Hands-on review: Samsung Gear Fit 2

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Right off the bat, Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 sews up the shortcomings of the original Gear Fit. How? To rattle off a few examples, it works on any Android phone, so long as you have KitKat (4.4) or above. The previous version only tethered to Samsung-branded phones.

Next, it includes built-in GPS–a must for folks who want to leave their phones at home from time to time for a jog. Samsung’s previous effort offered little to no functionality when your phone wasn’t nearby.

The latest fitness tracker from Samsung is a positive step above the Gear Fit, packed with features and a focus on usability that was missing before.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

And at $179 (global pricing yet to be announced), it sits comfortably at the price point that many of its competitors are also offered for. We’re reserving judgment until we get our hands on the final retail unit, which is set to release on June 10. But the early signs are promising for Samsung’s Gear Fit 2.

Design

The Gear Fit 2 keeps the general aesthetic of the original, but reworks some of the finer details to make it easier to use and more capable, to boot.

Paramount to the Fit’s design ID is the curved screen. It’s back and vibrant as ever, although slightly reshaped. The rectangular display is now thicker, offering more screen real estate for fitting in additional information. That means extra words in a notification, a more robust media player, and a full map of your run provided by the built-in GPS function.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

The Super AMOLED display found here is a bit smaller than before (1.5-inches down from 1.84-inches), but it boosts the pixel density up to 322ppi, which trounces the original’s 245ppi display.

Additionally, the bezel surrounding the display has been reduced, as has the shiny, slightly jagged visual elements of the Gear Fit. These subtle refinements may result in the Gear Fit 2 looking a bit less unique when stacked against its competitors, but I can’t discount how much easier it slides into a sleeve or pocket because of them.

Whereas the original Gear secured to your wrist by poking through the slot that fit you best, the Gear Fit 2 tacks on additional measures to make sure things stay put during exercise. The same mechanism exists here, but it’s a little more snug this time around thanks to the added loop built into the band.

Flipped over, the heart rate monitor comes into view. If you’re into the nitty gritty of how this particular wrist-based heart rate tracking works, the method is a two-dollar word called photoplethysmography. Just like many other wearables, including the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band 2, the Gear Fit 2 uses infrared light blasters and green LEDs to track the rate of blood flow. It’s pretty cool, but never as accurate as wearing a Bluetooth-connected chest strap.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

Looking at the back, we can also see the two clips that, when pressed, set the Gear Fit 2 free to be popped into a different strap. It’s important to note that the module doesn’t pop out of its shell, so you’ll be stuck with the chassis color you opt for at the store. So, choose wisely among the black, blue, and pink options.

One of the biggest design improvements over the original Gear Fit is the wireless charging. We hate carrying more cables around than is absolutely necessary, so the fact that Samsung’s 2014 wearable needed a proprietary connector was a bummer. Now, the Gear Fit 2 can gulp down electricity through inductive charging.

Performance

Compared to the Gear Fit, Samsung made a lot of improvements to the outside of the Gear Fit 2. So, it’s little surprise that its innards have received some love, too.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

On the hardware side of things, the Gear Fit 2 is a step up in nearly way. It features the same dual-core Exynos 3250 clocked at 1.6GHz found in the Samsung Gear S2, way up from the custom M4 processor that ran at 160MHz.

In another slightly embarrassing comparison, the Gear Fit 2 spanks its predecessor with 512MB RAM and 4GB of onboard storage for music and Samsung-made apps. The previous Fit came with 8MB RAM and 16MB of ROM storage.

Samsung Gear Fit 2
The Gear Fit 2 is water resistant, just like the Galaxy S7

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 runs on Tizen, the company’s own pride and joy of an operating system. Again, like the Gear S2, opting for its own OS doesn’t lead to more exclusivity in regards to the phones it can operate with, but less. It works with any Android phone running KitKat or above. Sorry, iPhone users. You’re still off the list.

While Samsung has opened the party to a greater audience, you’ll need the S Health app to setup the Gear Fit 2 and to log the fitness details. Not a big deal, even if it isn’t your preferred health-tracking app, as it is said to offer a bit of third-party support.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

We still need more time to test out the long-term performance, but the boosted specs point toward an improved user experience across the board. Even for those who missed out on the Gear Fit and are coming in hot, Samsung’s latest appears to offer a well-rounded experience.

Much like the first Gear Fit, the Gear Fit 2 funnels notifications in from your smartphone. But this one lets you use your voice to respond to text messages and calls. We’ll have to wait for a review unit to see just how deep the voice functionality is entwined within the wrist-based version of Tizen.

Fitness

When you put “Fit” in the name of your product, people expect a certain pedigree of chops in fitness. The Gear Fit might have been competent for its time in 2014, but the fact that you couldn’t pause a workout and that accuracy was questionable are puzzling issues in hindsight.

Thankfully, Samsung has addressed both of those issues in the latest Gear Fit. The Tizen OS offers a bunch of thoughtful adjustments to how workouts are tracked, including an auto-tracking function that we’re excited to spend more time with. Additionally, the added GPS functionality aims to boost tracking accuracy, which you can take advantage of without bringing your phone along.

Samsung Gear Fit 2

In terms of sensors, the Gear Fit 2 features a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and a barometer, the latter of which is a new addition. This suite of sensors can track anything from floors climbed to a run through a park, and calories burnt during a yoga session.

And, even if you’re using the GPS functionality, the Gear Fit 2 aims for a 3-4 day long battery life. This is far below the 10 day cycle that the Pebble Time can last, but when you consider what the Gear Fit 2 is capable of, and that sweet AMOLED display, it’s a bit more forgivable.

Early verdict

If you’ve been paying attention to Samsung’s wearables over the past few years, the Gear Fit 2 will stand out immediately as an improvement over 2014’s Gear Fit.

The added compatibility with Android phones, GPS functionality, and wireless charging are but a few of the worthwhile additions to Samsung’s Gear Fit 2.

Compared to other similarly priced wearables, the Gear Fit 2 looks to show them a thing or two about value and performance. But we’ll have to spend more time with it to see if that’s actually the case.

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