Introduction and design
The Gear 2 Neo is an odd device – not because it’s a smartwatch, and not because it arrives less than six months after its predecessor, but because it’s a slimmed down version of the main Gear device.
I’d have imagined Samsung would launch the Gear 2 Neo separately after the fanfare of the main Gear 2 – clad as it was in metal, complete with camera – had died down so it didn’t steal the limelight.
As it was, the two launched together (along with the impressive Gear Fit) and it was the Gear 2 Neo, not the main version that piqued my interest.
I liked the theory behind the Galaxy Gear. Smartwatches are cool to the technology lover, if impractical, and the Gear began to scratch that itch.
I liked notifications on my wrist, but not to the point of wanting to pay hundreds for something that could roughly last a day on a single charge, needed a massive dock to get power and wouldn’t let you change the strap.
And I don’t see why a watch needs a camera. Ever.
So along popped the Gear 2 Neo – shorn of camera, lighter and cheaper than both the Galaxy Gear and Gear 2. It also comes with the new Tizen-based platform, so you’ve got better battery life and identical performance compared to the original.
Everything has been booted into the main face of the watch so the straps can now be changed, and new toys have been added in the shape of a heart rate monitor and an infra-red blaster to control the TV.
You will need a compatible Samsung device in order to use the Gear 2 Neo, of which there are currently 18, including the new Galaxy S5.
The fitness abilities of the Gear 2 Neo are the ‘big thing’ for Samsung this time around. The first Gear didn’t really have a point beyond just being able to tell you when you’ve got a message and how many steps you’ve taken, so now you can go running, hiking or cycling and have your heart rate monitored the whole time.
The latter feature is probably the most impressive: taking the same size as before and adding in an optical sensor that shoots light under your skin and sees your pulse.
The battery life is improved massively, the Gear 2 Neo can splash around in water and dust thanks to being IP67 rated and comes in a range of nicer colours (orange, brown and black) and is generally a much better device.
It’s also a darn-sight cheaper than the original Galaxy Gear and the Gear 2 as well: the Gear 2 is on shelves for a palatable £180 ($199 or about AU$220) which is a much more attainable figure for the prospective smartwatch buyer.
It’s still a hefty chunk of cash for something that doesn’t do a huge amount more than extending your smartphone screen to your wrist, but as a watch and a wearable it’s a decent choice.
The Samsung Gear 2 didn’t deviate a huge amount from the first iteration, coming in at 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm, and weighing 68g. The Gear 2 Neo clocks in at 37.9 x 58.8 x 10.0mm, but is 20% lighter at 55g, which will make a fairly big difference.
That loss of weight is marked. On the wrist it feels a lot less obtrusive than the ‘full’ Gear 2, and while it’s made out of plastic instead of metal, it doesn’t feel like that much of a compromise.
The look is perhaps a little less premium, but it’s nothing too bad and well worth it to have the more comfortable experience.
While it’s managed to bring in some key specs and improve the design somewhat, the Gear 2 is still a rather expensive smartwatch, coming in at £250 ($295, AU$350). That’s close to the cost the original came out for, and it suffered thanks to that price tag.
The Gear 2 Neo takes a lot of design heritage from the rest of the Gear range, but now the fact the strap is now a separate piece to the main body of the watch has forced Samsung to refine the design of things, leading to a sleeker device.
One of the best bits of the reshaped Gear 2 Neo is the moved home button now on the front of the phone rather than being a small plastic protrusion on the side of the watch.
This is important if you’ve got even a modicum of arm hair, as tapping the button would usually lead to pulling out a few stray follicles, meaning you’re left with a Pavlovian hate of using your expensive new watch.
With the flush plastic button on the front, with a pleasant amount of travel, the experience is the same as far as the UI goes (long press to turn off or activate outdoor mode) and you can assign many options to the double tap action.
This means it’s easy to access elements like notifications with the Gear 2 Neo in sleep mode, and is a swift action too.
The Sony Smartwatch 2 and the Pebble Steel are both better devices in terms of size, but Samsung’s mixture of industrial design and more refined elements (like the IR blaster integration) still brings an element of premium quality to proceedings.
