Samsung’s wearable has never been more Fit
Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 has made hefty changes to its wearable line both inside and out and the result is an Android-friendly device that does a whole lot for your money.
- Refined look
- Broader compatibility
- Impressive value
- No iOS support
- Barometer issues
- Lacks alarm function
Update: In the market for a new fitness tracker? As you’ll soon read, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a fine choice for fitness newcomers and veterans alike. In fact, it’s a good enough option that we’ve added it at position number 2 in our list of best fitness trackers.
The first Samsung Gear Fit was a fitness tracker through and through, but with a tinge of smartwatch mixed in. Since its release in 2014, many similar options have jumped into the fray, including the Microsoft Band 2 and Fitbit Blaze.
And, in being one of the first to hit the scene, it actually got a lot right. The Super AMOLED display was (and still is) gorgeous, and its balance of fitness and smart functions helped to set a standard for devices to come down the line.
But for all that it accomplished, we were left wanting something with a little more substance. After all, when you make the promise of smart features, in come some mighty expectations and sometimes, the unfair comparisons to products out of its league.
After a two year break, we now have the Samsung Gear Fit 2. And while it might look like not whole lot has changed, Samsung has clearly learned from the last go-around. There are improvements at nearly every turn, and it all comes together as even better value in the process.
To rattle off a few examples, it works on any Android phone, so long as you have KitKat (4.4) or above. The previous version only tethered to Samsung-branded phones.
Next, it includes built-in GPS–a must for folks who want to leave their phones at home for a jog. The original Gear Fit offered little to no functionality when your phone wasn’t nearby.
All-in-all, the latest fitness tracker from Samsung is a positive step above the Gear Fit, even if the streamlined design won’t appeal to everyone.
For US$179, the Gear Fit 2 offers a lot, and for a similar price to many of its competitors. But is this the fitness band for you? To each their own, obviously, but this value-minded package raises the bar above many in its class for less.
Paramount to the Fit’s design ID is the curved touchscreen. Don’t worry, it didn’t go anywhere. It’s back with the Gear Fit 2, vibrant (and shiny) as ever, although slightly reshaped.
This rectangular display is now wider than before, offering more screen real estate for fitting in additional information. That means extra words in a notification, a more robust media player, and a full map of your run provided by the built-in GPS function, to name a few use cases that take advantage of it best.
The Super AMOLED touch-sensitive display found here is a bit smaller than before (1.5-inches down from 1.84-inches), but it boosts the pixel density up to 322ppi, which trounces the original’s 245ppi display.
The bezel surrounding the display has also seen a reworking to its benefit. It’s been reduced, giving the Gear Fit 2 a more edge-to-edge look. Unfortunately, this move cuts out the shiny visual elements of the original Gear Fit, if that was your thing.
In 2014, companies were only beginning to figure out how to make wearables less bulky and more into something that you’d actually want to wear in public. The Gear Fit was a step in the right direction, but still a ways off.
The Gear Fit 2 keeps the general aesthetic of the original (a good thing) and makes it better by mixing around some ingredients, both old and new, to make it easier to use and more capable, to boot.
The curved, rectangular screen is surrounded by frosted metal trim in the color of your choosing and backed with sweat and water resistant plastic where it touches your wrist.
You’ll find two buttons on the side of the Gear Fit 2 that point toward your hand. One is used to navigate back within a menu and the other is used to power the device on and off, as well as bring up the settings menu.
Additionally, the power button can be programmed to execute a task (out of an assortment of options) with a double-click. I set it to open the music player controls, a function that I couldn’t live without with the Microsoft Band 2.
Attached to the Gear Fit 2 itself is the silicone band which, like the casing, comes in a variety of colors. Each band is similar in that they are stamped with a slick, dotted design and ribbed on the inside for sustained comfort. If you’d like, you can purchase an additional band to switch the style up.
Though there is a pretty drastic shift in build materials used with the Gear Fit 2, it all comes together seamlessly in a visual sense. A little more eloquently than, say, the Microsoft Band 2.
Flipped over, the heart rate monitor comes into view. If you’re into the nitty gritty of how this particular wrist-based heart rate tracking works, it’s called photoplethysmography. Just like many other wearables, including the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band, the Gear Fit 2 uses infrared light blasters and green LEDs to track the rate of blood flow.
