27
Feb
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The smartwatch craze has gotten a little out of hand, if you'll pardon the pun. Various manufacturers and innumerable crowdfunding campaigns seem ready to leap into the shallow waters already populated by Pebble, Sony, Fitbit and the like. Just because Samsung's Galaxy Gear is the most mainstream of these wearable devices doesn't mean it's the best - on the contrary, in addition to general dissatisfaction with the somewhat rushed hardware, many reviewers found themselves questioning the need for a relatively powerful and feature-filled device on their wrist. After all, there's already one in your pocket.

Enter the Gear Fit, a little brother to Samsung's newly-announced Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, and a stepping stone between more passive devices like the FitBit and the Jawbone UP. Its smaller size and bracelet-like dimensions make the Fit a more natural device for fitness buffs, but its color Super AMOLED screen and punchy dual-core processor means it's also capable of interacting with your smartphone and relaying notifications. The Fit is a happy medium between a smartwatch and a fitness accessory, and I think that the smart omissions from the former make it a much more practical and usable device.

The Gear Fit is about half as wide as the Galaxy Gear, and it also sits higher on your wrist, but its chunky plastic housing follows the curve of the screen so it doesn't feel uncomfortable. The curved screen might not be necessary on a device like this, but Samsung is using the technology to the fullest: with the curve gripping the top of your wrist and following the contour of your arm, the shape and the visuals just seem natural. For a gadget which seems like it's going for the futuristic vibe, that's an impressive accomplishment.

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The screen itself is excellent, despite a relatively low resolution of 438x132. (It's under two inches long. It doesn't need any more.) It's every bit as bright and vibrant as the screens on Samsung's smartphones, with plenty of pop in the whites to see time and text even on a vivid background. Using the device is based entirely on taps and gestures, the latter of which works especially well on the wide screen that follows the band. Again, the elongated shape and the curve in the screen just fit with the overall design in a way that none of the current square-style smartwatches do. Swiping left and right on the horizontal screen to get through apps and menus makes sense.

Of course, the capabilities of the Gear Fit are somewhat diminished. The Fit has no telephony, no integrated microphone or speaker, no camera, no infrared blaster. Those who want a mini smartphone on their wrist will be mortified at this lack of utility, but it's kind of the point: like the Pebble, the Gear Fit has very little that it doesn't actually need to have. It does three things: collect fitness information, relay notifications from your smartphone, and (oh yeah) tell time. I think this focused approach to function is one that actually follows form, and one that will please more users than the larger Gear designs, especially if the price is right.

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The software integrates pretty much everything you'd want in a fitness tracker, starting with the heart rate monitor hiding underneath the plastic housing. It takes a little time to get started, but once it does it's fairly reliable with a refresh rate of about once per second. Other standard features include a pedometer, a stopwatch and timer, and a sleep tracker. The hardware hides an accelerometer and gyroscope (for automatically turning on the screen when you raise it). The battery is 210mAh, which Samsung claims will last 3-4 days with moderate usage.

Charging the Gear Fit is a bit of a chore, thanks to a die-sized cradle that must be snapped on to the bottom of the device to activate the contact pins. Despite the exposed contacts, the Gear Fit has an IP rating of 67, meaning it's up for a dunk or two in the sink or the dirt (but probably not an extended swimming session). The device can be removed from the very simple strap with a solid push, and other strap colors are available, but this is not a "fashionable" gadget - I can't see anyone using it as part of their eveningwear ensemble, which is at least plausible with the Gear 2's metal housing. The clasp itself is a simple pair of prongs that poke through pinholes in the strap. Effective, but not elegant.

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When it comes to talking to your phone, the Gear Fit is somewhat limited... not that it needs much more. Once paired over Bluetooth you get the standard call, SMS, email, and calendar alerts, and the Gear Fit can send a "find my phone" alert and control remote music playback. Unlike the new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, it cannot hold local music and play it through Bluetooth headphones independent of a Galaxy phone. Other software features include basic settings like brightness control and screen timeout, and a few personalization options like font, clock face, and background. Other functions, including specific modes for various activities and sports, require setup on a Samsung phone or tablet.

The hardware we played with seemed ready to go, but the software needs a little more time in the oven. We managed to crash the new Tizen OS with an ill-timed tap of the tiny Power button (which isn't used at all once the Gear Fit is on). We also saw some inconsistent behavior with the auto-rotate function, so I hope Samsung can work out the kinks before release. There's only one other thing I'd like to see added to the fit: a vertical rotation option, which lets you view the elongated screen in portrait. Reading the time in landscape feels odd when you're used to reading a watch face that's rotated 90 degrees compared to your arm. 

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Assuming that the Gear Fit will be marketed at a price that's significantly lower than the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo - and I don't see why it wouldn't be - I expect it to do well alongside the Galaxy S5 and other current Samsung products. If the company can get the hardware below $100 at retail, it will be an easy recommended pair with a new Samsung phone (like the other Gears, it won't work with anything else). The Gear Fit is scheduled to launch worldwide on April 11th.

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Kurt Laws

    If these came in at a decent price (possible) and Samsung decided to stop being Apple Lite and make this work with other phones (possible, but unlikely from what I've seen so far) I would seriously consider this, it appears to have everything I want in a device like this. Tells time, fitness tracker, read notifications and controls music. really all I need from a device like this. Not giving up my HTC One just to get one though.

  • Cj

    Regardless of what anyone says or my own views of Samsung, I liked this device the moment I saw it.
    "no integrated microphone or speaker, no camera, no infrared blaster" -- GREAT!

