Featured Review: Samsung Gear Fit 2

Samsung's wearables have been on the minds of the mainstream for years now, and it's this Gear lineup of products that Samsung likes to use for its latest accessories experiments and other wearable hardware.  Two years ago we saw the original Gear Fit hit the market, with its curved AMOLED panel and fitness tracking features poised to take the market from companies like Fitbit, but over the past two years the limiting factors of the device saw it not selling quite as well as Samsung envisioned.  Fast forward to today where the Gear Fit2 will be available for all devices running Android 4.4 or higher and priced at $180.  This puts the Gear Fit2 in a better place than its predecessor at launch in every way, but is it a better product in the end?  Let's take a look!

Video Review

Hardware

Samsung's devices have always had their own unique design flavor, for better or worse, but this past year Samsung's designs have taken to a whole new level of beauty.  The original Gear Fit's design language fit right in with the Galaxy S5 that it launched along side, so it's only fitting that the Gear Fit2 looks like it fits right in with Samsung's current generation designs as well.  The body itself is a 24.5mm wide by 51.2mm long curved design that's means to better fit the slight curvature of where it sits on your wrist, and that curvature includes the screen as well.  On the top sits a 1.5-inch curved Super AMOLED screen at 216 x 432 pixels.  That means it's not only gorgeous as you would expect from a Samsung display, including deep blacks, super rich colors and superb brightness outdoors, but also that it's super high resolution too.

Being a fitness tracker it's important that the screen is viewable in any kind of light, and there are two components to the equation that make this one simply excellent.  First off it's a curved Gorilla Glass 3 panel, helping keep glare directly off the screen and letting you more easily view it at an angle if necessary.  The Gear Fit2 ships at 70% brightness by default, which is impressive as it's easily viewable even in the direct Florida sun I have here throughout the day.  If you somehow need it to be brighter the adjustment is a simple swipe down from the top of the screen and a single button click away from adjustment.  It's also IP68 water and dust resistant, so your normal fitness activities shouldn't damage the Fit2 in any way.

This curved glass panel is held in by a metal trim that makes the device look and feel a bit more premium than your average fitness tracker, but that doesn't mean it's heavy by any means.  At 28g or 30g the Gear Fit2's small and large sizes both weigh about the same as 2 CDs.  This is an incredibly minimal amount of weight to have on your arm all day, and at times I forgot it was even there.  Inside is a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512mb of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, built-in GPS, accelerometer, gyro and barometer.  Underneath you'll find the dedicated heart rate monitor and charging pins, and the whole package is powered by a tiny 200mAh battery, which is about 1/15th the size of the average smartphone battery.  The Gear Fit2 supports both Bluetooth 4.2 and WiFi connections for a variety of ways to stay connected to your phone.

The design of the unit looks like something Will.I.Am would wear in his latest music video, and exudes a very futuristic looking design.  Being a device that looks a lot like a curved visor helps this image quite a bit, and it comes off looking really cool in the process.  It's a tad on the bulky side at first, given that plenty of fitness trackers are svelte little bands, but the addition of a screen on top completely makes up for any of this being a downside.  On the right side you'll find two buttons, the top one which functions as a back/action button, and the bottom one which functions as a home/apps button.  The band melds seamlessly with the hardware up top and looks rather nice, completing the smooth, rounded ends of the band and keeping any components from protruding or asking to be scuffed up.

In fact the band itself is one of the most comfortable bands I've ever used on any wearable device, and is made of a super soft and flexible elastomer material.  It's coated in a powdering soft-touch finish which feels excellent on the skin both when exercising and just sitting around lounging, and the clasping mechanism for the band is quite good too.  There's a loop on one end which you feed the other half of the band through, followed by a simple push clip system for sizing.  Samsung sells the Gear Fit2 in two different sizes which actually just means the band sides are different.  The small band stretches 125mm to 170mm, while the 2g heavier large band stretches 155mm to 210mm.  Another notable positive about this particular band is that there are no overlapping parts inside of the band to irritate your wrists after long periods of time, something of drastic importance in a product that's designed to be worn 24/7.

