In the world of wearables, Fitbit is one of the most common names – it has achieved near ubiquity with the term ‘fitness trackers’, which in turn has helped it become the obvious leader in the market. It helps that Fitbit has something for everyone – from the minimalistic, swim-proof Flex 2, to the sleek, fashionable Alta, and from the do-it-all Charge 2, to the bulky Blaze; the only model with a colour display.
Fitbit has even acquired the likes of Pebble and Coin in recent months in an attempt to bolster its smartwatch-like offerings, and Samsung is nowhere near as prolific. The Gear Fit 2 is only its second fitness-oriented offering, but after having spent over a week with it, we can say it’s as professional an effort as any of Fitbit’s. In fact, the Gear Fit 2 feels like the right amalgamation of the Charge 2 and the Blaze, borrowing the design aesthetic of the former and melding it with the capabilities of the latter - and then some.
It’s also gotten much better since its launch – Samsung introduced support for iOS in a recent update – which is what makes this an even more interesting product to review. A lack of iOS compatibility was one of the biggest problem with the original Gear Fit, and it has been addressed.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 look, feel, and navigation
Unlike its predecessor, the Gear Fit 2’s strap is designed better, in the sense that it’s a bit more flexible. It’s also really lightweight – at 28g, it’s almost 100g less than the stainless steel Apple Watch. The fact that the display is now oriented horizontally as opposed to vertically makes it much easier to use the Gear Fit 2 while you’re wearing it.
Interestingly, the display is a fraction smaller than that of the Gear Fit, but without the older model’s off-putting bezels, it appears larger. The curved 1.5-inch Super AMOLED display on the Gear Fit 2 is not only great to look at, but also easy to use. Its main problem is that it’s only just about visible in harsh sunlight even at its maximum brightness. The non-capacitive displays on most Fitbits require you to press hard for them to respond, but Gear Fit 2 works just like any smartphone; with the slightest of touches.
Just like with other wearables, the screen comes on with a flick of your wrist. You can also use the two buttons on the right – the upper, bigger one acts as‘Back’, and the lower one functions as ‘Home’, and ‘Menu’ on a second press. You touch the screen to navigate and select options, with the home screen cycling through your watch face, 24-hour log, exercise stats, step count, floors climbed, heart rate, and caffeine and water intake.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 software
Naturally, you can arrange or remove these screens as you prefer, with the exception of the watch face which can only be customised. There are more than half a dozen choices to pick from in the watch face menu, and you can download more by going through the Galaxy Apps section of the Gear Fit 2 app on your paired Android or iOS phone, or the standalone app on Samsung phones.
The store isn’t designed or organised very well. Sadly, there’s also another major problem - Samsung has gone with a strange localisation and region-locking scheme. If you open the store in India, you’re greeted with a Hindi interface, and there’s no way to change that. This isn’t Argentina, where everyone speaks the same language - universal reliance on Hindi was not a good idea.
Also because of region-locking, some apps, including Spotify, are only available to users in the US. We found that we couldn’t even bypass this restriction using a VPN client. The only way to get around it is to first remove the SIM card, and then turn on your VPN, and then reconnect.
Thankfully though, the Gear Fit 2 isn’t trying to be a smartwatch, which is to say it barely has any apps. Beyond the aforementioned Spotify, the Galaxy Apps section is filled with tons of watch faces, but not much else. Samsung’s focus with this wearable is squarely on fitness enthusiasts, who have proven to be much larger and more willing market than people buying general-purpose smartwatches. To that end, Samsung has crammed the Gear Fit 2 with everything they could ask for, beyond the usual heart-rate sensor and step-, floor-, calorie-, and sleep-tracking.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 activity options and app trouble
Like current Fitbit products – the Charge 2, and the Blaze – the Gear Fit 2 is capable of recording a variety of activities – be it running, walking, cycling and hiking. It can record your workouts on an elliptical trainer, exercise bike, step machine, treadmill, or rowing machine. It can count your lunges, crunches, squats, and star jumps. It can even track your pilates and yoga sessions. It supports auto-tracking for cardio exercises, so if you head out for a run or go cycling without telling your tracker, it will start taking records automatically.
Impressively, Samsung has gone beyond what Fitbit offers at this price level. The Gear Fit 2 has built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, and a music player (with 4GB storage), which means you can leave your phone behind when working out if you so desire. If you do have your phone with you (and if it’s an Android model), you can change music sources between the Gear and the phone. In addition to Bluetooth which is required for syncing and notifications, you can use Wi-Fi to transfer music and maintain a remote connection with your phone outside Bluetooth range.
Speaking of notifications, the Gear Fit 2 can handle every notification that appears on your smartphone, unlike Fitbits which support only calls, texts, and calendar appointments. It works differently across Android and iOS, owing to each platform’s design. On Android, you can select the apps for which you’d like notifications at the setup stage. You’re also given two other options – to show notifications only while you’re wearing the Gear Fit 2, and to show notifications even when you’re using your phone. On iOS, notifications for all applications are turned on by default. You can only block an app once a notification pops up on the wearable, which then appears in the Gear app.
