But rather than attacking the Apple Watch head-on with a single wearable, Samsung is launching two new ones: the Gear Sport smartwatch and the Gear Fit2 Pro fitness band.
Oh, and the company is also launching wireless earbuds called the Gear IconX 2018 that are set to directly compete with the Apple AirPods.
Let’s start with the wearables: Samsung’s two new wrist-worn devices won’t be replacing any of its existing smartwatches. So if you want LTE on your wrist, the Gear S3 will still be available, and if you want a smaller version, the Gear S2 and S2 Classic are still kicking around.
Instead, the new Gear Sport and Gear Fit2 Pro are targeting fitness addicts. Both devices expand on the Gear S2 and Gear Fit2, respectively, by adding built-in GPS and 5ATM water-resistance so that they can be used while swimming.
It should come as no surprise that fitness features have become the focus of many popular wearables. The Apple Watch Series 2 is waterproof and has better swim-tracking capabilities, and the new Apple Watch is rumored to come with extra fitness tracking capabilities as well.
Supercharged fitness smartwatch
Like with my Apple Watch, I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Samsung’s wearables. I liked both the Gear S2 Classic and the Gear Fit2, but the Gear S3, despite its cellullar capabilities, is just too bulky for my taste.
The new Gear Sport has a 42mm watch case (available in blue or black) with a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED screen. I only had a few minutes to try it, but it was enough for me to appreciate its sleek design and lightness. It comes with a rubber silicone band, and Samsung has put a lot of attention into creating a bunch of other straps (sold separately) that meld fashion and fitness.
There’s also a nylon NATO band that’s just classy and looks good (especially in orange, because orange NATO straps are the best and I’ll fight you to death over this fact). There’s your usual leather bands, which I can confirm aren’t stiff like *cough* on LG’s smartwatches *cough*. And then there’s the weird hybrid band, which is a mix of silicone base and leather on top with breathable holes throughout; it’s the strangest one and I’m not sure whether I like it or hate it. My guess is it will work for some people but not everyone.
All of the bands are 20mm in width and come in a huge variety of colors. Samsung has even gone through the trouble of designing matching watch faces for each strap.
With GPS, you’ll be able to see live maps and get more accurate pacing information without needing to connect to your smartphone. It’s the kind of stuff I think runners will really care about.
Other fitness additions include new fitness programs that are tailored to your own goals. For example, there’s a digital cardio workout guide that will show you how to do various exercises on your phone or on a TV. The watch can even beam your heart rate to a compatible Samsung TV screen in real-time.
The Gear Sport also has a new “Calories Consumed” mode that helps you better calculate and visualize how much you’ve eaten. If you’ve eaten a lot of calories during lunch, the smartwatch might tell you to eat a lighter dinner or take a walk home to burn the extra cals off.
It’s great to have so many new fitness features, but the Gear Sport is still a smartwatch at the end of the day, and Samsung has added several useful new connected features to beef up this aspect.
There are now settings to control Samsung Connect devices, like TVs and appliances and all SmartThings smart home gadgets, with real-time monitoring right on your wrist.
You’ll also find Samsung Pay support, albeit via NFC only and not LTE. Samsung says the Gear Sport has up to three days of battery life on a single charge. Additionally, you can use the rotatable bezel to control PowerPoints for things like advancing slides and timing how long you spend per slide. And you can use the touchscreen as touchpad for the Gear VR headset.
Samsung hasn’t announced pricing for the Gear Sport, but said it’ll ship during the holidays. So long as it’s not crazy expensive, the Gear Sport could finally hit the sweet spot for Samsung’s smartwatches.
Beefed up fitness band
If smartwatches have too much going on inside for your liking, then you might like the Gear Fit2 Pro.
Samsung’s beefed up fitness band is available for pre-order on Aug. 31 and launches on Sept. 15 (same day as the Galaxy Note 8) for $199.99. There will be models: an all-black version and one with red accents and a diamond pattern on the band.
The Fit2 Pro is even more fitness-focused than the Gear Sport and is closer to a Fitbit than Apple Watch. It’s lighter, the curved display wraps better around your wrist, and the new buckle clasp secures it in place better than on the old model.
Like I mentioned earlier, it also has the built-in GPS so you can see where you’ve run without tethering it to a phone. The 5ATM water-resistance certification includes a new water-lock mode that prevents the screen from changing due to water pressure, so that even underwater you can see your fitness goals and collected data.
The heart rate sensor now also continuously tracks your BPM for all workouts including when you’re using the auto-workout mode. And another new mode automatically tracks any kind of movement triggered by the various sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, etc.) as you’re active for at least ten minutes to provide an even more accurate visualization of your health.
Another thing the Fit2 Pro has going for it is better battery life: up to 4 hours of battery life on charge, which is an hour more than the Gear Sport.
Longer-lasting wireless earbuds
And lastly, Samsung’s announcing the Gear IconX wireless earbuds. They look identical to the originals, except battery life has doubled.
The new IconX 2018’s last up to 7 hours for local music playback from its internal 4GB of storage and up to 5 hours streaming from a phone.
The included case can also quick charge the wireless earbuds. A 10-minute charge gives you an hour of listening time.
Moreover, you can now copy songs wirelessly from Samsung phones to the earbuds’ internal storage instead of connecting them to a PC. And there’s a new personal training coach who’ll coach you through workouts and tell you when to start, speed up, slow down, and more.
They also support Bixby voice commands so you can do simple things like ask it what the weather’s like and tell it to call your mom.
Samsung’s shipping the IconX 2018’s this holiday, but there’s no word on on how much they’ll cost. If Samsung’s smart, it’ll make the competitive with the $160 AirPods.
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