Samsung Gear Fit 2 Review: Fitness Tracker with a Bit of Smartwatch

by Reads (1,486)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Features
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Durability
      • 7
      • Utility
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Comfortable for most
    • Great display
    • Feature rich
  • Cons

    • Too bulky for small wrists
    • Alerts tough to feel
    • Only compatible with Android smartphones (as of this writing)

Quick Take

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 achieves a balance between features and battery life. It does a lot for an exercise tracker with its smartwatch-like alerts and apps, but not too much that those get in the way of the core functions.


Fitness trackers range from glorified pedometers to full-on smartwatches. The good ones figure out a proper balance. Simple devices need a killer app, while more complex must balance features with usability and battery life.

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is the latter. Samsung snagged the fitness features from the recent Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch, along with smartphone alerts and a few music apps, and tossed them into a Tizen-powered wearable with all the sensors you’d expect from an activity tracker.

It does a lot. In fact, it does a lot well. But does it have that balance, and is it a compelling buy in a market awash in alternatives?

Build & Design

Samsung Gear Fit 2

Samsung Gear Fit 2

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 looks the part. It’s a relatively slender wearable, dominated by a 1.5-inch curved touchscreen display, and two removable rubber bands. Everything is flush, while the display bulks out slightly less than half an inch at its peak. There are only two small buttons, home and back, while bottom houses sensors and charging receptacles.

It’s aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable. The body contours wrap the wrist well, and the removable straps are strong and flexible, securing the Gear Fit 2 agreeably with a simple pin system. In testing, the Gear Fit 2 never came loose or fell off.

But there are issues inherent in most fitness trackers, and they’re present here. The Gear Fit 2 is too big for smaller wrists. Samsung offers shorter straps, which don’t do much to mitigate the bulk.

Also, the Gear Fit 2 will get sweaty gross with regular use. It’s easy to clean though, and it’s thankfully IP68 rated for water resistance. That means it can technically survive up to 30 minutes in 5 feet of water, so sweat and rain won’t be an issue. Still, we wouldn’t take it swimming.

It’s available in black, blue, and pink.

Display

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has a Super AMOLED display.

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has a Super AMOLED display.

The Gear Fit 2 has a 1.5-inch curved Super AMOLED touchscreen display with a 216 x 432 resolution. It’s Gorilla Glass 3, making it both shatter and scratch resistant. It’s relatively bright at max settings, though still more reflective than most smartphones.

Every smartwatch and touch-enabled activity tracker we’ve tested has been tough to see outdoors. The Super AMOLED display and brightness settings make the Gear Fit 2 one of the best devices in this area, better than the AMOLED-toting Apple Watch but it’s still far from ideal. Words, numbers, and details are all visible against direct glare only with concentration. That’s especially hard while running, checking pace to time remaining for example.

The same display does a good job resisting smudges and fingerprints, but sweat beads will accumulate during heavy exercise, compounding the visibility issues.

Again, all similar devices are bad in this area. The Gear Fit 2 is the best of that bunch.

Performance

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 with removable straps.

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 with removable straps.

The Gear Fit 2 packs an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, GPS, and a barometer. So it tracks more than just steps. It’s also measures heart rate, calories burned, floors climbed, and sleep patterns. It sports a 1GHz dual-core processor and 512MB RAM, along with 4GB capacity for apps and music. It connects via Bluetooth 4.2 and supports Wi-Fi. It’s compatible with Android smartphones running at least Android 4.4 with 1.5GB RAM.

Those are decent specs for a fitness tracker, and it’s swift and responsive. The Bluetooth range is impressive, and the connection remained stable in our testing with a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, automatically reconnecting whenever we went out of range of the smartphone. Connecting to Samsung Bluetooth headphones was also easy in testing.

Quick word on Bluetooth. It can be buggy, especially with older devices. Your experience connecting the Gear Fit 2 will vary depending on the smartphone, its software, and its age.

You can set personal goals for steps and floors climbed, and the Gear Fit awards badges for achieving them and setting personal records. While it automatically recognize a handful of simple exercises (walks and runs longer than 10 minutes, for example), you must set it to track specific activities to get full use. That includes running, walking, hiking, cycling, step machine, exercise bike, elliptical, treadmill, lunges, crunches, squats, Pilates, yoga, rowing machine, and “other workout.”

Samsung Gear Fit 2 cycling with GPS

Samsung Gear Fit 2 cycling with GPS

Through this, the Gear Fit 2 tracks speed, distance, duration, calories burned, and workout intensity, generating a report that can be exported to the Samsung S Health app.

For runners, this is great. The measurements jibe with other activity trackers and professional gym equipment, and the detailed reports offer useful insight. Utility varies for the other activities. While it only takes a few swipes and presses, it’s still too cumbersome a process to set for relatively quick drills like crunches, squats, or lunges.

Alerts come in the form of a vibration, which can be tough to discern, especially while biking or running. An audible beep would be better in some circumstances, especially while interval training (sprints, followed by rest). But that’s not happening because the Gear Fit 2 doesn’t have a speaker.

We’d also like to see sport-specific options, which are otherwise consigned to the “other workouts” option. Who knows how well it measures playing soccer or basketball? How about skiing, or obstacle courses like the popular Tough Mudder and Spartan Race? And while few have this ability, we pine for fitness tracker that can accurately measure weight lifting and resistance training.

