The Samsung Gear 2 is a surprising addition to the MWC 2014 party, not just because it’s predecessor has been on sale for such a short amount of time but because it’s been joined by a little brother: the Gear 2 Neo.
It’s also dropped the Galaxy part of its name for the update, presumably as the range is based on Tizen OS rather than Android.
If you read our initial Galaxy Gear review, you’d see why Samsung has rebooted this so quickly. A smartwatch may be cool, but if it costs too much, has too short of a battery life and is filled with useless gimmicks, it’s not going to sell well – and that’s precisely what we found with Samsung’s first effort.
The Gear 2’s got the same 512MB of RAM as the first iteration, but with a dual-core 1GHz processor, which is much needed over the original.
So now we have the rebooted version, and it’s likely to be tied in heavily with the Samsung Galaxy S5 – read on to find out all about the two new watches as Samsung battens down the hatches ahead of the iWatch release.
Gear 2 design
When it comes to the new look of the Gear, it’s pretty much business as usual. The screen is precisely the same (a 1.63-inch 320 x 320 Super AMOLED option) and the surround looks pretty similar to the original as well.
We actually liked the design of the first Gear, as it combined industrial-looking materials with sleek lines – but combined with the camera it was just too large.
Rumors it would be up to 20% thinner are unfounded – it’s actually closer to 9% – so The Samsung Gear 2 doesn’t deviate a huge amount from the first iteration, coming in with 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm, and weighting 68g. That’s not a lot different from the Gear 2 Neo, which clocks in at 37.9 x 58.8 x 10.0mm, but is 20% lighter at 55g, which will make a fairly big difference.
It’s not the major redesign we were hoping for, but at the same time, there are some tweaks we like: moving all the sensors onto the watch face means you can now change the straps rather than having to have the same lurid rubber option, which will appeal to those who want a genuine watch replacement.
There’s also a home button now, which will make it easier to navigate around the device when you just want to know the time.
Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo
The two devices differ very little in actual fact – the main change is the dimensions listed above, with the Neo coming in a lot lighter than its better-specced brother.
In terms of actually being better on the spec front, it’s only the camera that’s missing – both still have the all-new infra red blaster to control TVs and DVD players, but the same 1.9MP camera pervades on the Gear 2.
Both are also dustproof and water resistant to IP67, which is pretty impressive given the last model could barely look at rain before deciding to curl up into a technoball and hibernate for the winter.
All new OS
We’ve heard loads about Tizen in the run up to MWC 2014, where Samsung is supposed to be showing off phones using the new operating system.
But here’s an interesting one: the new Gear range are running the OS as well. There are a number of reasons for this, but one that could have legs is it would make the watch a lot more enticing for developers.
The reasons for the switch to Tizen are unclear, but Samsung is touting the fact that the OS will work widely with other devices, and TVs from the South Korean brand are tipped to switch to the OS soon too, which would make sense from a brand unity point of view.
The apps already developed for the Gear on Android should be pretty easy to move over to Tizen, given the OS is set up to allow this to happen without too much fuss – and it seems to be kinder on the battery too, offering 2-3 days’ use in normal situations (up to six with ‘low usage’) which is a big jump from the 25 hours thrown out for the original Gear.
Pricey as before?
The new Gear needs to be cheaper than the original, coming as it did for £299 or $299 (around AU$333) off the shelf.
We sadly don’t know the official price just yet, but Samsung was rumoured to have chopped the cost to make sure the Gear 2 is competitive in the face of the iWatch.
We can imagine a situation where the Gear 2 will cost the same as the first version (which makes sense given the amount of extra technology shoved in there) and the Neo option being about 15% cheaper.
Samsung knows that it wouldn’t fare well if it pitted its watch against the premium quality of Apple’s (just look at some of the high end tablets Samsung offers for the same cost as the iPad Air) and should look to offer a lower cost as well as the enhanced feature set.
With that in mind, the Gear 2 is a crucial device for the South Korean brand – it’s already had one bite with the first option, and if the next iteration fails to ignite then it could be handing the keys to the wearable kingdom to Apple before it’s even brought anything out.
Gear 2 release date
The Samsung Gear 2 launch date s now upon us, and as expected it’s at MWC 2014 (well, the day before if you’re being picky).
But it will be a while before it actually reaches the shop shelves, as the release date is set for April, and will begin worldwide.
We’ll be betting that the Galaxy S5 and the Gear 2 will be launched onto shop shelves as a joint deal in a number of retailers, so its probable the two will have the same release date, if not very close together.
One of the big changes with the Gear 2 set is the added fitness ability – the pedometer from the first model remains, but now comes with a lot more nous when it comes to making you fitter.
One of the biggest changes is hidden away: there’s now an optical sensor on the back of the device to monitor your heart rate as you run or walk around. Those are the two inbuilt exercises from the start, although it can function as ‘companion’ to cycling and hiking. It’ll even track your sleeping patterns.
There are a number of apps from launch that can help with the fitness too, such as Map My Fitness, so you’ll be able to use the Gear 2 freely as a general exercise tool.
Bluetooth streaming of music stored on the Gear 2’s inbuilt 4GB is a welcome addition too, making the device more autonomous and something genuinely useful to have on a run when you don’t want to carry your phone.