It would seem that you are not a cool tech company if you don’t have wearable technology in your product line up. Samsung took a major (and brave) stand in this emerging category when they launched their Gear smartwatch. Fast Forward to 2014 and Mobile World Congress, where Samsung not only revealed their newest flagship product the Galaxy S5, but they announced their new and improved Gear 2 smartwatch. Samsung also surprised the market with yet another wearable device – the Gear Fit.
The Gear Fit takes direct aim at the very successful fitness band market that is currently dominated by Nike Fuelband and the FitBit as the Gear Fit not only has the same wrist-band form factor but also has preinstalled health-type apps on the device.
I took the Gear Fit for a spin to see what this wearable tech is all about. I don’t like this wearable tech trend so what I found was rather surprising.
The Samsung Gear Fit hands-on review
Look and Feel
The Gear Fit is a band shape, made of rubber and has two metal studs to secure the strap onto your write. It weighs only 27 grams and is rated as IP67 which makes is water and dust resistant so you can shower with it.
The screen is a highly responsive touchscreen that is a curved AMOLED screen, which a stunning display that is clear to read even in direct sunlight.
The Gear Fit can be worn on the left hand or the right hand and has the option to rotate the screen so that info can be displayed horizontally or vertically. There is a on/off button on the side of the device.
Gear Fit Apps
The Gear Fit is preloaded with apps and currently there is no ability to load other apps on the band. To get around the device simply swipe your finger to change the various screen pages. Each page has 3 icons that launch the pre-installed apps.
The background is customisable so that your Gear Fit can fit into whatever mood/ outfit you happen to be in – even the rubber straps are changeable if you purchase the additional colours bands.
The Home screen displays the time, date and local weather.
Swiping to the next screen pages shows Pedometer which counts your steps. You are able to start, stop, pause and view history all from the band. This is ideal as you no longer depend on the phone and the battery draining app to count your steps. The pedometer continue to work regardless if you have your phone with you or not which makes it a perfect step counter.
The other fitness options are listed below the Exercise apps which include walking, cycling, running and hiking. Again, no phone is required for these to operate and keep a record of your steps.
The Gear Fit has a Heart Rate so you can monitor your heart rate whenever you are. Whilst not “medically accurate” the Gear Fit reading is roughly the same reading as the one I got with a chest strap. Not bad for a heart reading based on a pulse of light on a wristband.
The next screen page shows Timer, Stopwatch and Sleep function which monitors how many hours at night you were motionless. When you enter the sleep option you can tap on Blocking Mode which stops all messages and notifications from being pushed to your Gear Fit so you can have a good night sleep without the arm vibrating whenever new Viagra spam comes in at 3am.
The Notifications icon which is where you read your messages from apps like Instagram, SMS, Email, WhatsApp, Facebook and any others you set up in the Gear Manager. This is also where you can see your missed calls too.
There is a Media Controller app that allows you to control the music on your companion device. This works rather well when you connect the device to external speakers and have full control on your wrist. What I really like is the ability to control any 3rd party music apps like NMusic and Simfy or control Video
The Settings app is where you set up the device including Clock, Wallpaper, Display, Bluetooth, What happens when you double press the Gear Fit Profile and Privacy lock. All with simple taps. This is also where you will find the Battery indicator.
On the next page there is Find My Device icon to track down the companion phone. As soon as you press that button your companion phone starts to ring even if it was previously set to vibrate or mute. Very handy for those “now where did I leave my phone?” moments. Another trick of not leaving your phone is that as soon as you are out of Bluetooth range your Gear Fit vibrates reminding you to take the phone with you.
Gear Fit Companion
The Gear Fit is built to be a companion device to the following Samsung devices: Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Mini, Mega, Note 3, Note 2, NotePro 12.1, Note 10.1
The Gear Fit makes a Bluetooth 4.0 connection between the device which is simple to set up after you install the Gear Fit Manager software from the Samsung App store. Once the Gear Fit is set up you can select which applications will be able to have their notifications read on the device eg. every time someone likes your Intagram pic on the Gear Fit you are alerted.
The latest update of the Gear Fit Manager allows you to have even more control of the look and function of the Gear Fit direct from the phone. You can now even move icons around and group them in a manor the makes sense to you as well as control what is displayed on the Gear Fit when the screen is off.
When it comes longer text messages such as Email, the Gear tries to fits in as much as possible on the screen with the text having to wrap around to the following lines. Whilst not ideal, messages are still readable.
After you read your notifications you have the option to Delete or Show On Device which opens that message on the paired phone.
A really neat feature that Samsung has built into the Gear Fit is the ability to Reject an incoming call direct from the Fit. You can also send a pre-determined message to the caller when you reject the call. This is ideal for when you in meetings, on top of a ladder, driving or any situation when you don’t want to handle your phone.
Gear Fit Battery
The Gear Fit is charged with a the supplied adaptor that slips underneath the device. Into the adaptor the standard micro-usb cable is connected and after around an hour the Gear Fit is fully charged. After 4 days of heavy usage for this review including leaving the pedometer and Bluetooth on constantly, the Gear Fit still has 10% battery left.
My only concern about this charging method is that you can lose the adaptor as it is so small. I would have liked to see the adaptor perhaps in bright neon colour so that it is unmistakeable amongst the equipment we carry with us and doesn’t get lost amongst memory sticks and USB cables.
So in Summary:
Wearable technology is no longer an experimental craze but is here to stay. From wristbands to smart watches to glasses, never before have we had such a wide choice of technology which we can wear. So love them or hate them, we can expect to see shelves filling up with more of these devices at our local retail and mobile store.
I am not a big fan of wearable tech but I think Samsung is getting it right. A great lightweight device, with a cool screen that is highly responsive and gives you useful information with or without a phone attached to it. I would like to see Samsung make the Gear Manager app available on other Android devices, then the Gear Fit will see even more adoption amongst those who want a fitness band that does more than keep calorie count. It would also be great to see Samsung open the Gear Fit to other apps beyond just fitness specific apps such as remote camera or other 3rd part apps.
In South Africa, we should see the Gear Fit start to be bundled with Galaxy S5 and other compatible devices. The recommended retail price for the Gear Fit is R2999