. So as you scroll through to view your distance, calories or speed, you can keep an eye on your current pace all the while. To adjust the bottom data field, a simple tap of the finger will switch to a new data field. One final option is the ability to control your music stored in the watches memory, without leaving the workout.
After your run you simply hit the stop button (back button, top right). The watch will ask you if you are finished with your workout. If you select yes, the activity will save. The problem I see with the current interface is that that save screen does not incorporate “Save” and “Discard” buttons. The only way to delete a workout currently is through the Samsung Health app on your phone. I would be nice if they asked you to “Save” and “Discard” immediately after the workout concluded. This gives you the option to manage what is saved to your account, or if your like me and testing the watch numerous times, delete ‘workouts’ that never were really workouts to begin with.
Reviewing a run on your watch is very easy inside the Samsung Health app. Simply scroll to your workout screen using the watch bexel, tap the screen and then scroll to ‘View Log’. This contains all the same information listed above.
I started my last watch review by saying “So Garmin is known for GPS – it’s what they built their company on.” Samsung on the other hand is not a GPS company, but is a great electronics company. Sadly, I am not having as good of accuracy with their GPS as I would have liked. Now I admit, I need to do more testing. Unfortunately, I recently had surgery and have been sidelined from running, so I do not have as much data as I would like, but rather than delay my review until I’m recovered, I can just update this section at a later date if I find the facts change.
When compared to the Garmin Vivoactive HR during the recent half marathon I mentioned, the overall distance was actually rather close coming in at 13.00 miles for the Gear S3 and 13.19 miles for the Garmin Vivoactive HR. One watch was .1 mile under and the other was .1 mile over. I don’t want to say that this is within any margin of error because I have had times where watches show a perfect distance over a measured course, however, it is common to be slightly over distance or even under distance on certified road courses due to how you run the tangents, the size of the field and whether you have a lot of bobbing and weaving, and buildings interfering with GPS signals.
You can often see this difference highlighted on your route maps, like this one below. This image is from a run in Orlando using two separate Garmin watches, at the exact same time. One watch had a good GPS connection, the other connection was slightly off.
However the map for my half-marathon on the Gear S3 was depressing and I even wondered how in the world it added up to 13 miles. It pales in comparison to the Garmin Vivoactive HR in this sense.
The Gear S3 pairs with your smartphone to gently vibrate, ring and display notifications for incoming calls, texts, emails and calendar items plus notifications from social media – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and other mobile apps you allow like CNN or Yahoo! News. However, the Frontier edition of the watch is available in LTE through AT&T and Verizon. With a small fee, you can use your existing cellphone plan through your watch, allowing you to leave your phone at home.
This is possible because the Gear S3 has a built in microphone and speaker, allowing you to talk on the phone, talk-to-text messaging, listen to music or use S Voice to set reminders. I do not have the LTE version, so I can not report on the quality of service with that model. The standard edition pairs with my phone and when my phone rings, I can accept or deny the call right on the watch face. Once accepted, I can control the volume of the speaker during the call and of course can end the call. I use this feature often and I love that I don’t have to pick up my phone and I can continue using my hands, especially when I get called while driving or playing video games! From those that I spoke to while using this feature have relayed back that my voice is clear on their end with almost no loss in quality. The speaker could be slightly louder on the watch, especially in noisy environments, but for most settings it is plenty loud. For example, while working in my office, I often have the speaker volume up halfway while listening to music as this is plenty loud to hear.