It’s unclear what the Gear Fit 2’s GPS actually does. When tethered to a smartphone, it produces a map after runs and cycle sessions, showing the route with mile markers. Unconnected, it presumably offers a more accurate distance measurement. Testing it, running the same route multiple times with GPS on and off proved inconclusive.

Features

The Gear Fit 2 does more than track steps and measure heart rate. It has a built in music player with local storage for offline play, various timers and alarms, and it delivers basic smartphone alerts when connected. Thankfully, you can pick and choose which app alerts the Gear Fit 2 receivers, with texts from Samsung’s messages app supporting quick replies and emojis. Other alerts appear with a shortcut for opening the app on the connected smartphone.

The Gear Fit 2 does more than track steps.

The Gear Fit 2 does more than track steps.

Samsung made much of the Fit 2’s Spotify support, but it’s ultimately a glorified controller for the Spotify smartphone app. The local MP3 is much more useful, as it works even with an unconnected Fit 2 over Bluetooth earbuds. Songs are easily loaded via the Samsung Gear app. The only snag is finding them on an Android smartphone. Android’s file structure is confusing at best, and tracking down music can easily become frustrating, especially with Google Music tracks.

Other apps include a “find my phone” alert, which only rings the smartphone when the two are connected and in range, a “workout trainer” that pairs with a separate account and acts as a sort of digital personal trainer, coffee and water consumption trackers, and a “together” app for competing with friends over fitness and step challenges. The Gear Fit 2 comes preloaded with a handful of watch faces. More apps and additional watch faces are available through the Samsung Gear app.

The S Health app is surprisingly robust.

The S Health app is surprisingly robust.

Software & App

The Gear Fit 2 runs a Tizen-based OS similar to the Gear Fit 2 smartwatch. It’s all swipe and tap based, with two physical buttons acting as home and back keys. Wearable UIs are always tricky, given the limited screen real estate, but the Gear Fit 2’s is as intuitive as we’ve seen. As we mentioned above, it’s annoying to manually set it to log a quick exercise like crunches or lunges, though not so bad for longer runs or sessions.

The Gear Fit 2 pairs with the Samsung S Health app. It’s surprisingly robust and expansive, and functions beyond just as a companion app for the activity tracker, with exercise options ranging from orienteering to windsurfing. In addition, it supports a few dozen other apps that expand functionality, as well as other fitness and smart devices, like scales and other health trackers.

Here Gear Fit 2 users can log and track progress, and get additional workout details. In terms of information, it’s deep with helpful insight. Too bad it’s a mess in terms of navigation. It has an awkward layout, with an opaque hierarchy. The deeper navigation options are never clear. Expect to do a lot of blind tapping and swiping just to see what the app actually offers.

The app is only available for Android, and the Gear Fit 2 only pairs with devices running Android 4.4 or later with at least 1.5GB RAM, and only over Bluetooth. It doesn’t pair with iPhones, Windows Phones, PCs, or Macs, as of this writing. However, recent reports indicate Samsung is working on iOS compatibility.

Setup with a Samsung smartphone is easy, as the required apps come pre-installed. All other Android smartphones require S Health, the Samsung Gear app, Samsung Accessory Service, and the Gear Fit 2 Plugin before connecting. Even if it’s a one-time setup, it’s irksome.

Samsung S Health app

Samsung S Health app

S Health run tracking with Samsung Gear Fit 2

S Health run tracking with Samsung Gear Fit 2

Battery

The Gear Fit 2’s life on a single charge varies widely depending on usage. It packs a 200 mAh battery, which can go for up to 3 days under the right conditions, or less than 10 hours.

During workouts with the screen brightness boosted and both Bluetooth and GPS connected, expect to lose about 10% battery an hour. Lounging at home, disconnected from Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS, it sips power. You can stretch things further with the power-saving feature that turns the display monochrome and severs all connections.

With mixed usage, including daily workouts and the occasional smartphone connection to upload data to S Health, we managed between 36 and 48 hours of juice. The Gear Fit 2 charges very quickly, taking little over an hour to go from dead to fully charged. Topping it off whenever you sit down to work should be more than enough to keep it running.

Value

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 costs a penny short of $180 as of this writing. That’s a good price for an exercise tracker in this class.

The Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Surge have similar capabilities, with pricing ranging from $180 to $200. The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ also runs about $200, while the Microsoft Band 2 price varies from $140 to $250, depending on the size and where you buy it.

Conclusion

gearfit2There’s no perfect fitness tracker. The good ones achieve a balance, working around the inherent flaws that plague the product class: namely battery compromises, awkward UIs, and managing Bluetooth connections.

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 achieves this balance. It does a lot for an exercise tracker with its smartwatch-like alerts and apps, but not too much that those get in the way of the core functions. Its tracking and presentation on the device is as good as it can get on a small display, as is the general device navigation.

Serious exercise buffs should appreciate S Health’s deep offerings. Everyone else will be turned off by its abstruse UI. It’s too bad Samsung doesn’t offer a simpler tracking app, or something compatible with non-Android devices.

Its other issues aren’t unique to the Gear Fit 2. All touch-enabled fitness trackers are tough to see in direct sunlight, and all trade off capability for battery life. It’s important to remember that activity trackers and smartwatches are still a nascent product class.

So where does that leave the Gear Fit 2? It’s a great choice for those serious about fitness. Those looking for the glorified pedometer can save money with a basic Fitbit or Jawbone UP.

The Fitbit, Garmin, and Microsoft trackers listed above are close to equal, so we suggest putting a premium on price and smartphone compatibility when making a buying decision.

 


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.