Samsung Gear S3 Review

Samsung Gear S3 Review

Samsung Gear S3

Estimated $425
Samsung Gear S3
7.5

Overall Rating

8/10

    Pros

    • Circular watch with the ‘bezel from heaven’ drives an easy, intuitive, fabulously efficient, and very Steve Jobs like user interface (UI) and user experience (UX)
    • Two new Gear S3 models to appeal to different market segments, but live alongside the sleek, futuristic-looking Gear S2 model
    • Large, chunky watch cases seem to be a leading edge trend in the traditional watch industry as well
    • 8% larger display area is meaningful to some segment of the market
    • Two side UX buttons confidently protrude, but in a pleasant design sense, one set elongated and textured (Frontier), the other set classically shiny crown button like
    • Enhanced battery packaging enables one full charge to power two days of full operations and two additional (2) days of time-keeping mode running in reduced power consumption mode

    Cons

    • No apparent processor (CPU) upgrade
    • No GPU upgrade
    • No apparent display resolution or brightness upgrade
    • Where’s the feminine style Gear S3? . . . both new models are definitively masculine designs
    • Where’s the technology upgrade for consumers who really liked the sleek, futuristic design of the Gear S2?
    • Where’s the upgrade in water resistance / waterproofness to match or exceed Garmin and Apple?
    • Microphone pickup still inhibits the user-smartwatch voice interaction experience due to more than occasional failures in Samsung Voice command recognition mode
    • The watch band pin joint mechanism is industry standard, but it’s weak when compared to the innovative and truly outstanding design of the slide-in and magnetic lock attachment joint mechanism of the Apple Watch original and Series 2

    VERDICT & RATING

    The Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Frontier smartwatch models earn a rating in this review of 7.5 out of 10. Before the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 2, the Gear S3 might have earned an 8. However, the recent forceful entry of major Apple Watch upgrades to its CPU, GPU, and display, as well as its new GPS chip and associated new fitness and activity tracking capabilities, the latest WatchOS upgrade to version 3, and the new Apple Watch 2 case material of the future (the zirconia ceramic Edition model) all conspire to place the Samsung Gear S3 into a real pickle, actually more like a baseball pickle hotbox, if you will.

    And this, folks, is the very definition of being stuck in a baseball pickle hotbox, stranded between two strong competitors squeezing your position like a vice grip, with very little in the way of maneuvers to land safely at the next base.

    Stranded between the double digit percentage compound annual growth platforms of the Apple Watch and the Android platform, how can the Samsung Gear S3 — a fine product, yes, I grant you — work its way outta this pickle and make its way aggressively and safely to home base? (Note: Baseball language is permitted here considering that the playoffs and World Series are just around the corner.)

    Unless and until the Samsung Gear S3 infuses half a dozen major new technology upgrades to the upcoming Gear S smartwatch family (S4?, in 2017?), the introduction of the Gear S3 in 2016 will be noted as the point in time when the tide of the smartwatch war turned against Samsung and the innovative future win-win opportunity the Gear S2 once marked out with great promise for smartwatch users worldwide.

    Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatches ReviewsApparently, one can only imagine a dream world in which the appeal of a traditional, natural, and intuitive circular watch face, an easy peasy circular ‘bezel from heaven’ user experience, and all of the extreme hardware horsepower and technology features of the Apple Watch Series 2 with AirPods (smart earbuds) are all combined into one world-beating smartwatch of which Steve Jobs would be proud.

    Alas, of the follies of men and machines – suboptimal solutions for all, from all smartwatch competitors, . . . whence mere mortals cry for top shelf solutions to our smart wrist issues and challenges!

    Peeps, in the global smartwatch war, there is no popular phrase that says, “Go square or go home.” At least we can give credit to Samsung for getting the circular smartwatch design experience correct.

    That said, on most accounts, the Gear S3 disappoints and can be considered a swing and a miss upgrade effort, except for those consumers for whom the Classic and Frontier models directly appeal, which is a very limited portion of the global smartwatch market.

    OVERVIEW OF NEW FEATURES SINCE THE GEAR S2

    The 2016 revamp of the Gear S2 into the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier models cautiously entering the now overcrowded global smartwatch market does not offer much in the way of compelling new internal electronics hardware features.

    Other than a larger display area, more RAM, and a significantly larger battery — all nice, but seemingly incremental improvements that do not rise to the occasion of a major new model upgrade.

