Samsung Gear S2 vs Apple Watch: Do you go Apple or Samsung smartwatch?

Samsung Gear S2 vs Apple Watch: Is this the watch Samsung Galaxy S6 owners have been waiting for?

Samsung’s history with smartwatches has been busy, yet not particularly successful. In our eyes anyway. Last year’s Gear S was certainly a feature-packed wearable, but it was large, cumbersome and had some performance issues.

This is the Korean company’s latest attempt to take over the wearable market and give owners of the S6 Edge+, S6 or S6 Edge an Apple Watch rival in the shape of the Gear S2.

It certainly looks the part, but what does it have that the Apple Watch doesn’t? Lets have a look.

Round, not square

The first, of many, obvious differences between the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Gear S2 is the shape of the display. Just like last year’s Moto 360, the Gear S2 boasts a circular face that gives it a familiar look akin to a traditional watch.

Watch our Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 hands-on video

Related: Apple Watch alternatives

Apple’s Watch, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction with a square display. We’ve been wearing the Apple Watch for a long time now and it still feels like wearing a tiny computer on our wrists. This feeling would be reduced somewhat with the addition of a circular watch face.

On first glance Samsung’s effort certainly seems more ‘watch-like’ and it manages to use a circular display without the ‘flat-tyre’ that caused so much outrage on the Moto 360.

The circular bezel on the Gear S2 also rotates, giving users a different method of navigation and means you won’t have to prod that 1.2-inch touchscreen display. It’s like the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch, hopefully it works just as well.

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Gear S2

Resolution wise, the Apple Watch’s display comes in at 272 x 340 (38mm version) and 312 x 390 (42mm), both have a 326 ppi pixel density. Samsung’s Gear S2’s circular display comes in at 360×360 with 302 PPI.

Both charge wirelessly

One of our biggest annoyances with early Android Wear and Gear smartwatches was their pesky, proprietary charging cradles that had to be used. These attached to the bottom of the wearable and gave you somewhere to plug in the microUSB cable.

Thankfully, both the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S2 charge wirelessly, which is a huge bonus. Apple’s first wearable comes with a MagSafe charger, like the ones used on the MacBook Airs and Pros, that snaps to the bottom of the watch to power it up.

Related: Apple Watch vs Pebble Time
Gear S2

We assume Samsung will have something similar with the S2, though it’s currently not clear whether this will a proprietary tech, like Apple, or the widely used Qi standard that wirelessly charges a number of phones, including Samsung’s S6 and S6 Edge +.

But the most important thing about the battery on smartwatch is how long it lasts. Apple’s claims that the Watch should easily last you through a whole day of mixed use have mostly rings true in our extended testing, but Samsung says the Gear S2 and its 250mAh cell should keeping on going for ‘2-3 days’. If that’s true, it could be a big selling point.

Different styles for different folks

Both the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S2 come in multiple models, depending on your style and budget.

Gear S2

Apple has three distinct versions; Apple Watch Sport (which starts at £299), Apple Watch (from £479) and Apple Watch Edition (from £800) and each of these comes in two sizes; 38mm or 48mm. There are also plenty of strap options, from sport silicone to leather to metal.

Samsung doesn’t quite offer as much choice as Apple, with only two versions of the Gear S2. You can pick between the Gear S2 and the Gear S2 Classic, with the latter being the more premium of the two. It boasts a slick black finish and a leather strap. The regular, and we assume cheaper, model has a silver or grey finish with either a white or grey band.

There will also be a 3G enabled version of the Gear S2, which has a slightly larger battery, to offset the extra connectivity.

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Tizen vs Watch OS

While the majority of Samsung phones run Android, the Korean company has decided that its latest wearable will again run Tizen.

The biggest disappointment with this is that the Gear S2 won’t have access to the growing number of Android Wear apps and the latest features feature of Google’s wearable OS. Instead, you’ll have to get your apps from the Samsung App Store. The Gear S2 comes with all the usual smart watch apps for messages, a smattering of features related stuff – including Nike+ fitness – plus maps, weather, a music player and so on.

Those fitness apps will make use of the bevy of onboard sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate. The Apple Watch also boasts the same sensors.

Related: What is Tizen OS?
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Both watches utilise NFC for mobile payments with Apple Pay currently out now in the UK and USA and Samsung Pay coming later in the year.

Like Tizen, Watch OS features a number of built-in apps –weather, maps, messaging and the like – but one of its biggest selling points is the growing App Store that already features a number of apps. Yes, they’re currently a little slow – but this will change when native come with Watch OS 2 in the coming months.

Plenty of power, for a watch

Aside from the sluggishness of apps we mentioned earlier, and this comes from the way they’re beamed from the phone, the Apple Watch has enough grunt inside that metal body to make general day to day use lag free. The Apple S1 chip, which powers the Watch, has 512MB RAM and runs at 520Mhz. There’s also 8GB of storage, though only 2GB of this can be used for music and 75MB for photos.

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Tucked inside the Gear S2 is a dual-core, 1GHz processor paired with 512MB RAM that seems plenty of power for a watch. We won’t know for sure though until we get it around our wrists.

Early verdict

Samsung isn’t new to the smartwatch game, churning out a load of devices before the Apple Watch landed. But, with the Gear S2 it seems like the Korean might finally have got it right.

It looks good at least from those glossy press pictures and the battery life sounds impressive, but we still wish it was running Android Wear instead of Tizen. Not just for the apps, but also for the ever-improving operating system that Google has crafted.

We weren’t completely sold on the Apple Watch to begin with, it only managed a 6/10 in our review, but things are surely about to get a whole lot better with Watch OS 2.

What do you make of the Samsung Gear S2? Has it sold you on the benefits of smartwatches? Let us know in the comments section below.