One of the biggest design improvements over the original Gear Fit is the way in which it charges. We hate carrying more cables around than is absolutely necessary, so the fact that Samsung’s 2014 wearable needed a proprietary connector was a bummer.
Now, the Gear Fit 2 can gulp down electricity through its charging dock. It’s still proprietary, but more forgiving because the dock allows you to rest it on any which way to get a charge. It takes zero effort to line up these pins and the screen activates in landscape mode to affirm that charging has begun.
If a wearable isn’t comfortable, there’s very little motivation to put up with wearing it. Thankfully, the Gear Fit 2 feels sublime.
The Gear Fit 2 fits onto your wrist in a similar “put the plug through the hole” manner to that of the original Gear Fit, but tacks on a strap loop to make sure things stay put during exercise.
The means of ensuring comfort here are nothing new or out of the ordinary, but the silicone band just feels good to the touch. And, this might sound gross, but each day that I slept, showered and eked sweat into the band, the less I noticed it on my wrist.
Samsung made a lot of improvements to the outside of the Gear Fit 2. So, it’s little surprise that its innards have received some love, too.
On the hardware side of things, the Gear Fit 2 is a step up in nearly every way. Much like the Microsoft Band 2 did to the original, Samsung’s latest makes its predecessor look bad.
It features the same dual-core Exynos 3250 clocked at 1.6GHz found in the Samsung Gear S2, way up from the custom M4 processor that ran at 160MHz.
In another slightly embarrassing comparison, the Gear Fit 2 spanks its again with 512MB RAM and 4GB of onboard storage for music and installing Samsung-made apps in the near future. The previous Gear Fit came with 8MB RAM and 16MB of ROM storage.
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 runs on Tizen, the company’s own pride and joy of an operating system. Again, like with the Gear S2, opting for its own OS doesn’t lead to more exclusivity in regards to the phones it can operate with, but less. As such, it works with any Android phone running KitKat or above. (Sorry, iPhone users. You’re still off the list.)
While Samsung has opened the party to a greater audience, you’ll need a few apps to get started. First off, the Samsung Gear app to setup and periodically update the Gear Fit 2 and another app, S Health to dig into your fitness metrics in more detail. And although setting things up is fairly simple, two apps required is one too many.
Much like the first Gear Fit, one of the Gear Fit 2’s marquee features is that it can funnel notifications in from your smartphone. But, as a fitness tracker, it obviously does much more than that, and doesn’t even need your smartphone to operate.
Right from the start, the Gear Fit 2 makes it clear that it’s totally cool if you don’t want to set it up with a smartphone. So, for a while, that’s exactly what I did.
As someone who doesn’t exactly have fitness hard-wired into their daily schedule (that’s putting it lightly), the Gear Fit 2 loved reminding me of how lazy I am. Aside from the customizable alerts to get up and move around, Samsung’s latest tracker also begins an “inactive timer” right on the home screen, which keeps track of the amount of time that you’ve been stationary.
Just as the Gear Fit 2 automatically tracks your lack of movement, it can detect unique movements and begin tracking your exercise of choice without any input. By utilizing its bundle of sensors, (which include a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope and barometer) this tracker can independently detect walking, running, lifting or some light yoga, to name a few.
Even without pairing the Gear Fit 2 to a smartphone, it’s able to offer a fairly intuitive and useful read-out of your daily fitness metrics. Calories, for an example, are broken down in a timeline format and illustrates the general intensity of your movements throughout the day. Some people, like myself, are pretty content with this top-level knowledge alone.
This fitness-centric adaptation of Tizen OS is made up of slides that are dedicated to different methods of fitness. Each one offers a compact, but surprisingly detailed glimpse into your recent progress.
Of course, once paired with an Android smartphone, the experience only grows from there. If you’ve installed Samsung Gear and S Health onto your compatible Android smartphone, the Gear Fit 2 will automatically feed it your fitness metrics.
Aside from the greater depth in detail, the biggest change you’ll encounter when it’s connected to a phone is the slew of notifications coming through. The Gear Fit 2 does a good job of displaying them and providing a dedicated space for them to live, which is just a right swipe away from the home page. And if they become too annoying, you can turn off the vibration effect that each one triggers.
