Samsung Gear Fit2 review

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Gear Fit2 doesn’t fit in any category – which is why it succeeds

Samsung Gear Fit2 has all trimmings of a fitness tracker and smartwatch in one powerful, comfortable wearable. Best of all, you get all the features like GPS, music storage, smartwatch notifications and more in one surprisingly affordable package. With the exception of shaky heart rate readings, activity and fitness tracking remains accurate. Then there’s the fact that Gear Fit2 is still only a fit for those with Android phones. Simply put, Samsung Gear Fit2 is a solid option for the price of everything you’d want in a beefed up fitness tracker or watered down smartwatch. Just don’t expect it to replace the more robust wearables out there as it can’t wholly track everything for those hardcore workouts.

Samsung Gear Fit2

Hit
  • Affordable price
  • GPS and top features
  • Crisp display
  • Comfy fit
Miss
  • Low battery life
  • Lacks compatibility options
  • Questionable heart rate tracking
  • Text-reply is limited

The new Samsung Gear Fit2 tracker doesn’t really fit the category assigned to it – rather, it’s a wearable that falls somewhere between fitness tracker and smartwatch. In other words, it’s not quite either. Fit2 has instead taken components from Gear Fit and Samsung Gear S2 to create something a little different.

What you get then is a powerful device all for only $179, making it a tempting offer for those who want a feature packed tracker and don’t want to spend over $200 on aMicrosoft Band 2 or the new Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

While the Gear Fit2 doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the concept of fitness tracking or smartwatches – it looks to be a cost effective best of both worlds. But is it the best device for you? Let’s dive in and take a look.

Design and comfort

The Gear Fit2 certainly looks more watch-like than its predecessor, and features a new textured strap that also gives it a sporty style. Beyond that, it still resembles your average, wrap-around fitness tracker. It’s really the screen that makes it stand out from the other trackers.

Where the first Gear Fit has a 1.84-inch curved super AMOLED display with a 432 x 128 pixel resolution, the second-gen device comes with a smaller 1.5-inch screen – but definitely retains the curved super AMOLED display with a resolution of 432 x 216. Add in the color touchscreen, squeeze in 322 pixels per inch and you’ve got a shining, bright and crisp display on the wrist, for better or worse.

The screen is made from Gorilla Glass 3 so it should be pretty scratch and crack proof. On more than one occasion, I banged my arm on the wall moving things around in my new apartment – and there was a moment when I had to hastily throw the Fit2 in a tray at the airport. So far, it’s survived everything without a dent.

The strap is made from elastomer that’s water resistant with an IP68 certification, which means you can take it down to the watery depths of 1.5 metres for a maximum of 30 minutes. That doesn’t mean you can go swimming with it like a Pebble though.

The Fit2 is also about the same size as the previous iteration however it will now come in two sizes for different wrists: small (size of wrist: 125-170mm) and large (size of wrist: 155-210mm). It doesn’t sound like much but for people with smaller wrists, like me, it sounds like a chorus of Hallelujah. Generally, most fitness trackers and smartwatches are getting better at supplying us tiny wristed people with good fits, and a size small Gear Fit2 thankfully sits snug on my arm. The one button prong also fastens on like magic – quick, easy and hassle-free compared to the likes of Fitbits and Jawbones.

Despite the variations in sizes, there’s no difference in features, display size, resolution or battery except that the large version is slightly heavier at 30 grams while the smaller is 28 grams.

There are also more color options now as you can choose from black, blue and pink in both sizes. They aren’t the flashiest of options and while mine is black, the texture gives it an added layer to lessen the boring colors.

Activity tracking and heart rate

Keeping with the trend of auto-tracking, the Gear Fit2 can auto-detect and track steps, calories and sleep, along with being able to recognise when you’re doing squats, riding a bike, using a rowing machine or doing yoga, which it will then log accordingly. More on the fitness portion later.

Fit2 can also detect when you’re sleeping and napping. Fit2 then takes all this data and sticks it under 24-hour log to give you a sense of what you’ve been up to. It even adds in times you didn’t have the wearable on so you’ll know when it wasn’t tracking.

It’s a neat service to see how many calories you’ve burned from each activity and when you’ve done everything. From what I can tell, it was also pretty accurate in noting my strenuous walking paces to light bouts of activity.

