Samsung Gear S Hands On: A Tiny Phone That’s Still Big On Your Wrist

Samsung Gear S Hands On: A Tiny Phone That’s Still Big On Your Wrist

Last week, Samsung announced the Gear S: A Tizen-powered, curved screen smartwatch with a data connection that can take calls all by itself. We just got to see it in person, and man that curved screen is cool, but the rest of it not so much.

The first thing to notice is obviously the 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED touchscreen. It looks great! Futuristic even. A bit like some of those iWatch bangle concepts that have been floating around. But pretty as it is, that curve won’t help you use the tiny screen for things like typing, because yes, you can text from this cellular watch. To that end the autocorrect on Samsung’s little watch keyboard is pretty aggressive, and it needs to be since it’s damn impossible to hit any one specific key. But even with the help of autocorrect and Swype-style typing, hammering out even a one sentence text message was daunting, and really raises the question of “Why would you ever want to type on a watch anyway?”

Behind that good-looking curved screen is a much clunkier body. It’s sort of awkwardly perched atop your wrist. I’ve seen a few beefier smartwatches in my day, but Samsung’s Gear S takes the cake for being the tallest; Its overall thickness makes it feel less like a watch and more like a wrist communicator. Fitting, considering this doodad has a data connection, a SIM card, a phone number, a microphone, and access to a whole Tizen-based app store.

Technically, it is a phone, and that’s impressive in it’s own weird way. But despite the fact that it has a phone number and can make it’s own calls, Samsung isn’t positioning the Gear S as a total phone replacement. Instead it’s more like a super beefed up Bluetooth smartwatch, with added bonuses of GPS, and the ability to get emails, texts, and all kinds of other notifications forwarded from your phone over 3G even if your phone is nowhere in sight. And naturally, that phone better be a Samsung product. Any other kind of phone won’t play nice with the Gear S.

Like the Gear 2, the Gear S’s band is completely replaceable, so the actual business part of the Gear S can just pop out and snap into a different (Gear S-specific) band. Samsung says it will have several options at launch. And to charge that little brain — inside or outside of the band — you’ll need the charging cradle attachment doodad that snaps on the bottom so you can charge.

The Gear S’s charger is particularly large, but for good reason: it actually has a small battery inside so it can charge the Gear S without having to be plugged in, making it easy to charge on the go. And considering the Gear S has a 300 mAh battery and a 3G connection, you are probably going to need it; the Gear S has the same size battery as the Gear Live, which averages a day of use without having a 3G radio drawing power. And Samsung’s Gear line has never been great when it comes to battery life.

There’s no word on price or availability for the Gear S, much less any specifics on the weirdness of needing to have a separate SIM and strange, tiny data plan for your watch.