Though most notifications are simply an FYI, you can take limited action on some of them. Gmail, for instance, allows you to delete, archive, or reply with a small list of basic responses.
As part of its notification services, the Gear Fit 2, of course, displays texts and even notifies you of a call coming through. You can tweak the text replies to better fit your character so that a quick text reply to a missed call actually seems like something you’d type and less robotic than the default options.
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has received a tech spec overhaul and as a result, it’s zippy, even when tracking an exercise and overloaded with notifications coming through. The general day-to-day experience was a pleasant one, which its comfort, the capabilities of its hardware and the Tizen OS each play a part in providing.
When you put “Fit” in the name of your product, people expect a certain pedigree of chops in fitness. The Gear Fit might have been competent for its time in 2014, but the fact that you couldn’t pause a workout and that accuracy was questionable are puzzling issues in hindsight.
First off, pausing a workout is done by simply tapping the back button. Problem solved.
In regards to accuracy, I strived to utilize each of its tracking functions to get a good sense of how well it was able to capture what I was actually doing. And the take away is a rather good one.
I felt confident at the end of each day that the Gear Fit 2 showed me the work that I put in. Tracking with the Microsoft Band 2 on my other wrist, the metrics mirrored each other nearly to a tee.
The only low point that I encountered was when the device would suddenly tell me that I had just climbed 10 flights of stairs, when in reality, I had only walked for five minutes straight to the subway. On another day out walking, it told me that I had shattered my previous record by a whopping 170 flights of stairs.
This is obviously problematic, but the Samsung rep affirmed that it’s simply an issue caused by showering with the Gear Fit 2. While the device is IP68, contact with water appears to heavily (although temporarily) screw with the barometer’s sense of altitude. It’s possible that a fix could be patched through, but for now, I’m going to leave it on the nightstand while I wash off.
The added GPS functionality is an awesome inclusion. Runners will love this, as will walkers, too. It’s mostly just for reference and comparing outings, though Samsung did build a Facebook share button to brag to your fitness homies.
Aside from the novelty of the function, the best part about the GPS is that you can take advantage of without bringing your phone along.
Lastly, I felt that the heart rate tracking was accurate enough, but if you’re training for a marathon or some other impressive feat, you’ll be better served with a Bluetooth-connected chest strap, which can be set up through Samsung’s S Health app.
Although iPhone users are still left on the sideline, Samsung has opened up its arms a bit to include space for the larger Android community. So long as you have Android 4.4 KitKat and sporting 1.5GB RAM, you’re good to go.
As mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Gear and S Health apps are necessary downloads if you want to get the most out of the Gear Fit 2.
The Gear app is used to sync, adjust settings and update the firmware of the Gear Fit 2. Aside from the required first boot to setup, it’s likely that many will never find a reason to open this app again.
That is, unless you want to take advantage of the 4GB of onboard storage. The Gear app’s most useful feature is offloading music onto the device, which you can listen to by connecting a pair of wireless headphones to. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to bring your phone along, or connect it in the first place at all, this feature is handy.
In addition to putting music files onto the Gear Fit 2, it also offers native Spotify integration. Compared to the basic music player, which is totally serviceable for my needs, the Spotify app can play playlists right from the wearable.
Next up, S Health. This is a fairly standard metrics tracking app that pulls in data from the Gear Fit 2 and builds trends to help guide you along your health-focused path. It most likely doesn’t support your favorite third-party app, but at least it’s compatible with Google Fit.
Aside from tracking, S Health also has challenges that you can trigger to compete with friends. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but any little bit of extra functionality you can squeeze out of this purchase, the better.
Battery life is, without a doubt, one of the biggest factors to consider when purchasing a fitness tracker. Products like the Withings Go and the Pebble Time have essentially aced the topic, providing eight months and 10 days, respectively.
But products like the Gear Fit 2 and other, more intensive wearables can’t put up such numbers. By comparison, Samsung’s latest, with its GPS functionality and slick Super AMOLED display, you’ll be lucky to squeeze 3-4 days of life from its 200mAh battery.