    The predicament of this rather weak Gear S3 upgrade to the remarkable inroads Samsung made with the ground-breaking and user experience leading Gear S2 foreshadows the strange title of this review. . . . Hey, the baseball playoffs are upon us, so we gotta’ go with the pickle hotbox allegory that defines the conundrum facing Samsung’s smartwatch development team and potential smartwatch consumers around the world.

    Instead of superlative innovation and technology wanderlust and user benefits galore, the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier models showcase external style and cosmetic redesign features geared toward specific audiences. And this is perhaps as it should be since the Classic and the Frontier are not intended to replace the Gear S2, but to live alongside it, . . . at least for awhile.

    The Samsung Gear S3 luxury look Classic and the rugged look Frontier smartwatch models borrow heavily from the design traditions of Swiss watchmakers, especially Swiss watch designer Yvan Arpa and artist and industrial designer, Arik Levy, with whom Samsung partnered to bring the Classic and Frontier watch cases (Arpa) and watch faces and band designs (Levy) to fruition.Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatches Reviews

    The first thing you’ll notice about the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier models is their large, chunky, heavy appearance — 46mm in diameter, 12.9mm in thickness (the Gear S2 is 11.4mm thick), and in weight measure, 57 to 62 grams (the Gear S2 weighs 47 grams), respectively. However, this size increase enabled Samsung to respond to preferences from lot of its male customers by increasing the display real estate. The display on the Classic and the Frontier is 8% bigger than the Gear S2 offered.

    Both the Classic and the Frontier present the marked index-adorned bezels that are so traditional with classic and many high-end European wristwatches.

    The Classic offers the index on its inner slanted bezel surface, with regularly stepped hash marks, while the Frontier offers two index levels, a set of shiny hash marks on its flat, outermost bezel and a set of twelve 5-minute interval markers an its slanted bezel ring adjacent and interior to the outermost bezel.

    You’ll also want to note two minor, though quite helpful UX design improvements Samsung made in crafting ridges on the Frontier’s bezel and enabling the bezel to provide simple, soft mechanical haptic ‘stepped clicking’ feedback to let you know when you’ve bezel-moved to the next icon or watch face element.  As such, neither the Classic nor the Frontier is a smartwatch made for most women.

    Nevertheless, there are plenty of people around who will tell you that large and chunky is the new “in thing” for a good portion of the leading edge of the conventional global watch market. In both cases, the Classic and the Frontier are rather stark departures from the clean, futuristic design appeal of the Gear S2 models.

    Moreover, Samsung, like other companies, is challenged to fit in all the requisite internal and external hardware components into a more compact, lighter weight design that caters to females.

    Both the Classic and the Frontier have two buttons on the right side of the watch case, just as the Gear S2 presents. The Classic model’s buttons are like the conventional cylindrical metallic crown buttons on the wristwatches of yesteryear and the Frontier model’s buttons are the elongated rectangles with rounded corners and a grip enhancing surface texture grid that are so reminiscent of so many different categories of rugged, outdoors electronics gear. Just as the Gear S2 operated, the top right button on either Gear S3 takes you back and the bottom right crown button pops open your apps.

    Both models use commonplace 22mm watch bands that connect with the classic sliding and twist-to-lock-in-place pin system, and a variety of leather bands in different colors and finishes appear to be on offer coming up soon.

    Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatches ReviewsIn short, the Samsung Gear S3 Classic is the model your father would choose. The Gear S3 Frontier is the model you would choose, largely because your intuitively keen, testosterone driven engine wants to be ultimately prepared for a rugged outdoor future of uncertainty and adventure in the days and months ahead.

    Both the Classic and the Frontier models reprise the role of the now widely hailed Gear S2 UX experience of the Samsung rotating bezel wheel for navigation, as well as touch scrolling and touch select support. And No, I am not going to extoll the virtues of this fabulous user experience (UX) feature here once again.

    Some other new Gear S3 features are the always-on-display tech, in which the watch face is always visible in its normal color palette, just a little dimmer if not used for long periods, and a portfolio of additional watch faces that can be downloaded directly onto the watch, so that you don’t have to leverage your smartphone to choose and install new watch faces on the Gear S3.

    THE PICKLE HOTBOX

    Entering the stretch run of the calendar year 2016, the world’s new number two watchmaker, Apple — and its fresh and fault-free release of the new wearables growth machine that may well be the Series 2 smartwatch, the wearable that most Apple aficionados expected at the launch of the original Apple Watch — casts a long shadow over the future of Samsung’s Gear S smartwatch product family.

