Samsung Gear Fit review

Smartwatches and fitness bands. They’re both compact units that are intended to be carried around all day – with one acting as an extension of your smartphone, and the other tracking your every move so that you can use that data to improve yourself even more.

It makes sense to merge the two gadgets, and that’s what Samsung is trying out with the Gear Fit.

Does it make the cut, or does it drop out halfway through the race?

Hardware

First, let’s get the boring stuff out the way.

Inside the Gear Fit you’ll find an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a heart rate sensor on the bottom along with the charging port. To hook it up to your phone – a requirement, not an option – there’s Bluetooth 4.0 LE.

The Gear Fit is IP67 certified, which means it’s dust- and water-resistant, and capable of handling the tougher environments it’s likely to be exposed to.

Everything you’d expect from a Smartwatch/fitness tracker, really – but what did I really think?

“Beautiful”. That’s the first thought I had when I laid eyes on the Gear Fit.

Aesthetically, the unit itself is fairly plain, without any frills or strange adornments, but the curve and finish give it an air of elegance.

The way that the unit is curved means that it sits comfortably on your wrist, even during the more strenuous activity.

The 1.84” screen, also curved, is gorgeous. It’s bright and vibrant, which is what we’ve come to expect from Super AMOLEDs; but it’s still amazing to see in such a small package.

Unfortunately, however, because of its small size and odd dimensions, the screen doesn’t display data very well. The default horizontal orientation makes absolutely no sense, and the vertical orientation makes notifications appear cramped.

It may be a technological feat, but it’s largely impractical for this application.

Additionally, there’s no light sensor, which means there’s no auto-brightness option. This means that, when you go outside, you’ll have to crank it up manually and you’ll probably end up shining that death ray into your face when you step into a dim environment again.

The only button adorning the Gear Fit is the power button along the outward-facing side (when you have it strapped to your wrist). This is the power/wake button, which you can also double tap to launch directly into a specific app.

Be warned, though – as with the Home button on the Galaxy S5, the Gear Fit’s Home button could be sluggish to react if you have the double tap option enabled.

Navigating the sparse menus, however, worked just fine without hiccoughs.

Samsung Gear Fit horizontal display
Samsung Gear Fit horizontal display

Battery life

Samsung rates that the Gear Fit can get around 3-4 days of life with typical usage – which is about what I got on normal work days. Using more of the fitness tracker options would obviously drain it faster.

Annoyingly, when you start to run out of juice, the device lets you know that it needs to be charged far too late in the game.

I was out the door, on my way to go for a short hike, when the watch beeped and let me know that it had 5% left – which wasn’t even enough to get 2/3rds of the way up Lion’s head.

It would have been much more preferable to have the notification pop up when there’s half a day to a full day’s use left.

On the topic of charging, the Gear Fit includes a truly horrible little charging dock that plugs into microUSB, and then clips on to the body of the watch.

It’s another little thing that you have to take with you when you go anywhere for an extended period – and its size makes it prime for losing.

Samsung Gear Fit vertical display
Samsung Gear Fit vertical display

Software

The default home screen for the Gear Fit shows the time and date. This screen can be customised slightly to show different combinations of information, but not much else.

Accessing the fitness apps or settings requires just a swipe or two through the spartan interface, displaying three simple icons per page.

The Gear Fit can sync your phone’s notifications – email, calls, calendar, and pretty much any other app that can send a notification – although each 3rd party apps’ notifications have to be activated manually in the Gear Fit’s companion app on your paired phone.

Exercise tracking works pretty much as expected: Select a workout type, and off you go.

At the end of the workout, the device syncs up with your phone and the results can be viewed there.

One major annoyance I found, though, occurred on my aforementioned hiking session: Not only did the Gear Fit run out of battery part-way through the hike, but it also dropped all the progress I’d made up until that point.

So even though I could continue tracking my progress with the Samsung Galaxy S5, I only had partial data recorded for the hike.

Second opinion: wake gesture

Though I found the wake gesture to mostly work when I needed it to, it was an annoyance in the cinema. The slightest shift in your seat seemed to be enough to wake the display and irritate everyone around you with its bright light. —Jan Vermeulen

The screen is deactivated by default to conserve power. Waking it can be done by using the button on the side, or via a nifty gesture – lifting your arm as if looking at the time.

Unfortunately, I found this gesture to be largely unreliable – not triggering when you want it to, and often triggering when you don’t want it to. Even when I did get it to trigger correctly, it was sluggish.

Another interesting feature is that you can set your phone to not have an unlock pattern when your Gear Fit is close by.

However, there were a number of occasions where I woke up the paired Galaxy S5 and found it to require a pattern, even though the Gear Fit was on my wrist and the notification on the phone indicated it was connected.

Sometimes, on waking the Gear Fit, the pattern unlock would disappear from the phone, making me wonder just how reliable the connection between the two really is.

Conclusion

On paper, the merger of a smartwatch and fitness band sounds like a really great idea.

While Samsung certainly has a svelte-looking device in the Gear Fit, it lacks a lot of polish to actually make it useful.

All in all, the Gear Fit seems like a beta device that Samsung is trying to sell to consumers as market ready – and I fear that it will likely end up as another dust-gathering paperweight.

My advice here? Wait for version 2.0 – hopefully Samsung will have some of the kinks ironed out by then.

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Samsung Gear Fit review