In my personal experience, at half-brightness and tethered to a Samsung Galaxy S7, I just barely achieved the three day mark. In that time, tons of the notifications came through the connected wearable, so that might have been the bottleneck on the battery. Or it could have been because the barometer was overworking itself after being soaked in a shower day after day.
If you don’t anticipate using the GPS or connecting it to a smartphone, you will, of course, see a longer life with the Gear Fit 2. But for those who want to use it as it is intended, make sure the charging dock is never too far out of reach.
The Gear Fit may have been one of the most appealing options in 2014, but the market is filled with some tough competition today. Here are the biggest challengers to the Gear Fit 2:
Fitbit’s take on fitness tracker with a twist of smartwatch lacks the built-in GPS feature that we love in the Gear Fit 2.
The Blaze boasts a nice, colorful screen, but the design sinks behind other similar-looking devices, like the Sony SmartWatch 3 and Apple Watch. Preference will decide if you favor the Gear Fit 2 above it.
Although broader compatibility is a perk for the Blaze, Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 is a more capable alternative.
Microsoft Band 2
Probably the most apples-to-apples comparison we can make, the Microsoft Band 2 and Samsung Gear Fit 2 go head-to-head in several ways.
They are close in price, though the Gear Fit 2 is the cheaper of the two. That said, you can commonly find deals on the Microsoft Band or Microsoft Band 2 that bring it down to sub-US$150 or sub-£150 prices.
On both, you’ll find built-in GPS and a host of sensors to give you a detailed fitness breakdown. It really just comes down to style preference and whether you’re in need of a device that can work with Windows 10 Mobile and iOS 9.
Moto 360 Sport
Moto’s sporty version of the regal Moto 360, the Moto 360 Sport, is a popular choice amongst the fit, smartwatch-wearing crowd.
Like the Gear Fit 2, it features built-in GPS and robust tracking support. The fact that it runs Android Wear gives it a bit of an upper hand in the comparison.
However, it’s a lot more expensive by comparison. In addition, the battery life is meager and the accuracy of its heart rate monitor don’t stack up to what you’ll get out of the box with Samsung’s latest.
If you’ve been paying attention to Samsung’s wearables over the past few years, the Gear Fit 2 will stand out immediately as an improvement over 2014’s Gear Fit.
The added compatibility with Android phones, GPS functionality, and improved method of charging are but a few of the worthwhile additions to Samsung’s Gear Fit 2.
Samsung’s 2016 tracker has gone under the knife, so to speak, and has come out looking focused as ever. The new look not only blends in better with the aesthetic of the company’s other products, it looks good all on its own.
Among many other winning components, comfort stands out here. The more you wear the Gear Fit 2, the less you notice it. The less you notice it, the faster you can get on with your life and your fitter future. Both the wearable and the app do well to stay out of your way until it comes time to tracking stats.
It’s a stellar value for anyone looking for a rather affordable, but competent, fitness tracker. The combination of the built-in GPS functionality, the impressive Super AMOLED display and its independent usability are a steal at US$179.
For some wearables, this is the section when I have the chance to deliver the biggest blows. Thankfully, I don’t have many for the Samsung Gear Fit 2.
The product is well-realized and does a good job at facilitating your journey, whether it be at the gym or on the sidewalk. That said, the barometer issues I encountered are disappointing. It’s misleading to be told that I’ve scaled the better part of a skyscraper in height when I have not, and a bummer that it’s probably the reason, in my case, behind the battery barely meeting its three day minimum life expectancy.
Lack of iOS support is also something I would have liked to have seen. Although Apple itself isn’t one to join hands with other platforms, there’s little reason for Samsung to lock things down to Android.
Lastly, where’s the alarm function? I’ve yet to meet a wearable, until now, that doesn’t feature one.
All of the Samsung Gear Fit 2’s flaws seem to be ones that can be addressed and fixed through a software update. This hope makes it much easier to deal with the Day One launch problems, that is, unless they stick around for the life of the product.
We’ll be tracking this wearable’s progress (get it?) to see if evolves into the truly fantastic product that it would be without the issues.
If you’re on the fence, this fitness tracker comes highly recommended for both beginners and more experienced thrill-seekers. It’s relatively affordable price tag of US$179 is a low point of entry for those who really want to make a change in their lives and Samsung’s wearable is capable of assisting you to meet your goals.