The Gear Fit 2’s full range of functionality is exposed only with a Samsung phone. You get more granular control over how notifications and calls are handled, for example you can reply with preset messages. There’s also deeper integration with the company’s own S Health app.
The app experience though, is quite the opposite. If you have a Samsung phone, you’ll need the Samsung Gear app to pair and manage your Fit 2; the S Health app to review your fitness data; and the Galaxy Apps store to download apps. On the other hand, if you use a non-Samsung Android device, you only need the first two. Since all Galaxy apps are exclusive to Samsung devices, the downloadable apps section is found inside the Samsung Gear app.
We used the Gear Fit 2 with an iPhone 6 Plus and a Lenovo Vibe S1 over the duration of our review period. While iOS support is great to have, there are differences in what you can and can’t do thanks to Apple’s restrictions. On an iPhone, all functions are combined into a single app – called the Samsung Gear Fit app. From pairing, to viewing fitness data, to installing new watch faces, everything gets handled from within the same app. It may not make for a great interface when you open the iPhone app, but in other ways, it’s also the best implementation to navigate and understand.
What you won’t get on either Android or iOS is the ability to sync fitness data to Google Fit or Apple Health. Data hoarding of this kind has unfortunately become commonplace across manufacturers, with even Fibit steadfastly refusing to work with either ecosystem so that you have to use its own apps. While Fitbit – the company’s sole focus being fitness – has created one of the best apps, Samsung still has some way to catch up, mainly in how it displays all the data it collects.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 performance
Once you get past the confusion surrounding all these app(s), the Gear Fit 2 excels at what it’s meant to do – fitness tracking. Over the course of multiple exercise sessions including walks, runs and cycling, the Fit 2 showed high accuracy. We put the Samsung wearable to the test against mile-marker inscriptions on a path for reference, with its in-built GPS both on and off during the exercise period. The average error rate landed at around 4 percent, with an average walking distance of 2km. (The iPhone’s in-built GPS performed marginally better, with an error rate of 3 percent.) On one such walk, the Gear Fit 2 measured 1.8km, while the milestones put it at 1.9km.
You can also set the Gear Fit 2 to automatically detect when you take a breather. It works great for the most part, save a couple of glitches where it paused activity tracking because we were walking too slowly. You should probably see this technical inability as a nudge that you aren’t walking fast enough for it to count as exercise anyway.
Other things about the Samsung Gear Fit 2
Samsung has built a social feature called Together to aid that purpose as well. It’s part of the S Health app, and it’s meant to help you “compete” against your friends on a leaderboard. You can set challenges and try to win trophies, which brings the gamification element that is now commonplace with fitness in general. Your friends don’t need a Gear Fit 2 to participate; they can download the S Health app and carry their phones to monitor their progress. However, Gear Fit 2 owners have an added advantage – they can see their status and create new challenges right off the wearable.
Unlike with most Fitbits, Samsung has provided an interface on the Gear Fit 2 to log your daily caffeine and water intake. In our opinion, it’s much more convenient inputting this on the wearable than having to unlock your phone, head into the app, and find the relevant submenu. However, the Gear Fit 2 loses to the Fitbit Charge 2 – its direct competitor in terms of pricing – in terms of the latter’s two exclusive features, Cardio Fitness Level (an estimate of VO2 Max), and guided breathing, which is also available on the more expensive Apple Watch with watchOS 3. It also loses to the Charge 2 in terms of battery life owing to the Super AMOLED display. Samsung says you can expect 3-4 days with “typical use” but we never got past the 3-day mark.
The Gear Fit 2 is IP68-certified for water and dust resistance, which means it can survive for 30 minutes in five feet of water. In real-world usage, that means you don’t have to worry about getting it wet under a tap or in the rain, though you should refrain from using this wearable in the pool or keeping it on while showering.
If you need something you can swim with, the TomTom Spark series is an option worth looking at. Unlike the Gear Fit 2, it’s swim-proof and sports a more accurate GPS sensor, though it doesn’t have a touchscreen display or extended notification support.
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is not just a huge improvement over its predecessor, but it redefines what you should expect at its price point. It was priced at Rs. 15,000 at launch just like the Charge 2, but both are now available for around Rs. 12,000. Given a choice between the two, we have to note that Samsung’s new wearable does so much more than the Charge 2 is capable of, and even eclipses the more expensive Blaze model which still doesn’t have in-built GPS or full notification support.
When we tested the Charge 2, we were sure it was the right Fitbit for most people. We still stand by that argument, but if you’re open to looking beyond one company’s product line (which you should be), the Gear Fit 2 is a serious contender - even more so if you use an Android phone.
Price: Rs. 11,900
Ratings (out of 5)
Other features: 5
Value for money: 4