My experience with sleep tracking has been varied because, like the Fitbit Alta, the Gear Fit2 face will turn on when I move at night. I’d usually rip it off in a grumbly state and then realise what I’d done in the morning. I’m not sure if this was a major loss though since Fit2 doesn’t really have a dedicated sleeping app on the device, like it does for calories or steps, etc. Rather everything syncs up to S Health. However, I was able to withstand a few nights with it on, and it did accurately track my sleep automatically. It was even able to track my naps.

Water and caffeine intake are other areas you can track with Fit2. They’re basically the same app that requires you manually record how much water or caffeine you’ve consumed – with the exception being that you’re trying to hit a target with water, and you’re trying to limit yourself with caffeine.

Fit2 also checks on your heart rate every 10 minutes, but monitoring becomes continuous once you begin tracking most activities. Some activities, like rowing and the “other workout” category in the list, don’t make use of heart rate tracking, however. You can also turn it off to conserve battery life and tag manual heart rate checks as specific activities to better keep track of each lull and spike.

For the most part, heart rate tracking has been shaky. If you’re pushing hard during more strenuous workouts, the Fit2’s heart rate measurements can be off by as much as 20 beats per minute compared to the Polar H7 heart rate sensor, which is worn on a strap around your chest, and the Garmin Fenix 3 HR.

The Fit2’s heart rate tracking is remains steady in general, with measurements often within two to 10 beats per minute from the Fenix 3 HR and Polar.

It’s worth noting that inconsistent heart rate is an ongoing issue with most wearables using optical sensors, as we’ve widely reported. However, our testing of Garmin and Fitbit devices have seen fairly decent reporting of heart rate (between 2-5bpm) until you push heavy interval loads where longer lag times kick in. With discrepancies of up to 10bpm in normal ranges, the Samsung Gear Fit2 doesn’t hit that standard, and will certainly fall below par for some users. That said, all optical heart rate sensors are imperfect, and choosing a device requires honesty about how you will use that data.

Fitness tracking

Though there’s no altimeter, Samsung says the Fit2 can still detect when you walk up stairs. The other sensors packed inside include GPS, heart rate monitor, gyroscope, barometer and accelerometer.

Again, the GPS is completely built-in so you don’t have to carry your phone around during outdoor workouts. You can also see a map of your running or biking route (along with running pace) all displayed on the screen.

As mentioned, Gear Fit2 can auto-detect workouts, or you can manually choose one. After you select a type of workout, you can pick a goal for that workout. The goals vary but examples include target pace, duration, distance or calories – and even choose to have no goal at all. The Fit2 can even read you status updates to your connected headphones at a various intervals.

Certain activities like lunges and crunches also had instructions that the Gear Fit2 displayed on screen, similar to Fitbit Blaze’s fitness app.

The Fit2’s auto-tracking was fairly accurate and it was able to calculate when I started walking at a ‘good pace’ until the time I stopped. Walking around my neighbourhood and walking hurriedly to appointments at E3 would trigger the Fit2. It would vibrate, tell me I was keeping up the pace and showed a timer that had started tracking several minutes before which assured me it was logging everything accordingly.

When you manually start your workout, the Fit2 gives a 3-second countdown before the timer begins. As mentioned, for my runs the Fit2 is able to track my GPS location, the distance, calories burned, pace, run speed and heart rate.

The Fit2 was able to automatically log three of my seven jogs without intervention. As an avid kayaker, I would have loved the chance to be able to track my rows along the California coast, but I was reluctant to do this given Samsung’s IP68 warning that the band is water-resistant but not rated for showers or swimming. As such, the rowing tracker is best used in a machine at your local gym rather than in a natural environment with water.

The Fit2’s fitness tracking performance may look impressive to enthusiasts looking to begin their New Year’s resolution of getting into shape, but if you’re already wearing a dedicated fitness watch, you may not be so easily swayed. Aesthetically, the difference between the two devices is like comparing a Kindle e-reader to a sleek tablet.

Samsung’s use of touch interface is hit or miss for fitness. The screen turns off to save battery when you’re not looking at the Fit2, and the display is supposed to turn back on when you hold your wrist up. During my jogs, I found this to be clunky. The screen didn’t turn on the majority of the time when I expected it to, and I ended up having to push one of the buttons on the side of the band to wake up the display.

Additionally, swiping through the touchscreen is cumbersome when you’re active and moving. The UI is fine if you’re stationary, but pushing a button to get your workout stats is far easier than having to precisely swipe on such a small surface. Half the time, I felt like if I wanted to do this much work with hitting a button to turn on the display and figuring out where to swipe, I might as well reach into my pocket and pull out my Galaxy S7 to check my workout on Samsung’s own S Health application.