The screen, a 1.63-inch OLED affair, is excellent too. It’s not great if you’re trying to do anything with high res images, such as pictures or similar, but if you’ve inexplicably made the effort to send pictures over to your watch.
The contrast ratio of the OLED screen means if you’re doing something like timing your food, checking out how many steps you’ve taken or just flicking through music, looks really nice and is a pleasant experience on something you’ve spent so much money on.
I prefer the design of the Gear 2 in terms of aesthetics, as it’s got a really premium look thanks to the metal. However, if I had to choose between the two devices, the Gear 2 Neo would get my nod simply because it hardly looks ugly in comparison, and loses the weight to make it a more comfortable device.
Being able to change the straps will be a real boon to some users, but I quite like the straps that match. Samsung has created a much more refined device in both the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, and as such I think it’s inching closer to nailing what the smartwatch should be.
Key features and battery life
As I mentioned in the introduction, the main thing that a smartwatch needs, above specs and a good look, is something that actually makes it worth buying.
No matter the cost it’s going to take a lot to make someone to part with cash for a smartwatch if it ends being a fancy bracelet, so Samsung needs to come up with the goods and create something that does more than show you your texts on a wrist.
The IR (infra red) blaster sits proudly on the Gear 2 Neo above the display, where the camera usually is on the Gear 2 Neo. It’s more overt as a result, but adds some nice symmetry to proceedings with the home button below.
The premise is simple: set up your TV or set top box on the remote app, a few tests to make sure the brand is recognised and functioning properly, and you’re able to control the basics from your watch.
It’s a very intuitive system, and one that harks back to the days when that kid in school was lucky enough to get the remote control watch.
The Gear 2 Neo, just like the Gear 2, is that to the magnitude of awesome (this is the 11-year-old me talking here) as you’ve instantly got a wealth of brands ready to use – I tried both mainstream and lesser-known manufacturers and they all worked first time, which was impressive.
The range of the blaster is the same as the Gear 2, allowing me to control a TV from 15 feet away without much of a problem (although I did have to point the watch a little towards the screen) which is more than powerful enough. And you’ll never have to wonder if the batteries are going in this remote.
The functionality is a little limited – for instance, I was asked to test the menu button as part of the setup, but no such option was present on the actual remote – but if you just want to change channel and the volume, which most of us do, it’s pretty nifty.
The angle of pressing it isn’t the most natural, having to curve one’s arm to operate, but it’s hardly the worst thing in the world.
The Samsung Gear 2 Neo comes with a similar internal storage capacity to the original Gear, offering 4GB to play with. Simply clip on the less obtrusive charging dock and you’ll be able to connect up the Gear to a computer for dragging and dropping files across.
You can send the music over through the Gear Manager as well – it’s annoyingly buried in the Notifications menu as an option, but it’s a neat way of doing things rather than always having to connect up to a laptop.
The music player itself is attractive and simple: you can shuttle through songs with a tap or swipe, and if you’ve got album art attached it will show behind the interface – a nice touch when screen estate is limited.
The volume controls are a nuisance, as you have to tap a tiny icon (a common theme here) and then tap a couple of small zones to make the Gear 2 play music louder or more softly.
It’s also possible to do the same thing by double tapping on the screen with two fingers, which calls up the control centre of the Gear 2 Neo, but again it’s not easy.
As you might imagine the music is pumped out using Bluetooth connectivity, and it works very well, even with two connections running at the same time (the other being the phone). It would be nice to control the Gear music from the phone as well, but that’s getting picky.
One other note: when listening to tunes a small music icon appears on the home screen of the Gear 2 Neo, which takes you straight to the app.
It would be nice to have this for other apps as well, such as the exercise or WatchOn remote, as there were multiple times when I was exasperatedly searching through the app menu to find them.
But it’s a strong music player, and Samsung has used its music chops to good effect here.
Samsung is going all out with the battery life on the Gear 2 Neo, stating that (like the Gear 2) the innards are now capable of supporting 2-3 days’ use in general terms, but if you only use the thing for the occasionally checking the time you’ll manage up to six.
