It is almost September, which means it is time for companies to unveil their updated product lineups for the Holidays. We are already seeing several companies announcing new wearables they hope will be on the top of people’s wish lists. Today at IFA, Samsung debuted the new Gear S3, available in 2 flavors: Classic and Frontier. The S3 is the successor to last year’s Gear S2, Samsung’s marque smartwatch. Unlike the S and the S2, which couldn’t have been more different, the S3 continues along the path forged by the S2. Like it’s predecessor, the Tenzen based wearable features a completely round screen (no flat tire) surrounded by a rotating bezel. But that is about where the similarities end.
When you first look at the new Gear S3 Classic and Frontier, the first thing that strikes you is how big they are versus last year’s S2. Samsung’s wearables had a history of being fairly oversized. But when the S2 was announced last year, there was excitement around the fact that the company was offering a smartwatch measuring a more reasonable 40mm / 42mm. In what might feel like a step backwards, Samsung’s new Gear S3 measures in at a whopping 46mm. This is the same size as the large Moto 360 2 from last year, but even Motorola realized they needed to offer a smaller variant. 46mm is big and really only at home on people with large wrists or who love the look of oversized watches. It strikes us as odd that Samsung does not seem to have any plans to offer a smaller version of the S3, in fact the company will continue to offer the Gear S2 (it will receive an update to run the same software as the S3).
The increase in size probably has a lot to do with the giant new battery in the Gear S3. The new smartwatch boasts a 380mAh battery; this is a whopping 52% increase compared to last year’s version. Samsung claims the new battery will offer between 3 and 4 days of use between charges. While long battery life is great, it seems a shame to limit your audience by increasing the device’s size just to get an additional day of use.
Perhaps the larger battery is necessary though for the souped up internals. The Gear S3 is powered by a dual-core Exynos chip with 786MB of RAM and features 4GB of on-board storage. For 2016, Samsung has also added GPS (typically a very power hungry feature) and on the Frontier model, a LTE modem (also extremely battery intensive). The Frontier version also features a microphone and speaker for making phone calls. Both smartwatches are IP68 rated, which means dust proof and water resistant to 3m, and use Corning’s just announced Gorilla Glass SR+. Samsung has also added Samsung Pay support, including MST, to the wearables.
The software is also seeing an update. The new wearables will be able to automatically sense and track workouts. Also the usefulness of the rotating bezel is being expanded. You can now do things such as snooze an alarm or answer a phone call simply by moving the bezel. Similar to the upcoming update to Google’s Android Wear platform, the new version Samsung’s wearable platform will be able to use available wifi (or LTE) signals to do things such as stream music from Spotify without a phone being present. Finally, when the Gear S3 launches, Samsung will release a Gear mobile app for iOS, providing long promised compatibility with Apple’s iPhone.
Samsung has not announced when the Gear S3 smartwatch will go on sale or pricing. All the company is saying is that the wearables will be released before the end of the year.