2016 has been a very difficult year for Samsung and a frustrating one for its customers. I shared my disappointment in Samsung decision to make the S7 Edge larger than its older sibling, the S6 Edge. Then we witnessed the biggest product blunder of the decade in consumer electronics industry with Galaxy Note 7. To complete the updates of their flagship products this year, they release the Samsung Gear S3.
Why is Samsung Gear S3 less attractive than Gear S2 when released?
Don’t get me wrong. The Gear S3 in overall is an upgrade compared to the previous generation S2. Here are some of notable improvements of the Tizen-powered smartwatch:
- Larger battery capacity: 380 mAh which promised to give standby time up to 4 days, compared to 250 mAh on Gear S2 which can last between 2-3 days with normal use.
- Gorilla Glass SR+ which should be more damage resistant compared to Gorilla Glass 3 on S2.
Those two factors are the only things that I consider as positive upgrades. Of course they keep all the essential features that made the S2 a solid product in the smartwatch category. Always-on display, rotating bezel, wireless charging, and interchangeable bands, they are all still there on Gear S3.
Now here’s why I feel the new release of Gear S3 feels like an unworthy upgrade:
- Larger size
OK, this is very subjective matter. But for me personally, one of the biggest decision factor to get the Gear S2 because it was one of the most compact smartwatch out there, while still packing a lot of functionality. At 49 x 46 x 12.9 mm, the Gear S3 is about 15% larger than Gear S2 Classic which measures at 39.9 x 43.6 x 11.4 mm.
Thanks to the larger size and increased battery, the Gear S3 Classic weighs 57 g. Gear S2 Classic weighs just 42 g, that’s 26% lighter. To be fair, the extra weight may help to give a more premium feel. But for me it is unnecessary because the built and finish are pretty much the same.
- Lower PPI (pixel per inch)
Still related to the increased size. While the screen is about 15% larger, Samsung did not make any attempt to increase the screen resolution. Both Gear S2 and Gear S3 have the same display resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. This means lower PPI for Gear S3 at 278 ppi, compared to 302 ppi on Gear S2.
What should they have focused on: software
The Samsung Gear S line has so much potential to grab wider market, if only they put their priority and meet their promise in terms of software development. Yes, I am talking about Gear Manager for iOS to allow iPhone users to connect and manage Gear S2/S3 and enjoy its full potential. It has been almost a year since they released a statement to make iOS version of its Gear Manager app.
iPhone users have been anxiously waiting for its official release, but as of today it is still stuck in a closed beta status. Instead of trying to refresh the hardware with “half-baked” upgrades, Samsung should have allocated its resources to get the iOS app into the public first.
Is Gear S3 a good buy?
At $350 retail price, in short and very personal opinion, I would have to say no. Unless you just want to have a bigger model and using a small(er) watch is against your style. The larger battery life is not a huge deal either. Smartwatch is designed to be charged daily anyway. A 4 days battery life is probably only beneficial if you are going on a short trip and don’t want to bother bringing the wireless charger with you.
On the bright side, with the Gear S3 already available in the market, it’s time for the sellers to clean up the stock for older Gear S2 which means selling them at discounted price. Samsung Gear S2 is now sold at $250 and the Gear S2 Classic at $300. At this price range, it would make a perfect holiday gift.