Samsung has shown off the Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear 2 Neo. Despite being just a few months after the release of the original Gear, the move was an expected one thanks to multiple leaks and subsequent statements by Samsung itself. The most interesting Gear-related rumour that proved true is that neither of these new smartwatches run on Android, they instead run on the Tizen OS.
Both watches appear to be pretty much identical, the only exception being that the Gear 2 Neo has no camera and is subsequently a bit lighter than the Gear 2.
Prices for each device are as yet undisclosed, but Samsung is aiming for an April consumer release date, hitting shelves around the same time as the Galaxy S5 is expected.
What, no Android?
Samsung has been pulling away tentatively from Android for some time now. The Korean giant and Google have reportedly been at odds with one another and Samsung is thought to be testing the waters in a wish to go it alone.
That the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo have ditched Android is the first serious evidence we’ve had to support the solo-Samsung argument. There have been other non-Android Samsung devices before, but the Galaxy Gear line is Samsung’s premier and only smartwatch product. With 2014 expected to be the year of wearable tech the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo could end up being very much at the forefront of Samsung’s marketing campaigns for the next six-to-twelve months, right alongside the Galaxy S5 and eventually the Note 4.
Will this affect functionality?
In terms of device compatibility the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will reportedly work with a dozen smartphones at launch, which is a full 12x better than the original Gear’s Note 3-only support.
Unfortunately apps is where the whole Tizen thing will likely be an issue. Samsung has not commented on whether current Gear Android apps will work on the Tizen Gears, but it’s unlikely. We’re also waiting to see how effectively a Tizen device interfaces with an Android phone running Android apps.
On a happier note, the new Gears will rock a dedicated music app, rather than acting purely as a Bluetooth go-between for your phone. They both also have the ability to connect straight to your headphones via Bluetooth, meaning you can listen to music and leave your phone at home. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many instances where this would be useful other than for your workout playlist.
A better build
Our problems with the original Gear included its uncomfortable wrist strap and its wrist-mounted camera. These have been addressed, to a degree.
The 2MP camera for the Gear 2 has been moved to the watch face itself. This is exactly where it always should have been. A watch that can do video calls sounds much more appealing that one with a not-so-subtle spy cam.
Removing the camera from the strap should free it up to be a little more malleable, leading to greater comfort. It also gives Samsung and other makers the opportunity to sell custom wrist straps, which would be a great way of keeping things fresh.
The Gear 2 Neo has no camera, which should hopefully make it a bit cheaper and lighter. We can see this being the more popular of the two watches for these reasons alone.
Concerns over battery life
The original Gear had pretty shocking battery life. It only lasted a single day, which is fine for a smartphone but nothing short of cumbersome for a peripheral accessory like a smartwatch. So far we’ve seen no reason to believe this has changed.
The CPUs have been upgraded, which is not promising. Just why a smartwatch with currently very limited app support would need a dual-core 1GHz processor is a mystery. That it will eat up battery life faster than last year’s single-core 800MHz processor is obvious, what you’ll use it for is not.
We’re hoping Samsung has done some clever techno-trickery to trade-off this increased power requirement somehow, but if it was done we’d have expected there to be significant fanfare about it. Instead it passed without mention.
Thankfully, Samsung hasn’t upgraded the screens at all, both of which are still of the 1.63” 320x320 variety. The original Gear looked great with this display, but we would have gladly accepted a worse one for a longer charge life.