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Samsung Gear 2: Features, Performance and Camera

Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson


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Review Price £250.00

Samsung Gear 2 Features and Performance

Before we get into the Samsung Gear 2’s full features list, there is a major issue we must first address. Like the Galaxy Gear before it, the Gear 2 is only compatible with Samsung branded devices – and just a select few at that.

Unlike the Sony SmartWatch 2 or Pebble watch, both of which are compatible with a wide variety of handsets, the Gear 2 works with just 17 Samsung smartphones and tablets. While the flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 have been made compatible, smaller but still hugely popular phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 lack support.

Samsung’s wearables would be a good deal more appealing if they worked with more devices, particularly non-Samsung ones.

But now to the positives. The Samsung Gear 2 is far sleeker than the original Galaxy Gear. The new dual-core processor speeds things up and helps cut lag when skipping through menus or launching applications.

Although we can live happily without the watch’s call and messaging options, as a media controller, the device has its merits. Being able to control your smartphone’s music player direct from your wrist quickly becomes an addictive feature, with its simplicity promoting continued use. Thanks to an inbuilt IR receiver the watch can also be used to control your TV, though is more of a nice to have than a must-have like the music control.

‘Find my phone’ is another handy feature for those prone to mislaying their possessions -- press 'Find my phone' on the watch and your phone will ring, it works the other way, too, so you can use your phone to find the watch. The range of the Bluetooth 4.0 connection means the smartwatch remains within range anywhere within a moderately sized two-story home. This works the other way too if you’re struggling to remember where you removed the watch.

Samsung Gear 2

Sadly, though, the list of negatives is a far lengthier one.

Like its Samsung Gear Fit and Samsung Galaxy S5 siblings, the Gear 2 features an integrated heart rate sensor to provide more detailed health monitoring than just the standard pedometer and accelerometer offerings. Unfortunately, we are not convinced by the Gear 2’s sensor.

Located on the watch’s rear, the heart rate sensor felt an unnecessary addition which, for the masses, is not that useful or even reliable. On the rare occasion the Gear 2’s sensor gave a reading on first attempt, its results were consistently four to eight points higher than both the Gear Fit and Gear 2 Neo, tested simultaneously, and we’ve already verified the Gear Fit’s readings to be less accurate than we'd like.

Samsung Gear 2

It is easy to track your resting heart rate, with all the data syncing to the S Health app. Attempt to monitor it on the move, however, and error messages are the constant reminder of the technology’s limitations, and frankly measuring your resting heart rate just isn’t that useful.

As with the Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2 is also meant to be used to make and receive calls, but we can’t recommend that you do so. There are a few serious issues, not least the weirdness of talking to your wrist in public and the fact it’s not really more convenient than using your phone.

Due to their placement on the watch’s rear edge, the Gear 2’s inbuilt speaker and microphone are both prone to obstruction. This means you have to contort your wrist, crisp audio is out of the question. What’s more, taking calls through the watch means anyone in close proximity can hear your full conversation, in which case you may as well use the speakerphone feature of your actual phone.

Message notifications are only marginally better on the Gear 2, too. While the ability to read messages direct from the wrist is a handy addition, responding is a joke. The selection of template responses is hardly ideal for real world situations.

The ‘How’s it going?’, ‘What’s up’ and ‘I’ll talk to you soon’ responses feel extremely forced, but then a miniaturised QWERTY keyboard on the display would be just as bad. What the Gear 2 really needs is voice dictation, but there’s no option for this.

At times the Samsung Gear 2 reeks of functionality being included for its own sake, with little thought of application. And that’s before we’ve addressed the watch’s inbuilt camera.

Samsung Gear 2

Samsung Gear 2: Camera

The Samsung Gear 2’s camera is a peculiar inclusion. The camera might have moved off the strap, but it remains awkward to use and lacks the levels of quality that would make its inclusion worthwhile.

Updated from a 1.9-megapixel offering to a new 2-megapixel sensor, the Gear 2’s camera is satisfactory at best; it produces results similar to a mid-range smartphone’s forward-facing camera, with shots that lack sharpness and the general quality that would justify regular use.

Samsung Gear 2 camera test

Despite the new positioning on the watch’s upper edge, the camera is still awkward to use. Lining up a shot and viewing the screen at the same time requires serious contorting of the wrist. At no point does this feel a natural process that will replace simply pulling your phone out of your pocket to capture a shot.

If the thought of someone watching you carefully bend your wrist into odd shapes in order to take a picture with a watch wasn’t deterrent enough, the Gear 2’s camera has another embarrassment inducing issue. The shutter noise that accompanies every snap is ridiculously loud and be turned off. It’s enough to put you off using at all.