I’m guessing the latter is only if you’re not connected to the phone, as unless you do NOTHING with the Gear 2 Neo will you approach that long, but there’s definitely a huge improvement in battery life from before.
The first Galaxy Gear could run for around a day and a half at maximum, which was oddly longer than Samsung stated. And that’s kind of the case here, with three days easily possible with general use on this smartwatch.
That basically means getting notifications and playing around a little bit with the exercise and pedometer functions – but if you start getting snap-happy and listening to Bluetooth-streamed music then things start to get a little dicey on the battery.
The battery drain was almost identical to that on the Gear 2 – slightly longer in that when I used the camera it sucked down more juice, but given I never did that more than I had to, it didn’t really factor in.
The music player was again the main battery dropper, around 5% of the battery life in 30 mins of music, which means you’ll want to keep the charger handy if you’re listening to tunes at your desk from the Neo.
Without being able to run the usual battery of run down tests it’s hard to give an exact number for how long it takes to exhaust the power unit, but anecdotally (for now – we’re working on a better way to empirically test the smartwatch) you can definitely get over two days’ use from the Gear 2 Neo.
Whether that’s enough is subjective – unless I don’t need the charger for a week, in the same way as the Pebble, I don’t really find it that helpful, but others probably will.
With the Gear 2 Neo, like the Gear 2, the clear step forward is fitness – namely, the ability to track your daily steps (something we saw in the first version) and actually add in exercise as well.
I used it primarily as a running model – I’m not even sure HOW to hike, let along go out on a dedicated ramble – and I did find there were some advantages to the running watches I’m used to testing.
For one, without GPS it’s a lot faster to get going. The heart rate monitor, which I’m about to come onto, is the only thing that takes any time, asking you to stay still and quiet before beginning your run.
The pedometer seems pretty accurate at working out your stride rate, but only at slowing down and speeding up constantly. However, combined with the heart rate monitor (and knowing all my vital information, such as height, weight and workout frequency) it still struggled to adequately work out how many calories had been burnt in a specific session.
And like any running watch that’s shorn of GPS it’s not going to be anywhere near as accurate as one that can follow where you’re going – and that’s the case with the Gear 2 Neo.
It’s really inaccurate compared to that GPS tracking, and also with a peer: I tested the Gear 2 Neo with the Gear 2 and Adidas’ SmartRun watch, which packs satellite location tracking.
The Gear 2 Neo and Gear 2 offered a 100 step difference, couldn’t agree on the average speed and said I’d travelled 7.85km and 8.02km respectively on an 8.6km run.
It’s hard to estimate how far off it is in terms of a percentage, as even GPS has variations for trees and buildings, but if you’re a serious runner then this definitely isn’t the watch for you – but then again, you probably knew that.
The only issue is that if you’re a novice fitness enthusiast, which is the market this is aiming for, then you need to have confidence in the gamification.
But the pedometer isn’t accurate, your stride rate and speed isn’t correct and while the heart rate monitor is accurate compared to other such optical sensors, it’s just not robust enough as a package for anyone that’s thinking of moving to this integrated watch from a dedicated running platform.
At least it’s consistent in its inaccuracy, so you’ll probably be able to see the improvement you need, but it’s infuriating that Samsung can’t get this right.
What’s more irritating is that the cycling and hiking sections do use GPS from the phone to give info. I understand Samsung’s thinking, that people would rather not have a phone on them when sprinting around, but the option would be great.
I’ve asked time and again for those brands with a watch and an app to allow them to run as a second screen, and Samsung clearly can do this, but with running refuses to allow it.
Cycling seems to have been smoothed out since the debacle on the Gear 2 test – while it still showed insane top speeds of 50MPH at times, the overall assessment showed more realistic feedback and added itself well into the S Health program on the main smartphone.
An update brought in Coaching for running, which adds in something utterly perplexing: a Training Effect, shown as TE. You’re asked to run to a certain speed, which will lead to a score. 1.9 is easy, 2.5 is moderate, 3.5 is improving.
There’s nothing above that, and anyone that’s completed a 5k run without stopping will find that level far too low. I get that some people will find that a challenge, but given the Gear 2 can offer a TE of over 5 quite easily it’s annoying you can’t get coaching to get you there.
