REVIEW: THE SAMSUNG GEAR S2 AND THE 7 BATTLEFRONTS TO WATCH IN THE SMARTWATCH WAR

REVIEW: THE SAMSUNG GEAR S2 AND THE 7 BATTLEFRONTS TO WATCH IN THE SMARTWATCH WAR

Samsung Gear S2

$299.99
Samsung Gear S2
8

Overall Rating

8/10

    Pros

    • A sleek and smart round design
    • Easy to use rotating bezel for Navigation Control
    • Great size for most users
    • Durable well made construction
    • Multiple modes and options for varied uses
    • Smooth performance

    Cons

    • Needs customization options
    • Connectivity issues
    • No GPS
    • Does not have auto brightness

    This review of the Gear S2 smartwatch focuses on brief descriptions from my tour of the seven (7) major battlefronts in the smartwatch war. It’s not a bloody war, but it is raging nonetheless, as the smartwatch industry grows at a projected 22% compound annual growth rate for the next five (5) years.Samsung Gear S2 Review

    In this smartwatch crusade we are reminded of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, whence the seven hundred year old knight who guards the holy grail advises both friend and Nazi foe alike to “choose wisely.” Likewise today, 7.5 centuries after that knight’s birth, who wants to choose one smartwatch platform only to find out they have chosen unwisely?

    These battlefront assessments will be quite useful to both those consumers who are committed to the smartwatch industry already, with product on their wrists, and those who want to take sides in the current war by making an upcoming purchase. In either case, consumers have a keen desire to know which way the smartwatch technology platform winds of war are blowing in the long run.

    In any event, the northern, southern, eastern, and western battle lines of war have been drawn in the areas of 1) the user experience (UX), 2) mobile pay, 3) untethered phone calls, 4) apps, 5) battery life, 6) waterproof wearables, and 7) the next generation of the form and function of the smartwatches of tomorrow’s tomorrow. First things first, let’s offer an overall war assessment from the Samsung Gear S2 camp and Battlefront # 1.

    Gear S2, The Best All Purpose Smartwatch on Planet Earth. Though the market adoption of the Apple Watch is now many times higher and its app ecosystem is currently many times larger than Samsung’s, and hundreds of millions of Apple’s technology fans around the world would argue in favor of the steamrolling consumer tech machine that is Apple, it is the considered opinion of many industry analysts that Samsung’s Gear S2 is the best all-purpose smartwatch available today. Include me amongst them.

    The Gear S2 is quite likely the most Steve Jobs like consumer technology product designed since Jobs passed away. Its elegant simplicity of design, form and function are a posthumous expression by Samsung of the very essence of Steve Jobs’ brilliance as a technology artisan. The Gear S2 is skillful, holistic design and engineering on subtle steroids. And Samsung’s digital crowning achievement to this masterpiece of tech design and engineering is its revolutionary circular UX, otherwise known by this analyst as the smartwatch bezel from industrial design heaven.

    Elegant Simplicity in Design is Universal and Timeless – Just Ask Michelangelo or Jobs. The key revelation Steve Jobs had during his college-age journey to the spiritual retreats nestled in the Himalayas was to focus the human mind calmly, quietly, peacefully, and creatively – without distractions — on meditatively stripping away that which does not belong from that which does not yet exist. If that sounds kooky, let’s examine the matter briefly.

    There is an oft-repeated rumor concerning Michelangelo in which a roving, nameless scribe of Renaissance Italy asks Michelangelo, “How did you make the David?” Allegedly, Michelangelo deftly replied, “It is easy. I just chip away everything that is not David.”

    Whether or not this tale of Renaissance Italy is true or not, and though separated by 48 decades and the continent spreading action of the mid-Atlantic ridge between Italy and America, it epitomizes and resonates with Steve Jobs’ indefatigable mindset of elegant simplicity in design. The fact that both Michelangelo and Jobs both invested the majority of their creative lives in the greatest center of the technical arts and learning of their day, Florence, Italy and Silicon Valley, California should not be lost on any technologist, engineer, or entrepreneur in today’s panoply of global tech consumer industries.

    In the case of today’s smartwatches, the torch that lights that Himalayan path to the nirvana of artful technology design and engineering is now held by Samsung.

    In the matter of the Gear S2, Samsung brilliantly stripped away everything that is not a smartwatch of today. If Michelangelo and Jobs were alive today, they would both send opera clapping emoji blessed messages of congratulations to Samsung’s executives in Seoul, South Korea who are responsible for the Gear S2.

    Make no mistake about it. In an assessment of battlefront # 1 in the smartwatch war, the user experience, Jobs himself — in a cold, humorless, yet enthusiastic way and with laser like focus – would quite likely incisively inform us that Apple was bested at the vanguard of the smartwatch war by a change of battle plan midstream along with a UX howitzer from Samsung’s technology industrial design artistes.

    Battlefront # 1: User Experience (UX) Crown v. Bezel. In contrast to the original curved, rectangular portrait design of the Gear S smartwatch, the Gear S2 sports an artfully circular touchscreen display surrounded by a movable circular “bezel.” The user simply moves the bezel clockwise or counter-clockwise to scroll through app icons and functions and then taps the touchscreen to make selections.

    Samsung Gear S2 ReviewsThis decisive battle plan change in format design by Samsung’s executives was brilliant and is much simpler and 2 to 3x more elegant in form and function than the UX of the Apple Watch. In terms of form and function, it’s as simple and splendid and timeless and efficient a user experience combination as a high-energy packed peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to a five year old American kid.