Samsung Gear 2 camera test

You can use voice commands to take a photo, too, but sadly these are not always the most reliable. Saying ‘cheese’ or ‘smile’ might trigger the shutter five times out of ten. Shouting the commands improves the success rate slightly.

When scaled to a larger screen, camera captured images show their lack of detail and clarity and again begs the question of the camera’s inclusion. If Samsung is going to insist on fitting its smartwatches with a camera, we can’t help but feel a user-facing selfie camera would be a better choice.

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April 15, 2014, 5:13 pm

Still have to use the watch as the phone. No! No! No!
How can they not understand that a huge appeal of this device would be the ability to take calls via headphones.
Call comes in, vibration on wrist alerts, glance at watch for caller ID, press 'Accept' have conversation, or ignore/press 'Reject' and continue listening to podcast.
Phone stays snug in pocket, doesn't get snatched or dropped.
I should be fairer, you do get a crap camera for your near nearly three hundred quid.
Still going to the Casio shop though, they do tat but with style and useful functions like solar charging and atomic timekeeping for less money.

Clive Sinclair

April 18, 2014, 7:57 am

You can make calls using the Gear 2/Neo. Either using the units speaker/mic, or better with a bluetooth headset. I have a Plantronics BT headset and it works like this...

Press the answer/end call button on the headset and call is routed through headset i.e. call not audible through my Neo.

Accept call on Neo and bluetooth headset does not work, but call can be taken via Neo, with conversation audible through Neo's speaker.

Works well imo.


April 18, 2014, 11:12 am

As far as I can see, this dumb watch is dead in the water. It's looks are a drawback and it has a huge connectivity issue. I'm amazed that they put this gizmo out to the market place.


April 18, 2014, 8:38 pm

Thanks for response Clive but I am not sure I understand.
It seems like a description of the normal Bluetooth actions, or did you omit 'look at watch to see who's calling, then press headpiece button', if so, that's almost a fair cop as I did not consider that option, mainly because I would prefer to govern the call from the watch, that's what happens with the music listening, I thought.

I understand from what you say then, that you can 'take' calls.
How can you 'make' calls? are you able to scroll contacts on the watch and then initiate a call with headphone buttons?

Clive Sinclair

April 19, 2014, 3:45 pm

You can make calls if the device is paired to a phone (and connected) via the contacts list, or the call log - if you have made any previous calls. You can also use S-Voice i.e. "Call Sandra, etc".

To initiate the call from the headset (bluetooth), I press and hold the call button, which starts up S-Voice. Or use the contacts list on the device, as above. One the call starts, press the call button on the headset and it will transfer the call to the headset.


April 21, 2014, 3:32 am

Thanks Clive for taking the time and trouble.

Not now in such a hurry for Casio shop visit:-)


April 23, 2014, 8:39 pm

Pretty negative tone to the review overall, which is certainly the author's right, but unwarranted imo and seems to stem from a lack of interest in the use cases of wearables in general. There is definitely room for improvement in the Gear line, but that's separate from whether or not there is a point to owning a wearable period. This article should be aimed at users who would want and use the features a competent wearable presents, rather than questioning whether or not the mass public would benefit from the unique functions of wearable tech in general. Obviously if you aren't interested in calling or messaging from the watch, this is not the product for you. There's plenty of dedicated fitness devices on the market that do not have phone capability.

I was given the Gear 1 through work, and while I agree that taking calls on the watch has limited functionality, it's hardly a gimmick and I'd like to see more on call quality in the review, as it's one of the main reasons to own the watch. Being able to field a quick call in the car or while working is amazingly useful when it's appropriate. This line: "Although we can live happily without the watch’s call and messaging options" makes me question why this author is reviewing this product.

The switch to Tizen is somewhat disappointing even though it improves performance as it leaves any android apps already developed for the gear 1 hanging in the wind, and any future apps for the watch hidden beneath the shadow of a big ol question mark.

As for text replies: unless they changed this feature from the gear 1 to the gear 2 you can replace the preset replies with custom ones and also dictate a reply via S-Voice, which I use all the time as it's really very handy. How did you miss this? Cmon Trusted Reviews, live up to the name!

J Zahra

December 31, 2014, 12:10 am

I own this beautiful device and it is much more useful than this unfair negative article is indicating. So many notifications/sms which may not be worthy to reach your mobile for, are easily filtered out using the smart watch. Similarly with calls. Answering calls/sms during driving or other awkward situations is a Godsend. The seamless connection with all the other software including the health/fitness data being sent to the Mobile device for later analysis is practical. I even used the built in cam when I could not use the mobile phone because I had both hands occupied -(eg. Brief case, drinks, Notes, typing on keyboard, answering other land line calls, driving, hands dirty etc etc). Battery life depends on usage with an approximate 3 day max. Currently it is the best smart watch around with the extra camera, heart beat counter, infrared blaster (without 3g/4g capability).

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