    It appears that Apple expects the Series 2 to generate twice the market demand of the original Apple Watch model, as rumors are flying in Asian supply chain circles that Apple has increased its ‘chip and component’ orders for the Series 2 by 2x from the monthly supply chain order rates associated with the original Apple Watch model over the last 18 months. [Source: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2016/09/apple-increases-chip-and-component-orders-for-apple-watch-series-2.html] This indicates that Apple expects the Apple Watch Series 2 to sell around 2 million units a month, or 24 million units in the next 12 months.Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatches Reviews

    For comparison’s sake, IT and consumer electronics market research firm IDC projects annual 2016 sales of some 4 1/2 Apple Watches selling for every Samsung Gear S smartwatch sold. Now that the Series 2 constitutes a significant and perhaps compelling improvement on the original Apple Watch, and with the Android smartwatch platform forecast to rival the popularity of WatchOS devices by 2020, Samsung’s Gear S3 Classic and Frontier models and its continuing Gear S2 models appear destined for a bronze medal finish every year for the rest of the next half decade of the global smartwatch competition.

    Meanwhile, IDC forecasts global shipments of smartwatches to hit 20.1 million units in 2016, with Apple’s WatchOS, Google’s Android, and Samsung’s Tizen platforms maintaining their positions as the world’s premier smartwatch operating systems. [Source: http://www.eweek.com/mobile/apple-android-to-lead-smartwatch-market-into-2020-idc.html]

    Furthermore, IDC forecasts Apple’s WatchOS and the Android smartwatch platform to each ship about 30 million units annually by 2020, leaving Samsung’s Gear S smartwatch family with a relatively meager annual unit sales figure of some 5 ½ by 2020, or about a 12 to 1 ratio against Samsung, when considering the arrayed forces of both WatchOS and Android. [Source: https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS41100116]

    This is the hotly competitive world in which the Classic and Frontier models of the Samsung Gear S 3 smartwatch are entering. Faced with this fiercely competitive smartwatch war so dominated in 2016 and beyond by the hot growth platforms of the WatchOS and Android, Samsung unwisely, yet seemingly pragmatically decided to differentiate their Gear S product line by trending toward ‘classic sophisticated Swiss watch design’ on one hand and ‘outdoor frontiersman design’ on the other.

    In other words, Samsung is attempting to secure a niche foothold on third place by simultaneously targeting three different consumer segments, the futuristic design segment with the Gear S2, and the aforementioned Classic and Frontier design oriented segments, all of which are way underpowered in embedded hardware advancements compared to the Apple Watch Series 2.

    CONCLUSION

    If you are a bystander in the smartwatch buyer market and you admired the sleek, futuristic appeal of the Gear S2, and you simply wanted Samsung to pack in more powerful feature and benefits including rich hardware technology into a transition from the S2 to the S3, well, you’re outta’ luck.

    However, if you are an outdoors oriented adventurer or an executive or sophisticate who enjoys a really intuitive mobile device user experience and you like a slightly larger display and you need two days of full smartwatch operations, then look no further, this is your baby.

    In almost all other user scenarios, Samsung’s Gear S3 missed a great opportunity to smartly leverage the impressive market adoption and global smartwatch user community enthusiasm for the Gear S2 and its intuitive UX ‘bezel from heaven’.

    Best Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatches ReviewsSometimes batters hit a great ball and then when they run the bases thereafter, they mess up and get caught in a pickle, stranded in a hotbox. And when a baserunner is stranded in between first and second base in a rundown, there are few chances and fewer ways to safely land at second base without getting called out.

    The concluding message here is clear. Samsung’s Gear S4 smartwatch, or even a possible upcoming Gear S2 Pro or Plus model better come out swinging hot and heavy in 2017 with major infusions of feature and benefit rich technologies that equal or exceed the current Apple Watch Series 2 or the entire Gear S smartwatch family will be relegated to even less market share than their current bronze medal position behind the Apple Watch and Android smartwatch platforms.

    In the turbulent wake of the disastrous Note 7 smartphone recall, the lagging and lukewarm incrementalism approach of the Samsung Gear S3 Classic and Frontier introductions speak to some real trouble brewing for Samsung’s smartwatch team unless they alter course lickety-split and get on their horse and ride real quick with some enormous product differentiation in their saddle.


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