While I certainly enjoyed the feel of the band and the ease of the clasp system, I found there were plenty of times where the band would work itself loose even during daily tasks.  The clasp part doesn't protrude out of the sides of the band, but it still got caught on enough objects to make it annoying, and possibly hazardous to the Gear Fit2's health if this becomes loose during a vigorous workout.  I only had it actually fall off my wrist once over the past few days when the clasp came loose, but this resulted in a minor scuff to the metal trim around the display, making me worry a bit for the longevity of the device if this continues to happen.  The bands themselves to come off the Gear Fit2's body with an easy latch system that's nearly identical to the Gear S2, so if you're having issues with this one popping loose often you might want to consider other bands that Samsung will offer with different clasping mechanisms in the future.

Software

Much like every other Samsung wearable launched in the past few years, the Gear Fit2 is powered by Samsung's in-house open source OS, Tizen.  Over the years we've seen Tizen mature considerably, and with the launch of the Gear S2 we saw a redesign in the UI of Tizen-powered wearables.  The Gear Fit2's UI looks and works almost identically to the Gear S2's, which is impressive to say the least given that it's primarily sold as a fitness tracking device.  The first screen you'll always be greeted with when waking the device up is the watch face, which by default displays the time, stairs climbed, steps taken and calories burned throughout the day.

Much like a proper smartwatch would, the Gear Fit2 ships with 9 watch faces that are almost all very customizable.  Again just like the Gear S2 most of these can be "stylized" to fit what you're wearing, what mood you're in or just to tickle your fancy, and usually vary from different colors of a preset look to allowing you to change out the watch hands on an analog clock.  Each of these faces are incredibly different from one another not just in looks or style, but also in functionality.  The first two faces are plays on each other and both display the same information, one having larger sections than the other.  Four of the remaining faces focus on the time most, with a single customizable quick statistic shown below so that you can keep an eye on the single most important health-tracking stat the band offers.  The remaining faces are mostly just stylistic, showcasing different movements and changes depending on fitness activity, or just displaying varying colors to suit your style.

The interface itself is paginated and works very much like a smartphone's home screen, except there's only one large widget available on each page.  Widgets include things like detailed calorie burn throughout the day, quick workout tracking, steps taken, floors climbed, current heart rate and the daily highs and lows, as well as quick ways to input caffeine and water intake and participate in Samsung's new Together fitness tracking program.  Clicking on any of these widgets will take you into the full apps, which will provide more information and functionality.  More pages can be added via apps on the Galaxy Apps store, but at this time of writing there of course aren't many additional ones available since the product just launched.

Pulling down from the top of the screen will reveal a notification shade-like menu, but you won't find those here.  Instead at the top you'll see how the Gear Fit2 is connected to your phone (if it's connected at all), as well as quick toggles for brightness adjustment, Do Not Disturb mode and launching the music player.  It feels like Samsung might add more features here given the extra space at the bottom, but there's no telling just yet.  Notifications themselves are actually found on the left-most homescreen and will be covered in detail below.  The Gear Fit2 can be used without a connection to a phone, and you don't even have to pair it with a phone to get started either.  Extra functionality will of course be limited, but the base features such as stat tracking, GPS tracking and others are completely available without the use of a paired phone.

The Samsung Gear app has been designed to interface with all Samsung Gear models, and the Gear Fit2 is now the latest addition to that line.  This app works on any Android 4.4 and up powered phone with at least 1.5GB of RAM, and only requires a small plugin to be downloaded in addition to the app if you're using it on a non-Samsung Galaxy branded phone.  For the review process I used the Gear Fit2 on a Samsung Galaxy S7, as the plugin for the Gear Fit2 was not yet available for use on the Play Store.  Functionality doesn't change for non-Samsung phones though, so the experience won't differ in any way.

This app lets you basically just manage the Gear Fit2's settings, along with having a slightly easier way to change and customize watch faces and other components.  This is also where you'll find the apps that are designed for the Gear Fit2, or any other Gear for that matter, and where you'll receive updates as well.  In addition to this you can customize which apps send notifications to your Gear Fit2, how the app layout is setup on the Fit2 as well as locating your Fit2 if you happen to have lost it.

