Nobody liked the last Samsung Galaxy Gear. Nobody. Don't tell me you did. You're lying. The silver lining of the storm cloud that was the original Gear was the ability to improve on the design and make it something people might actually want to buy. Enter the Gear 2.
The Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo as they're now known (they can't be called 'Galaxy' products anymore because that name is reserved for devices running Android), is thinner, lighter, smarter and more practical than the original Samsung "smart" watch. It's worth noting straight up that you won't notice the difference between Tizen and Android on this device, but you might in future.
The new Gear 2 is packing the same (320×320) 1.63-inch Super-AMOLED screen as its predecessor, but this time it’s packing a beefed up, dual core- processor at 1GHz, making it faster and more fluid to use. There’s also 512MB of RAM, 4GB of on-board storage and a 300mAh battery which Samsung promises will provide around two to three days of normal usage, or even up to six with “low usage”.
The internals aren't much different from before, but the exterior is different in all the best ways, and it's immediately apparent when you slide it onto your wrist. Gone is the lumpy camera sticking out of the front of the device making you look like some sort of techno-perv. Now it's secreted into the top of the watch bezel. Much better. Watch faces are also interchangeable, so if that bright sports orange colour gets a bit too garish for you one day, you can switch it out for something equally as bright and beautiful.
Samsung has also shrunk the watch face to make it thinner, slimmer and less chunky on your wrist. You won't feel as much like one of the Power Rangers wearing this one. A lock/home button has also been added at the base of the device, which is going to help so many people understand how to use the damn thing outside of peculiar gestures.
Samsung seems to have finally figured out with its newest wearables that people are going to see them all the time, which means they can't afford to be bulky and ugly. Samsung is subsequently teaming up with London fashion designers to continue to bring out new styles of strap to delight users. I'm personally looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
The other curious feature is how Samsung is designing the Gear to be a completely separate device. The original Galaxy Gear was sold as Gear + Note 3, indicating the Gear wouldn't work without the phone.
Samsung knows that people don't want to do stuff like go straight to the gym with a 5.8-inch phone, so it designed the Gear 2 to be a stand-alone device. More or less.
Now when you want to go to the gym, you can connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones to your Gear 2 and stream music from the internal 4GB storage drive. Handy.
Furthermore for the fitness buffs, Samsung is expanding the app ecosystem to include more fitness apps than ever.
It's also waterproof and dustproof under the IP67 standard, which means that you won't kill it by washing your hands too vigorously or being pushed into a pool.
The camera is back on the Gear 2, this time upgraded to a 2-megapixel camera with the odd ability to shoot photos at 1920×1080 with an auto-focus capability. The main difference between the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo is the camera: the latter doesn't have one. That's about where the differences stop. The camera is still decidedly average on the Gear 2, but as we couldn't view them on a larger screen, we're not about to pass a definitive judgment. Doing the maths, a 2-megapixel camera taking a 1080p-sized photograph is going to be comically bad, but as usual, we wait to be thrilled.
Overall, the Gear 2 gets an A for Effort. We won't know if this translates into an all-round better device until we do an extended review, but we're liking what we're seeing so far.
Luke Hopewell travelled to Mobile World Congress as a guest of Samsung.