There’s also still a glitch in the fitness matrix with the syncing between the Gear 2 Neo and the Galaxy device you’ll need to operate it properly. If you’ve done an exercise session, or just thrown your step count throughout the day to your phone, it won’t register the steps properly.
It will take the exercise and log it, but you’ll be left with too few steps even though you’ll probably have taken enough. It’s frustrating, especially given you’re most disposed to keep trying such a thing when you first get your hands on a step tracker.
The fitness experience is rather limited too: sure, it can tell you how far you’ve gone, and give you feedback through the connected Bluetooth headphones (a nice touch) but it doesn’t pack any dedicated exercise plans.
This means you’ll be idly running and guessing at how far and fast you should be doing each day. It’s not ideal, simply because I’d have expected to be given some structure to get fitter, such is Samsung’s efforts to improve in this area.
The post-run feedback is minimal too, compared to wealth of data the likes of Endomondo or Runkeeper will offer. I can’t wait for these to become more integrated with the Gear 2 Neo as they are with Sony’s Smartwatch 2 or Pebble.
Then again, it does open up a world of data that wasn’t there before, and the South Korean brand told me that it would be working harder with the likes of Endomondo to deliver a dedicated fitness experience on the Gear 2 Neo and its smart brethren.
On top of that other app developers can get their hands on the functionality as well, meaning there’s every chance this will improve in the future.
So I’ll give the fitness ability of the cut-down Gear a cautious thumbs up, as it does open things up for more people in terms of getting off the sofa and onto the streets – but it needs a huge amount of refinement.
Heart rate monitor
The heart rate monitor on the Gear 2 Neo is a simple, but cool, affair, and one that follows a growing trend in wearable devices at the moment. You’ll see on the back a small LED opening, and that emits a cool light that penetrates the skin and finds your pulse.
It’s all the more impressive when you consider that the wrist is one of the ‘busier’ parts of the body, so finding any kind of pulse there is a good result. It’s the same thing seen on the Galaxy S5, under the camera, but is more reliable than the sensor on the smartphone, which often won’t register a pulse.
The outcome isn’t as accurate as I’ve seen on other devices, but we’re talking a few BPM here and there. It’s certainly nothing to worry about if you’re just trying to see how much fitter you’re getting, as it will show the rough improvement, and if you’re looking for more granular data there are plenty of dedicated fitness wearables out there to do the same thing.
Interface and performance
The interface of the Samsung Gear 2 Neo is a tricky thing to design, I reckon. You’ve got a 1.63-inch screen to play with, and limited buttons – so how do you make it intuitive?
Well, no brand has quite found the solution yet, but Samsung has made a decent fist of it. I won’t be happy until I don’t have to make it painfully obvious that I’m using a smartwatch by cradling my arm around to get a level surface to swipe on, but that will hopefully come as the platform develops.
The main method of interaction is simple: swipe left and right, and down to get back to the menu above. Depending on where you are in the watch this can be easier said than done, as often I’d find that I was tapping the wrong area if I wasn’t deliberate enough in my swipes.
But generally it worked really well, and the materials used in the glass on the Gear 2 make it a pleasant experience to swipe upon.
A double tap with two fingers on the screen will show you the battery life and connection settings, but that’s not obvious from the outset – it’s only because I remembered the action from the Galaxy Gear that I found it.
While I’m giddy with excitement the Neo loses the camera, I do miss being able to swipe down from the top of the screen to start the snapper. This action is now redundant, and should be used for something.
I still think there’s a lot more to do when it comes to making the Gear 2 Neo a more intuitive device for getting through the system – I quickly lost count of the times that I had forgotten which screen I had left the exercise app, or pedometer, or music player and needed to get to them quickly, meaning I was left swiping through reams of apps.
The annoying thing is most of these are repeated in the actual Apps icon, leading to an identical layout and menu that features more apps and doesn’t have a homescreen.