    The 31mm diameter, 360 x 360 pixel, Super AMOLED display on the Gear S2 is circumscribed by a barely noticeable, stainless steel bezel wheel that conforms elegantly to the circular dashboard of apps on the Gear S2, a very synergistic combo of hardware, software, and user interface design. When you rotate the bezel clockwise or counterclockwise, an indicator shows which app icons, content, and text are being scrolled through on the circular display. It’s as easy and natural as turning a volume knob on an old stereo or a knob on a gas stove or bathtub or shower faucet. Navigating the menus, both short and long menus, in this manner is much easier and more natural than using the Apple Watch UX.

    Depending on the application and content on the display, rotating the bezel enables you to scroll left and right or up and down while the app icons, content, and text move along for the ride. To make matters even better, when you rotate the bezel, a crafty upper arc dashboard of small indicator dots lights up in sequence to show you generally where you are in the menu list of all the selectable apps and content being scrolled through. Moreover, when you bezel rotate through an arc series of app icons, one app icon gets larger than the others preceding and following it in the scrolling menu arc, which enables you to rather easily see it and select the momentarily larger icon. To put it simply, as many Gear S2 users comment, “It’s awesome.”

    The real design and UX key to this bezel design is the way it allows a smartwatch user to avoid always having to momentarily cover the screen from their eyes by swiping the touchscreen display left or right and up or down in order to navigate menus. Swiping a display with your fingers while you’re trying to recognize the icons and/or read the text and content at the same time is a bothersome user experience that is best left to an absolute minimum of user experience time on the watch. This also helps keep the smartwatch display cleaner, as there are fewer finger smudges to deal with because one is not constantly touch swiping the display.Samsung Gear S2 Watch Face Review

    How Samsung’s design engineers managed to enable this bezel from design heaven to mitigate against water, dirt, oil, and grim penetration is not revealed in detail, but it manages just fine on those accounts, which is truly important for this UX because of the large percentage of UX time a user employs the bezel navigation feature.

    Samsung’s skillful application of the intuitive rotary dial UX to smartwatches will be an enduring form & function centerpiece technology in the industry for decades and many future generations of smartwatches to come. Even when our smartwatches change to paper thin, flexible crepe displays on our wrists, it is quite likely that some crepe thin form of the circular bezel user interface and user experience tool will still persist to the elementary delight of hundreds of millions of users.

    The same may not necessarily be said for Apple’s digital crown. Apple’s digital crown is in essence a mechanism for scrolling and zooming and panning the display in different directions – a mechanism that enabled Apple to move the smartwatch user’s fingers away from blocking the display when they were required to touchscreen pinch or spread their fingers or swipe left, right, up, and down on the small display of the watch.

    What perhaps was not truly appreciated is that the conventional mechanical windup wristwatch crown of yesteryear was a once a day or once every other day effort of some 30 to 60 seconds, at most. Yet now, 93 years after John Harwood invented the “self-winding” wristwatch with the classic winding crown we all know and love from Dad’s and Grandpa’s era, the user experience (UX) of an Apple Watch user involves rotating the ‘digital crown’ on the side of the Apple Watch perhaps dozens of times a day.

    Apple’s digital crown will have its role in the long run of smartwatch technology, either livin’ large or a smaller, less central role. For the future, a future likely dominated by ultra thin, flexible, thin film, high resolution displays, the Apple digital crown is not only a tough nut to crack down to a crepe-thin, blunt cylinder while still retaining is historic rotating function for scrolling, but it also is transversely mounted on the side of the Apple Watch in a manner that seemingly contradicts the eventual design transition of smartwatches to progressively thinner and lighter, and thinner and lighter, and thinner and lighter pieces of technology on our wrists.

    Apple Watch ReviewsIndeed, the Apple Watch is 11.5mm thick now and its transversely mounted digital crown appears to sport a diameter of 7mm. When the smartwatches of 2018 and 2019 arrive with flexible, thin film AMOLED displays that are just 1 to 4mm thick, how is Apple’s transversely mounted digital crown supposed to play after that highly likely format change? Shrinking the Apple Watch digital crown down to the diameter of number 2 or 3 graphite lead inside an elementary school pencil does not seem to be design nirvana. It would seem that there is a limited runway for Apple’s digital crown mechanism in the age of flexible, paper-thin 4k displays so rapidly coming down the turnpike at super speed.

    Regarding the user experience (UX) issue of battlefront # 1, Apple’s digital crown has a page dedicated to users who experience their Apple Watch digital crown getting stuck or malfunctioning in various ways, with dust or debris underneath, problems that Apple recommends be fixed by running the Apple Watch under water from a faucet for 10 or 15 seconds. There is a whole set of procedures for this effort.
    [Source: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204639]

    Apple’s transition from today’s digital crown to something more Jobsian in the future is going to require either a bit of a technology magic act for the digital crown or something new and different that entirely replaces the current Apple Watch digital crown. Not so for Samsung’s rotating bezel, which will live just fine on riding atop the front face of the thinner and lighter smartwatches of the future.

    That being said, there will be vital roles for both UX mechanisms, the rotating bezel and the rotating crown. To the yet unknown victor go the spoils of war. So far, Samsung is the clear winner on battlefront # 1, the user experience (UX).

    In our next review blog on the Samsung Gear S2, Battlefront # 2 in the smartwatch war covers the topic of Samsung Pay and smartwatch mobile pay systems.


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