    I personally find it ridiculous that cameras are being placed one every new device created (Do i really need a camera on a smart watch??). I believe this device sticks firmly to it's purpose and I support that 100%

    • Unknown182

      This. Exactly my thoughts. I would never use any of those features and love my Pebble because it doesn't add useless gimmicks just to add to the list of features.
      Especially the camera... that is the last thing I'd use. I only use my phone camera when I don't have my DSLR.

  • William

    3-4 day battery life is disappointing. I think 7 should be a minimum for these type of devices, also seems kinda big. Will need to see in person to tell for sure.

    Why landscape???

    • hot_spare

      30 days should be minimum for any watch. Anything less than that is complete fail.

      • Jay

        Good thing this isn't just a watch.

    • Jay

      My Fitbit Flex lasts about 5 days and it has no screen and doesn't do anything except track my activity. 3-4 days is fine but I sure wish it had wireless charging. Hate docks.

  • Alex

    Did you try this on, Michael? It looks a bit awkward having the screen at that orientation when wearing it and I'd be interested in your opinion.

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      I did, and it is awkward. The viewing angles are great, which is good for its intended use, but like I said in the hands-on, I think an auto-rotate to a vertical orientation would make sense for a more "watch-style" function.

      • Cj

        It's seem more suited to being worn on the underside of the wrist as opposed to the top

        • Alex

          You're right, that would make it a lot more usable, but I don't think this was intended by the designers. The screen would likely get quite scratched up on the underside of the wrist.

          • Cj

            Agreed, the screen being face down won't be ideal in a lot of everyday situation

          • Dennis Doc Alters

            They will have some type if shield from zagg

      • hot_spare

        This is not based on Tizen. Only Gear 2 / Gear 2 Neo is based on Tizen.
        BTW, some fairly regular devices like Pebble, Nike+ Fuelband SE, Nike+ Fuelband SE, Jawbone UP sells for 150. What makes you think that this will sell for anything less than 200? I am pretty sure Samsung is not on a charity mission. This has a curved AMOLED, and for sure that thing costs more than 10x the display on Pebble.

        • Jay

          It's confusing right? I've read some people say this should cost $100 but a FitBit Flex costs that much and all it does is track your activity with no screen. I have one and several times I've looked at it reflexively to tell the time then be disappointed. I would LOVE this device! I do agree that I wish the screen would rotate though but that's minor. I can't wait for the actual use reviews and am very interested in the hiking activity. I'm guessing you tell it how heavy your pack is and it calculates calories burned using that info.

      • Dennis Doc Alters

        I am testing the vivo fit and it has the same viewing awkwardness,wearing it face down is easier for reading

  • Zlatty

    Such a gorgeous looking device. Hopefully someone figures a way to connect it to non-Samsung devices.

    • Chris

      Can that happen? I have a note 2 and want to buy this if it's a decent price (it looks amazing to me), but probably won't buy it because I'm not sure my next phone will be a Samsung.

      • Zlatty

        I'm in the exact same boat. Though my Note II hasn't been running Touchwiz since CM was available for it as a nightly build.

        • Chris

          Ha yeah. I use the pen too much. I'm on Jedi Master X2 and it's working great. Although I've been wanting to switch to CM lately...

          • Zlatty

            The pen still works on CM, though you don't get all the fun copypasta features.

          • Chris

            And that's exactly what I use the most :P

  • Assef

    I just wish it to work on nexus devices...

  • Chris

    I'm interested, but needs moar battery. Especially since the battery life will only get worse the older this watch gets...I'll have to see the price.

    • RealityCheck

      "moar"?? What's "moar"? That a technical term?

  • John Smith

    I'd rather have a rolex

  • hp420

    Doesn't work on Nexus devices....NEXT!!!!!

    • southerndinner

      I don't think they're too concerned about that 1-2% of the market

      • hp420

        It only works on Galaxy devices....so now that "1-2%" got a lot bigger, didn't it? I only mentioned Nexus because I only buy Nexii, not garbage phones made by Samsung filled with bloatware, locked down like a chastity belt, and with gimmicky proprietary hardware that ruins any chance of a timely update because the entire android source has to be rewritten to support the same garbage gimmicky hardware that 99.9% of the people who own said device use once when they buy it, then never use again.

        • southerndinner

          Keep on raging against that machine, neckbeard.

          You're an incredibly small, insignificant segment of the market.

          • hp420

            You still didn't listen! IT ONLY WORKS ON GALAXY!!!!! Just because nexus owners are so few doesn't mean all non-galaxy owners are!! There are more non-galaxy owners than there are galaxy owners, so no....we are not at all a small percentage. Like I said, I only mentioned Nexus because that's what I use...but that doesn't mean it shouldn't work accross the board on every android in existence. If the entire source were releaeed I can guarantee they wouldn't be dependent on touchwiz anymore. Bluetooth seems like the most obvious choice. Then it wouldn't even be android exclusive anymore, probably. It could be done in a weekend, but it's Samsung and they love forcing their pile of shit on the ntire world because they seem to think it doesn't stink.

          • southerndinner

            Back to reddit with you

  • Nexus5Forum.com

    I love the form factor. Depending on pricing they might have a hit. The 'band' IS the new watch.

  • Jason

    Does this have a silent alarm?

    • Jay

      I wonder as well since that's a great feature of the FitBit. I was hoping it would so it would go off if you get too far from your phone or something like that.

  • AlBro

    Oh, it has that ridiculous snap-in wrist band and not a latching band like an actual watch? Pass. That's why I returned my FitBit, it kept falling off.

    • Jay

      How does it fall off? Are you sure you're pushing it in all the way? I've worn a FitBit for a while now doing very rigorous activity and it's never fallen off.

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