Samsung is getting serious about style with the new Gear S3 Classic smartwatch, which was revealed alongside the more rugged S3 Frontier at IFA 2016.
Both watches are now on sale, with the price for both models set at $349.99.
The Gear S2 Classic was a clear favourite, so it’s no surprise to see Samsung following up with another premium wearable that emulates the feel of a classic watch while also packing in a raft of nifty features.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about Samsung’s sleek new Gear S3.
Samsung Gear S3: Design
The Classic Gear S3 has a minimalistic, analogue look with its stainless steel body and circular buttons next to the brushed metal rotating bezel. So like the Gear S2, this is one for the office and showing off in your business meetings.
With the S3 Classic you’re getting a 46mm steel case weighing 57g, which means it’s bigger than the S2’s 44mm case, and fairly big when put next to many of the other smartwatches out there.
The Frontier Gear S3 on the other hand, is aimed at fitness and ‘exploration’ fans, as Samsung puts it. The sportier S3 has a slightly larger, raised bezel (also rotating) with rectangular, textured buttons. It’s also heavier weighing in at 62g, in comparison to the Gear S3 Classic’s 57g body.
All the Gear S3’s are ruggedized and have been slapped with an IP68 water and dust resistant certification. Samsung says it has tested the models with military level standards ensuring that they’re durable and able to withstand very high and very low temperatures, shock, dust and extreme vibrations.
On the connectivity front, there’s differences too. The Classic comes with Bluetooth/Wi-Fi while the Frontier will offer up a Bluetooth or standalone LTE flavour, which comes in handy for some of the new features.
Samsung Gear S3: Screen
The Gear S3’s come with a 1.3-inch screen with a 46mm body which is a bump up from Gear S2’s 1.2-inches and 42mm body.
It’s still the same 360 x 360 super AMOLED always on screen, so is still one of the sharpest smartwatch screens in the business. The screen is also layered with Corning Gorilla SR+.
Samsung Gear S3: Straps
One thing you won’t be short of with the Gear S3 is strap options. It works with standard 22m watch straps if you don’t fancy living with Samsung’s ones.
Plus, artist and industrial designer Arik Levy has helped create some strap designs. He’s also produced a series of watch face designs to compliment the 15 faces already pre-loaded onto the watch.
Samsung Gear S3: Rotating bezel features
We’ve already mentioned how we are big fans of the rotating bezel on the Gear S2 and Samsung has decided to make it more useful. Now you can rotate the bezel to answer/reject phone calls, but what’s more interesting is that it’s now opening up the feature to third party app developers.
One of the first companies to jump on board is Nest, letting you rotate the bezel to control your Thermostat.
Samsung Gear S3: Fitness tracking
If there’s one thing these two watches are not short of, it’s sensors. There’s the usual suspects like an accelerometer, ambient light sensor and the same heart rate monitor as the Gear S2. On top of that you now get an altimeter, barometer and speedometer to track things like altitude and atmospheric pressure and sudden changes in the weather when you’re out exploring the great outdoors.
The big one though is built-in GPS (Glonass), giving the Gear S3 serious sports watch credentials. But that’s not all. It also unlocks a new SOS mode that uses location tracking to alert family, friends and emergency professionals when you’re in crisis.
Samsung is also essentially putting the Gear Fit2’s fitness features in new clothing here as well. Fit2 users will recognise Challenges, leaderboards and activity auto-recognition.
Samsung Gear S3: Tizen OS
In terms of software, Tizen continues to the run the show with the latest version of the Samsung built OS 9Tizen (2.3.2) on board. That’s powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor along with 758MB of RAM. With that latest version of Tizen comes a handful of new software features like the ability to write or draw on the display to respond to messages or create short reminders.
There’s also a big play to improve things on the app front, something we’ve been critical of in the past. Samsung says it has more than 10,000 apps now and that includes apps for the likes of BMW, Uber and Samsung Pay. There’s also official Spotify support letting you stream music sans smartphone (with the 3G model) as well as control playback, access your library and playlists.
Samsung Gear S3: Battery life
There’s a much larger battery sitting behind the larger screen. At 380mAh, the Gear S3 has certainly surpassed the S2’s 250mAh. That means you get about 3-4 days of usage with and without LTE, compared to the usual two days the majority of smartwatches can muster.
Samsung were unable to say what the battery life is like in GPS mode, but we have our doubts it can muster up the same sort of stamina as dedicated sports watches from the likes of Garmin and Polar. It still also supports wireless charging like its predecessor and a power saving mode that restricts.
Samsung Gear S3: Samsung Pay
Speaking of Samsung Pay, it’s now going to be supported on the Gear S3 after being trialled on the Gear S2. Using NFC and MST (magnetic secure transmission), you’ll be able to tap your watch against any card reader.Samsung emphasised that phones and even LTE aren’t needed which should be great news for joggers or people who’ve forgotten their mobile device at home.
Using a system of tokens – never your actual credit or debit card number – the Gear S3 stores information on the watch that you can access when paying. 10 transactions can be used before you must reconnect with your phone. To access Samsung Pay, you’ll need to type in a 4-digit password pin that you’ve created. Then it’s a matter of choosing which card you want to pay with. If you’re worried about the security, if the S3 is off the wrist, the payment system is locked.
Samsung Gear S3: Compatibility
It’s only compatible with Android phones though, not iOS despite the beta testing that’s already in place with the Gear S2. We asked a Samsung representative about the potential of iOS support for the Gear S3 and they told us the following:
“While the Gear S3 does not offer support for the iOS platform at this time, we continually evaluate ways to broaden the availability of our wearable devices to more consumers by providing them with a seamless, connected experience that improves their daily lives.” We think that means Samsung is focusing on getting it working on the Gear S2 before it moves onto the Gear S3.
Samsung Gear S3: Price and release date
Both the Classic and Frontier models are now available for purchase, with prices starting at $349.99 directly from Samsung, or from Best Buy, Macy‘s or Amazon.
If you’re worried that the Gear S3 still might be a bit too big for you, Samsung intends to keep selling the Gear S2 and S2 Classic, which will be available for less than new Samsung smartwatch. Last year’s watches will inherit some of the software features introduced on the Gear S3, but none that relate to the new sensors.