What happened to the larger icons of before? Or just two per screen? This worked better in my opinion, rather than these tiny 4-icon grids. Samsung clearly realised this was needed as you can now pinch to zoom in from the homescreens to increase the size, or do this in the settings menu, but that’s not clear from the outset.
You can customise the order of the apps and screens on the Gear 2 more easily than before through long-pressing, but in reality it’s a droning list of the same white icons – Samsung needs to find a smarter way of delving through and finding the apps you want.
One way of doing this is using the clock with the shortcuts underneath, which you can customise as you see fit. This is a neat way of doing it (providing you’re not enamoured with one of the other cool themes for the clock face) and the range of stuff you can have there means you can have the shortcuts you need quickly.
Samsung’s been a little more clever with this iteration of the Gear range too, as the ‘lift to wake’ option, where you simply raise your arm with the same action you might to check the time on a standard wristwatch and the screen will fire up.
There will be times when this doesn’t work straight away, leading to a more pronounced wrist-raise to activate the screen (when it would have been easier to press the home button to wake it from sleep) but hey, it’s all part of the game.
It didn’t turn on as much in the cinema as the original Gear did, but it wasn’t bulletproof. And with the ability to customise the wallpaper the screen is a LOT brighter when it activates now, and will annoy fellow darkness-dwellers.
Samsung would do well to have a quick toggle to deactivate this mode: it’s one of the most useful actions on the watch in day to day life, but there are times when you want it turned off for a short period – it’s the same as having a ringtone switched on, so why not offer the option?
The screen brightness on the Gear 2 Neo is excellent as well – even in bright sunlight, it’s perfectly visible, and once again I salute Samsung’s efforts into making OLED a credible alternative to LCD in these places.
You can even long-press the power button and tap the display into Outdoor Mode, which will raise the brightness to a legible level (ranging from 1-6, but only for five minutes before it drops to 4 to make sure you don’t blitz the battery.
Notifications on the watch are obviously one of the most important things on offer here, meaning you can get information when you receive a text, a call or a calendat reminder.
On top of that you can access other third party notifications, so if it appears in the notification bar of your phone you can see it on the watch.
The excellent part of this is that, if enabled, you can make it so that tapping the notification then picking up the phone will activate whatever app automatically. So be it seeing a picture message, going straight into eBay to stop that sonofagun outbidding you or opening up Real Racing 3, it’s a fluid and simple way of doing things.
One thing that irritates the life out of me on the Gear 2 Neo is the notifications app. You head in there, and a small bar at the top shows that you can unmark or delete the notifications.
However, just as you’re about to tap, it disappears and the list moves up, so I often tapped the wrong area, and when you learn it, and have to wait, it doesn’t make things easier.
The call quality is better though, should you want to take a call on your watch. You don’t seem to need to hold it as close to your face, compared to the first Gear, which means when driving you can continue a call much more easily.
Plus you don’t have to pretend you’re holding a phone to your ear to make sure you can hear what they’re saying too.
The overall speed of the Gear 2 Neo is good too, with very little in the way of slowdown. I can’t run the same benchmarks I usually do, but it’s got a dual-core 1GHz Exynos CPU and can run both very efficiently, thanks to the Tizen OS under the hood.
There’s a little lag between transitions, but it’s mostly stable so I can easily live with that.
One odd point with the Gear 2 Neo: there’s a gallery app still installed when it’s not needed. You can’t even push pictures directly from the phone to the smartwatch, so unless you connect the Neo to the PC and drop files directly over, you can’t see anything in there.
Come on Samsung: let’s save some internal space.
The Gear Manager is one of the most important parts of the Samsung Gear 2 Neo, bringing with it the most functionality that you’ll need to keep your watch ticking over.
It’s much improved on the Galaxy S5 compared to the first iteration of the software from 2013, although oddly if you do connect a Galaxy Gear the app will revert to the older version.
This is likely to do with needing to work with two different watch operating systems (Android vs the newer Tizen) and explains why the Gear Fit can’t be controlled by this app as well.
It’s all very clear and bright now, rather than the darker theme from before, and allows you to do a great many things with your watch. One of the best things is being able to take a picture from your gallery and have it show as the wallpaper on the Gear 2 Neo, which adds a real level of customisability.
