Samsung Gear S3 is now official, and the latest version of the South-Korean firm’s smartwatch was announced at IFA 2016. The Gear S2 as a watch was well-received and helped boost Samsung’s sales in the smartwatch segment, although Apple remains the segment leader in the market by a significant number.
With the Gear S3, Samsung is introducing two versions. The Gear S3 Frontier, which is meant for more rugged and daily use, the smartwatch pitched for those who are likely to wear it on a run or hike, rather than a business meeting. The Gear S3 Classic is more like a classic version of the Gear S2 with its steel case. Both watches have the same rotatable bezel from the Gear S2, which can be used to control the smartwatch and go from app to app.
The big additions to the Gear S3 are the always-on display, as well GPS and the ability to pay via Samsung Pay. The last bit might not be of much use to India for now, but it is clear Samsung plans to bring its whole ecosystem to its range of devices, and not just smartphones.
The Gear S3 Frontier also gets LTE/3G connectivity, and Samsung is claiming four days of battery life on both watches. The battery issue of smartwatches is still a significant pain point, mainly because the more features a watch has, the lesser the battery life.
With the Gear S2, I found the watch impressive terms of capabilities and UI, but the battery life was an issue, especially if one was going to take this to the gym, or during a sports activity for recording. It will interesting to see if the Gear S3 fixes these battery issues and if the watch can live up to the four-day claim.
The 3G/LTE version launching at the start means Samsung wants to free its watch of dependence on the phone. And it is the next step for wearables. Rumours indicate Apple could be planning to launch LTE in its next-gen Apple Watch, though that might not happen till 2017.
The Gear S3 is also getting bigger at 46mm casing with a 1.3-inch display on both devices. The Frontier is slightly heavier than the Classic thanks to the added capabilities. Personally, the circular design of the Gear S2 was what impressed many, but the Gear S3 is a slightly bigger version of this, and for those who love quaint watches, this might not be the answer.
I was hoping to see a 42mm case version of the Gear S3, but it seems Samsung will stick with the bigger case for now. The company is also pitching this watch as one that gives the experience of a regular watch; hence the always-on display where the watch-face doesn’t fade away, support for all 22mm watch straps, and you don’t just have to rely on Samsung for these.
The Gear S3 also continues to run Samsung’s own Tizen OS. Samsung will need to get more apps on board for the watch, in order to increase its usage, especially the big ones like WhatsApp, Facebook, although apps like Uber, etc are on board.
Smartwatches, at least in India, are still a niche market, but it is expected to grow. For those who can afford premium phones, getting a smartwatch that looks good is the next step. With the Gear S2, Samsung went for a pricing that was Rs 24,000 and higher. It will be interesting to see what strategy the Korean firm adopts with the Gear S3.
Disclaimer: The correspondent is attending IFA 2016 at the invitation of Lenovo India.