It was almost three years ago that Samsung released the first Galaxy Gear smartwatch. That device had an awkward design and a clunky UX, and its design wasn’t fashioned after traditional wristwatches. It wasn’t treated nicely by the media, and sales were disappointing. What a difference three years makes.
The new watch hews to the look and feel of traditional wristwatch design. It’s a large watch (46mm across) that covered almost the entire wrist width of one of the female Samsung reps I saw try it on. Samsung says the new watch is targeted mainly at the male market, but points out that large wrist-ware is in vogue for women, too. And while the new watch is wide, and its body is made out of rugged-looking stainless steel, it feels lightweight on the wrist.
Perhaps the biggest idea driving the design of the S3 is Samsung’s belief that consumers want a smartwatch that looks and feels like a traditional luxury watch. People also want to be able to look down at their watch and know they’ll see something more than a blank screen, Samsung says, so the S3’s 1.3-inch AMOLED screen is always displaying the time, even when the watch isn’t being used.
Samsung’s biggest watch design innovation, perhaps, is the rotating dial that surrounds the screen. You rotate the dial left to see your notifications, and right to see your widgets. When a call comes in, you accept it by rotating right and reject it by rotating left. The Gear S3, like its predecessor the Gear S2 uses Samsung’s own Tizen as its operating system.
The Gear S3 comes in two main flavors: the Gear S3 Frontier, which has GPS, Bluetooth, and LTE (cellular) radios inside; and the Gear S3 Classic, which has GPS and Bluetooth but no LTE connection.
Those radios, and all the other sensors (heart rate sensor, barometer, etc.) packed into the Gear S3, require a lot of power. So Samsung increased the size of the battery from 250 milliamps in the Gear S2 to 380 milliamps in the Gear S3. The company says the S3’s battery will last through three days of use before needing a recharge.
Both watches have near field communication (NFC) and magnetic secure transmission (MST) chips inside for mobile payments. Wrist-based payments are secure and token-based and can be completed sans smartphone, Samsung explains.
Both versions of the Gear S3 use standard 22mm straps, so you can easily use a strap made by a third party. Samsung will be selling a line of its own straps, too.
Samsung says the prices of the S3 Classic and the S3 Frontier watches have not yet been set.
We’ll be soon be giving the new Gear S3 a test drive of our own, after which we’ll have a full review.