The other key area is being able to decide which notifications can be shown on the Gear 2 Neo – one of the most crucial updates to the original Gear.
This means that rather than the apps Samsung decides you can see information on, you can choose to have anything that would show in the notifications bar on your phone display on the watch.
So if you’re one of those that needs to know when something has completed building on a game you’re playing, or a video has downloaded, these notifications come through to the wrist.
And if you tag Smart Relay when you open the info and then pick up your phone, it will unlock and launch straight into the app. It’s a really neat trick and one that shows Samsung is thinking about its audience here.
It’s a slow process though and could be sped up – I need it to happen in under two seconds, not five. I could unlock the phone and navigate there quicker than that.
The Gear Manager app also makes it easier to back up your watch to the phone, which turns out is a really pivotal feature. The smaller file that commands the Gear 2 Neo to look just like you’re used to was something I used constantly as whenever I restarted the Galaxy S5 I had to factory reset the watch.
This only happens if you have more than one device in the connections list though – it’s not going to affect 99% of users unless they’ve bought a Neo for fun time and a Gear 2 for fancy parties.
The Gear Manager in general is a strong piece of software, as long as you spend the time getting to grips with it. It’s not intuitive.
For instance, it took me a long time of just generally tapping everything I could find to note that in the Apps section, you can tag a settings icon next to music to send tunes to the watch. That seems like a pretty big function, so why is it so hidden away?
Similarly I had to open the General Notifications tab to find all the third party app alerts I could have – if I didn’t know it was there already there was a chance I never would have found it.
Samsung can feel proud of making a portal that’s great for controlling a device with such a small screen, and it was pivotal that it did.
However, I feel that it could be improved in terms of stability as well as general use, as it’s a little too convoluted right now.
There’s not a lot out there in terms of the smartwatch market, which is why Samsung is putting so much effort into becoming a leader before Apple joins the fray.
But can the higher price stand up to the competition, however limited it might be?
I’ve not included the likes of the Neptune smartwatch, as it’s not widely available enough at the time of writing. The Pebble Steel is in the same boat, but it’s a little more accessible and is one of the more famous of the wrist technologies.
Sony Smartwatch 2
Sony probably grunts grumpily whenever it’s mentioned in the same breath as Samsung in the smartwatch arena as it’s been playing here for a long time.
Whether you consider the MBW 200 as its first true smartwatch, allowing you to see notifications from your phone via Bluetooth through a tiny OLED screen, or the LiveView device which promised so much and delivered so little, there’s no doubt the brand has been active for a number of years with wrist-based wearables.
When comparing the Gear 2 Neo with the Smartwatch 2, a few obvious differences stand out, and one of the biggest is the fact that Sony’s option is compatible with a wider range of Android devices, compared to Samsung which has limited the Gear to its own family.
The Sony option has a longer-lasting battery of around 4 days, although doesn’t pack the same Bluetooth LE standard as seen on the Gear range – however, this does allow an even wider range of connectivity with phones running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and above.
It’s a thinner device too, at 42 x 41 x 9mm, and its styling are on a par with those seen on the Gear 2 – it’s almost got a designer label look about it. It’s also a nearly 40% cheaper than the Gear 2, making it an attractive choice.
The Pebble range might be a little under the radar for some prospective buyers, but it’s garnering some decent attention among the wearables community.
A project that began as a Kickstarter campaign has now led to two iterations of the cheaper smartwatch, and while it’s only available to buy in US dollars ($229, although it can be shipped worldwide) the Pebble Steel is a really neat device.
It’s compatible with both iOS and Android, has a metal frame and interchangeable bands and uses an LCD display without a backlight to give a week’s use on one charge (it does pack a backlight too when you need it, making it more akin to E-ink than the LCD you’d find in your TV).
It too it waterproof and offers all the usual elements you’d associate with a smartwatch in terms of notifications. It’s a lot less polished than those from Sony and Samsung, but it’s also got a really vibrant developer community playing with it.
You can have a Super Mario character that hits a coin box to let you know the time. Tell me that’s not awesome.
