Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch: slowly on the right track

Samsung’s Gear 2 is the successor to the Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch that received a lot of criticism. Samsung has addressed part of this. For example, the Gear 2 lasts a bit longer on the battery, the system for forwarding notifications from the phone works better and it is now possible to change the straps. However, the main point of criticism – that the screen is off by default – still applies. Samsung tries to ease the pain by turning the screen on automatically as soon as the user turns their wrist to look at the watch, but this often doesn’t work, which can lead to frustration. Also, the Gear 2, like its predecessor, only works with Samsung devices.


  • Notifications work fine
  • Interchangeable straps


  • Screen is off by default
  • Unreliable motion detection
  • For Samsung phones only

We are used to the smartphone and tablet market that manufacturers quickly come up with successors to their products; as a rule it does not take much more than a year. With its smartwatches, Samsung has increased the pace even further. In September 2013, the Korean manufacturer released its first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, and its successor, the Gear 2, was already announced at the end of February. That is easy to understand, because the criticism of the first Gear was not wrong. With the Gear 2, Samsung hopes to address most of those criticisms.

The outside

You cannot renew a product in all areas in six months and the Gear 2 does not appear to be a radically different product from the outside. The design of the watch itself has largely remained the same, but Samsung has worked on the details. The four visible ‘screw heads’ have had to clear the field and the home button is now at the bottom of the screen instead of on the side.

Functionally, the wristband has been the most updated. With the first Gear, it still housed the camera, but with the Gear 2, the camera has been incorporated into the watch itself, making the wristband a lot easier. Samsung is therefore now giving users the option to buy alternative straps with different colors.

A number of things are also different at the back of the watch. Just like with its predecessor, you have to use an attachment to charge the Gear 2, because the watch itself does not have a USB port. With the Gear 2, this attachment is a lot simpler, smaller and simpler than with the first Gear, which makes charging less cumbersome. However, you still have a problem if you lose this accessory.

Another innovation on the back is the heart rate sensor. A measurement via the built-in app takes between five and ten seconds, but more often than not it does not work. The sensor has to take the measurement at the top of the wrist and that leads to problems, especially if you wear the Gear 2 close to your hand and the sensor is therefore close to your wrist joint. In practice, that doesn’t make it much more than a mediocre gimmick. What does work well is the pedometer, which can keep track of how much you walk in a day.

New hardware, familiar interface

Samsung has also updated a lot under the hood, but as a user you don’t notice much of it. The Gear 2 runs on the Tizen operating system developed by Samsung itself and no longer on Android, which is why the name ‘Galaxy’ is missing. In addition, a dual-core 1GHz soc is now used instead of a single-core at 800MHz. You hardly notice that in terms of speed, but the new chip does seem a bit more economical. Where the first Gear only lasted a little more than a day, two to three days are certainly achievable with the Gear 2. If you turn it off at night, you might even get the four days with light use.

The interface looks mostly the same. Each page within the interface shows four icons that take you to an app or settings, while the home screen shows a clock. Where the color scheme of the first Gear was almost completely black and white, Samsung opts for a bright background with the Gear 2. That makes the Gear 2 a bit less subtle in our eyes. When it turns on spontaneously, which often happens due to the motion detection, the bright colors immediately attract attention, especially in a dark room.

Daily use

In everyday use, the Gear 2 can do about the same as its predecessor, only better. The basic concept is the same; You connect the smartwatch via Bluetooth to a Samsung phone or tablet and then you can forward notifications and run apps on the Gear.

When we tested the first Gear, that notification functionality was extremely thin. In most cases, you only received a notification on the Gear that a certain app on the phone wanted to tell you something, nothing more. For example, it was not possible to read WhatsApp, Hangouts or Gmail notifications on the watch. In a later software update, Samsung improved this and that line has been extended to the Gear 2.

Via the Gear Manager app on your phone or tablet you can set which applications should forward their notifications to the Gear 2. There are no longer any restrictions on this; any app that shows notifications within Android can also forward them to the smartwatch. From the same Gear Manager you can download and install small apps for the smartwatch. Because Samsung has overhauled the operating system, old apps are no longer compatible and therefore the range for the Gear 2 is still very meager.

As with the first Gear, it is possible to make phone calls. The smartwatch actually functions as a bluetooth headset here and you have to talk into the watch to make a call. We found that uncomfortable with the first Gear and the Gear 2 does not change that.

Known issues

A lot of things have been improved, but a fundamental flaw unfortunately remains: the screen. Samsung again uses an amoled screen, which on the one hand provides a nice image quality, but at the same time also uses a relatively large amount of power. That’s why Samsung has opted to turn the screen off by default, which makes the Gear 2 not a great watch.

he Gear 2 can be woken up via the home button or by turning your wrist towards your face. However, that motion detection is far from perfect and works inconsistently. If you turn your wrist and forearm towards your face with an exaggerated gesture, it goes well, but subtly checking the time, as you do with a normal watch, is not possible with the Gear 2. And once the Gear 2 realizes that the screen needs to be on, it also takes a relatively long time, about a second. People who don’t normally wear a watch might not mind, but for watch wearers, checking the time on the Gear simply feels cumbersome and slow.

Another recurring flaw is compatibility. The Gear 2 officially only works with Samsung phones and tablets. It is therefore more of a Samsung accessory than a smartwatch that will benefit a wider target group. Smart users can find the software online and install it on a non-Samsung device, but you won’t get exactly the same functionality as with a Samsung phone.


The Gear 2 is a marked improvement over the Galaxy Gear in many ways. The software is a lot better put together, it’s nice that the straps are interchangeable and the battery lasts longer. However, the main problem has not been addressed. The motion detection to turn on the screen causes frustration over time and a watch that does not show the time by default is not a very good watch in our opinion. In addition, it remains a shame that the Gear 2 only works with Samsung devices.

The Gear 2 gets three stars from us, a deserved full star more than the first. If the next model does have a screen that is always on, that score will rise further.