The Gear S3 comes advertised with 4GB of space to store apps, images, video, and music; but that is quite deceitful because over 1GB is already being used. Shame on you Samsung! Transferring music, video and images is a breeze using the Samsung Gear app on your phone, and there is even an option to allow auto transfers of new music, images, etc when your watch is charging. I have this setting turned off because I don’t need 1,000 photos on my watch – who would? You can even take a screenshot of your watch face to review later and, send that image back to your smartphone. The best feature in my opinion and almost worth the price alone is the ability to use my watch to pay at businesses through the Samsung Pay app. I initially had a difficult time setting up Samsung Pay, but then I learned you need to be on a LTE connection and not over WiFi. My bad! Once I learned this tidbit, I was set up in no time. Using the watch to pay is easy and even much quicker than using Samsung Pay on my phone. Plus I love the look the cashiers faces when I hold my watch next to the credit card reader – priceless! Once a purchase is complete, I receive a receipt of the transaction right on the watch.
The Gear S3 uses the Galaxy Apps program on your phone to download new items to your watch, the same way the App Store on Apple and Google Play on Android function. The vast majority of the apps available are watch faces, and it is true that there is a shortage of developers lining up to create new apps. But there are some diamonds in the rough such as Spotify, Uber, UA Record, and Hextris. I’m not going to go into much detail because we all should know how to use an app store – I think.
The Samsung Gear S3 is a power hungry smart watch that will drain your battery, but it will last substantially longer than the Apple Watch. I am currently getting about three days on a charge with Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC all enabled. The device does have a power saving mode but you do lose some functionality. It saves battery by: using a grayscale home screen, turning off all functions except calls/messages/notifications, turns WiFi off, and limits maximum performance. .
By ensuring that you regularly close open apps and by not using the ‘Always On’ watch face setting you can increase your battery life some. Of course, you can increase your battery life by limiting how much you use it for calls, texts, notifications, Samsung Pay, etc. but then I’d have to ask, “why did you even buy it?”
Charging is simple with a quick wireless charging dock and, fun tip, your original packaging is actually designed to be a stand for the wireless charger so do not throw it away! A full charge can take up to 2 hours to complete, although if my watch is that close to dying, I typically just throw it on the charger at night and put it back on my wrist in the morning.
The Gear S3 includes a built-in heart rate monitor like the majority of smart watches in the upper price range. In my experience, I view the heart rate data as an informational tool and not a diagnostic piece of information. Although the technology continues to advance, there are still issues with optical heart rate sensors being able to detect with precision. This can be improved by wearing the watch as tightly as comfortable creating better contact with your skin.
With that being said, I do feel the data collected is very close to accurate, although not perfect. It does give a great idea on heart rate zones while training and having the information available to view after the fact is also great. It does not measure your heart rate consistently unless you’re in a workout, but rather samples your heart rate at times throughout the day. You can also sample your heart rate manually with a few taps of your finger.
Bugs & Early Issues:
Since the watch was released in November 2016 and it is now mid-April 2017, there are not too many bugs to speak of. However, there are some issues to talk about. First, the S Voice app in general and it’s functionality are quite disappointing. You cannot add a calendar event with voice, only reminders. When you set a reminder with your voice, it will let you set the time with your voice but the only day option for the reminder is tomorrow.
Other issues revolve around specific apps, and rather than discussing each one individually, the major issue is lack of complete autonomy from having to still pull out your phone. Why have a news app and a beautiful 1.3” screen but only allow me to read the first few sentences or words and then direct me to my phone – that’s stupid! Allow me to read the whole article, even if I’m scrolling for eternity. Give us the option to delete a workout before it is saved, preventing us from having to use our phone and jump through hoops to erase data we didn’t want saved. Allow us the opportunity to erase all notifications at once, rather than one at a time.
These are just some of the issues that bug me.
If you would like more information regarding the Samsung Gear S3, please visit Samsung’s site.
Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. The features I use the most are definitely making phone calls, texting, Samsung Pay, setting reminders, catching notifications, listening to music, using the alarm clock, and playing an occasional game. The watch is aesthetically pleasing, comfortable to wear, sufficiently durable (although I do have a scratch on the bezel), and very easy to use. Although it will not replace my Garmin for exercise, it has replaced it as my everyday watch.
I hope you found this review helpful and if you have any questions or comments, drop me line below.