Samsung Gear 2
The Samsung Gear 2 is the premium version of the Gear 2 Neo, and as such features a little more heft and high-end materials.
The main difference comes in the design: the Gear 2 is mostly metal on the face, where the Gear 2 Neo is constructed using plastic – albeit fairly robust stuff.
Size wise it’s almost identical, with coming in at 36.9 x 58.4x 10.0 mm, and weightng 68g. The Gear 2 Neo is much more impressive in terms of weight, with dimensions of 37.9 x 58.8 x 10.0mm, but is 20% lighter at 55g.
The price of the Gear 2 is around 35% greater than the Neo as well, so you’ll need to really want that metallic effect and a camera too to warrant spending the extra cash.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
There’s not a lot of reason to consider the original Galaxy Gear over the newer version, seeing as it’s still actually more expensive in some places and likely to be phased out.
It does have some unique styling thanks to the faux screws on the front, and the display is identical to the newer model, but it’s light years behind in terms of functionality.
The wallpaper can’t be changed, the band is locked in and the battery life is considerably poorer. In short, don’t get it over the Gear 2 or Gear 2 Neo – unless you’re desperate to own a piece of Samsung history.
The Samsung Gear 2 Neo is an interesting smartwatch, not least because it’s actually rather impressive. It achieves this, bizarrely, by shedding bits from the more premium model and then hits that all-important price point.
The switch to Tizen is a natural one when you think about it: before Android Wear came around, there was a lot of hackery needed from Samsung’s engineers to make the Google platform applicable to wearables, something I bet has informed the move to Wear.
Why not use its own work with Tizen to make an identical OS for its Gear range, but with the key difference of being more powerful with longer battery life? It’s a no-brainer for me.
Early adopters are being punished, but if what Samsung told me comes true (that Tizen is coming to the older Gear) then they shouldn’t feel too hard done by, especially if battery life increases.
The design of the Gear 2 Neo is more understated and arguable less premium than the metallic Gear 2, but I don’t feel that it really suffers too much, and the lower weight makes it more palatable to cart around on the wrist.
The loss of the camera is a good thing in my eyes, as it’s just wasted space. If you’re going to put bonkers things on there, where’s the laser? It’s about as useful.
The battery life is much improved, and while three days is still too short in my opinion, there are definite strides being made here too.
New watch straps that you can add in yourself? Yes please. Another tick from me, Samsung.
The remote control app needs some work in terms of actual use, but its presence is nice here still. Being able to pause DVD players as well would be good, but just being able to control volume is cool.
There’s actually very little I disliked about the Gear 2 Neo – the interface is still clunky and hard to use from the wrist, but that’s a solution no watch manufacturer has come close to solving.
Actually, that hits on the real ‘negative’ with the Gear 2 Neo that, like all its wrist-based compatriots, there’s very little point in it still. Yes, notifications on your wrist is cool, but for hundreds of pounds or dollars it’s hard to justify still.
Samsung has made the Gear 2 Neo much better value for money by lowering the cost and adding in the ability to track fitness – sadly, not well enough, but it’s the right move.
The running capability is basic thanks to being stride-based, and the constant confusion over how many steps I’ve taken – along with having to constantly manually start the pedometer – makes it a hard to sell the watch based on this capability.
The Gear 2 Neo is a step forward for Samsung, and one that’s very much in the right direction. It’s the best smartwatch on the market right now, no question, perhaps only challenged by the Pebble Steel.
It lacks the longevity of the Pebble, and needs more developers on board still to be a truly decent option, but there’s a lot going on here to like.
I’m looking forward to an improvement in the fitness abilities, perhaps not with this model but subsequent upgrades from Samsung. Given the speed with which the first Galaxy Gear was replaced, we’ll be on version five of the Gear by the end of 2014… probably.
The Gear 2 Neo is a long way from perfect, but whether it’s the high quality screen, heart rate monitor, water-resistant capabilities, infra-red remote or just the move of the home button, Samsung has put a lot of thought into how to make the first Gear better.
Some might baulk at the plastic finish, but the Gear 2 Neo looks the part and offers some real benefits if you’re willing to spend that much to supplement your Samsung smartphone or tablet.
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