While the Apple Watch and Pebble might get all the attention in the smartwatch market, Samsung continues to push the boundaries of what they can include in such a tiny package with the Gear S. The biggest feature of the Gear S is its phone-free communication. It comes with standalone WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth and GPS, essentially making it a smartphone in watch format. You can even respond to emails as it comes equipped with a tiny onboard keyboard.
Of course, in order to fit in all of these features, Samsung had to make some compromises. The most obvious is size. Equipped with a 2-inch curved AMOLED display, the Gear S is much larger than other smartwatches. In fact, reviewers thought it looked "ridiculous" with Engadget calling it a "monstrosity of glass and steel." Despite its bulky size and weight, experts found it rather comfortable to wear thanks to its curved shape. As well, the additional screen real estate made it much easier for them to navigate the various menus and see all the options at a glance. Thanks to the 480x360 resolution of the screen, experts had no pixelation issues with either text or images.
In order to keep the watch buzzing, Samsung has also included 512MB of RAM and a dual-core 1GHz processor. Unfortunately, reviewers experienced significant slowdowns even when navigating the basic interface. While there was no crashes or frozen apps, the lag made using the Gear S a frustrating experience for critics. But it isn't just the processor that slowed them down. It was also the confusing design choices for the Tizen-based software. Rather than easy interactivity, experts felt the interface was too counterintuitive and inconsistent.
The major selling point of the Gear S, of course, is its ability to act as a phone. You can make and receive calls and texts all from the watch. In terms of call quality, critics found it to be as good as using the speakerphone on their normal devices. As for using the keyboard to send text and emails, they didn't see a reason as voice dictation was accurate and, as Android Central puts it, "using the laughably small built-in keyboard…is an exercise in frustration." While Gear S might be marketed as a standalone device, it actually requires a Samsung phone to set up the watch AND download and manage apps. Speaking of apps, reviewers describe the Gear store as "barren" especially as it does not include popular apps like Twitter or Facebook.
While certainly a novel idea, reviewers do not recommend the Gear S over other smartwatches. CNET states, "…the Gear S doesn't…do a good job convincing anyone why you'd want a standalone smartwatch…It has moments of brilliance, but it isn't as fluidly awesome as you'd expect." TechRadar adds, "…the Gear S is simply not better than your run of the mill smartphone. In fact, you're just better off getting the Samsung Note 4 by itself."