By Bill Stoller, Contributing Editor, Tech50+ (www.tech50plus.com)
For a while in 2016, it looked like smartwatch sales were tanking, but it seems that they had an upswing for the holidays and after. One of the latest – and largest – is the Samsung Gear S3 which comes in two models, Classic and Frontier. We got the Frontier for review – the Frontier has a more “rugged” look, and the Classic is a little “dressier.” Inside they are much the same watch, with much same functions and features. The main feature of the S3 models – as was with the S2 line – is the rotating bezel which allows access to apps & functions, and the S3 is larger than its predecessor. One thing with the S3 Frontier – but not the Classis – is that it does not necessarily have to be within the range of your smartphone to take or make phone calls, get & send email or texts, even download apps. You can add cell network connectivity right to the watch – for a price from your carrier of course – and handle calls and messages directly on it. The Classic requires Bluetooth connectivity to your phone for those functions. The Gear S3 is water-resistant, meaning it can survive a drop in the toilet, but you can’t take it swimming. Among the many apps is Samsung Pay, which allows you to pay without fishing out your credit card, plus an altimeter, barometer, GPS & heart rate monitor, but you’d have to add other fitness apps if you needed them. The Gear S3 has Wi-Fi connectivity, wireless charging, and a large Gorilla Glass AMOLED display.
The Gear S3 is pretty easy to operate, once you get the hang of it, as you control the watch with 2 buttons, the rotating bezel, and a touchscreen. To figure out all the bells and whistles, you might want to take a look at the downloadable manual which runs over 100 pages.
Some reviewers have complained about the lack of more apps for the Gear S3, but I found it capable of doing most of what I’d want from a smartwatch, such as calls & messages, and of course, being a watch. Samsung uses its own operating system on their watches, called Tizen, which means any apps you want to add come from them, not the Google Play Store the way other non-Apple watches do. The Gear S3 is large, so if you have a small wrist, or don’t like a large watch, this isn’t for you. But they do include both a large and small (smaller by 1 inch) band in the box.
All things considered, the Samsung Gear S3 is one of the best smartwatches currently available. The Bluetooth Frontier model is under $350 from Amazon, the S3 Classic is under $325 from Amazon. For the S3 Frontier that connects directly to a mobile network, check with your carrier, as their plans & prices differ.