GPS performance with the Fit2 is mixed. If I manually start the run tracker on the Fit2 from my house just as I am grabbing my keys before I open the door, it could take approximately 20 seconds for the device to locate me. The Fenix 3 was much faster at around three seconds, relying on both GPS and GLONASS for positioning. Driving to the county park from my house and starting the tracking from right outside my car, Fit2 was able to get a lock much quicker. In this case, it often took less than five seconds.

Features

You’ll find 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, all powered by Tizen through a Samsung-made 1GHz dual-core processor in the Gear Fit2. It’s a zippy little thing that can hold a decent amount of music. Tizen in this case, has become much better than its other forms. While simple, it’s still clean and straightforward. The interface is also vertical instead of horizontal making everything so much easier to read and use.

Swiping down takes you to a shortcut menu where you can adjust brightness, turn on ‘do not disturb’ and open the music player. It will also tell you whether you’re Bluetooth connected and what the battery level is.

Swiping right takes you to a notification screen where you can choose to read each one, clear it, or clear all. Swiping left brings up more shortcuts to various apps which can display more information if you tap on them. Like most smartwatches, covering the screen turns it off.

The Fit2 interface isn’t solely based on touch – there are two buttons on the right side with the top being a back button and bottom being the home button. The home button also opens up a list of the apps which you can scroll through by swiping up and down. While it’s pleasing to the eye and easy to scroll through, it’d be more useful if the most recent app popped up on top – it’s more of a smartwatch feature, but Samsung’s already gone halfway on that front, why not go a little further?

Aside from putting your own music onto the Gear Fit2, you can also use Spotify. You’ll have to download the app onto your phone and have it nearby to use it. From there, you can listen to the music through Bluetooth headphones, skip songs, shuffle, repeat, save songs, search for workout music, access playlists by albums or artists and select recently played. You can actually do quite a lot which makes me feel more forgiving about the fact that my phone still needs to be on me. When connected to my Amazon Alexa through my phone, I’m also able to control it with the Gear Fit2 which is handy.

Notifications and apps

Notifications include text, calls, email, apps and calendar. Double tapping on notifications changes the font and makes them bigger to read, while double tapping again shrinks the font. Similar to most smartwatches and the Band 2, you can also send pre-written quick replies and emoticons to anyone who calls or messages you – with a slight caveat.

Only the native Samsung messenger app and Facebook Messages allow actions. Other apps, like Instagram and Messenger for SMS texting, only let you open the notification on your phone to reply there. There’s also no microphone to send your own clipped messages.

The app for the Fit2 is as bare-bones as you can get however it does come with S Health. If you’ve used any other Samsung wearable, you’ll get the gist of it. Your steps, sleep and more are kept in once place so you can access whatever you want. Then there’s the Gear manager app which holds the key to watch faces, specific apps and settings for the Fit2.

It would be more useful if everything was accessible from one place but alas, keeping health and settings separate seems to be the way of most trackers.

In terms of other apps for the Gear Fit2 outside of its main ones? There aren’t many – yet. During the first week of the review process, there weren’t any watch faces or apps out, and now there seem to be 100 new faces and eight apps. A little meager, but it’s still a new device.

Battery and compatibility

According to Samsung, the Gear Fit2’s 200 mAh battery should last up to three to four days, or five if you’re generous with usage. My time spent using the Fit2 involved a screen brightness of six, receiving and sending text messages, getting calendar, call, app and social notifications plus using it during exercise. With all that running, the Fit2 only lasted two days at most.

Typically, I don’t have all my notifications on since I prefer to ignore Facebook, Twitter and Instagram plus I only have Slack on during work hours. I think by toning down the notifications, I could get two and half or three days – but that’s an experiment for another time.

Charging requires about an hour or so depending on how dead the Gear Fit2 is. It comes with a proprietary USB cradle that can sit on your nightstand or desk.

Gear Fit2 isn’t the mess Gear S was in terms of compatibility, yet it’s still sorely lacking since it will only work with handsets running Android 4.4 and above. Most Android Wear devices have limited capabilities with iOS but nonetheless, it is still an available option. I’m hoping round three will let Apple users enjoy Samsung’s devices too.

(wareable.com, http://goo.gl/KFmhuJ)

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