Apps and Notifications

Apps are handled the same way the rest of the Gear line handles them, and are both installed and updated from the Samsung Gear app and the Galaxy Apps Store.  At this time of writing there were only half a dozen available apps on the store, although given the Gear S2's growth we expect this number to skyrocket within a short time after launch.  What makes this fitness tracker vastly different from most of the others on the market is this apps functionality, which makes it much more like a smartwatch than anything.  The beauty here is that you don't ever have to install additional apps on here if you don't want to, and because Gear apps are separate you won't have to worry about your device's memory filling up without your consent.  Apps will generally have a page that can be added to the homescreen of the Gear Fit2, but in case they don't you can always press the bottom button on the Gear Fit2 to bring up the all apps menu.  This is a vertically scrolling menu containing an apps icon with the name below to it in a list, making app selection easy as can be.

Notifications are handled in a very similar fashion to a smartwatch and will popup on the screen in different ways depending on how you're interacting with the Fit2.  When in an app a small pop-down notification will let you know something's happening, but when the screen is off or you're not navigating through apps the Gear Fit2 will display the notification on the full screen.  Just like you would expect from Android notifications, you can perform actions right on the notification when it pops up if you'd like.  Messages will have a quick response, emails will have a Done or Archive button, and so on and so forth.  These buttons are system calls and will do exactly what they do when you interact with a notification on your phone, making the Gear Fit2 a proper extension of your phone the way a smartwatch should be.

Some things are a bit limited though, and this is where the differentiation between the Gear Fit2 and something like a Gear S2 or Android Wear smartwatch takes shape.  Replying to a message, for instance, only gives you preset options instead of a way to reply via a keyboard or voice.  Thankfully though you can edit these messages in the Samsung Gear app and add essentially as many as you want, fitting whatever regular phrases you normally use to keep those annoying contacts at bay.  This quick response goes for calls as well, where you can accept or reject a call straight from the Fit2, and also send a message with the call rejection.  You'll not be talking to your Gear Fit2 in any way though, and that includes both phone calls themselves as well as any kind of Google Now or S-Voice type functionality either, so don't expect to do so.

Most notifications worked quite well, or at least if they needed more input than the Fit2 could provide, a handy "check your phone" popup appeared on screen when trying to perform a more complicated action.  Notifications can also be set to light up your device automatically or not, a setting that's disabled by default to save battery.  Tilting the band downward will also automatically turn off the screen, providing an easy gesture that keeps your hands off the device as much as possible.  You can also turn off the screen by placing your palm over the screen as well, a method that's become an industry standard for quite some time now.  You'll also find a few local notifications that don't need to be relayed back to the phone too, such as the inactivity notification designed to get you moving on a regular basis.

Fitness and Sleep Tracking

As the Gear Fit2 is primarily sold as a fitness tracker, it makes the most sense to buy one for this functionality than others that have been mentioned.  Samsung is debuting an automated algorithm that will pick up the activity you are doing and track it automatically.  This includes everything from just walking around, running, cycling, climbing stairs and other supported activities as well.  Regardless of the fact that there's no altometer in here to track elevation, the Gear Fit2 accurately tracked every single flight of stairs I climbed or descended, no matter if I was walking or running.  Automatic stat tracking was this accurate elsewhere too, which for me is a Godsend when working out.

While I love my smartwatches and other trackers, many do not feature this kind of automatic stat tracking, and I find myself always forgetting to hit start or resume from a break.  During my review period with the Fit2 I found myself in this very situation, where I went out cycling on a multi-mile trek and took a break a few miles in.  After catching my breath and taking a break from the harsh Florida heat, I jumped back on my bike and continued my routine, only to realize a mile later that I had forgotten to hit resume on the cycling exercise the Gear Fit2 started.  Thankfully Samsung's algorithm is excellent, and I found that it didn't miss a beat of the action, or the beat of my heart either.

During an exercise the Fit2 will track your heart rate more often than usual, keeping up with more accurate averages during the duration of your workout.  It will also automatically track your GPS location to provide you with accurate location data, including the changes in altitude and even the weather at the time of exercising, as well as a detailed map of your journey.  Speed, splits and heart rate can be seen in the statistics throughout the entire exercise, as well as things like calories burned, average pace, etc.  During an exercise the Fit2 will pop up various notifications and awards designed to help keep you going, including how far you've gone and how long until you reach your target goal.  S-Health integration brings this one full circle and really provides some incredible value that really can't be beat anywhere.

Over the years S-Health has drastically improved from its mediocre original release, and now represents the finest in fitness apps available anywhere.  The S-Health dashboard gives users a place to customize the information they most care about, whether that's your favorite exercises, your heart rate information or the quality of sleep you got last night.  If you haven't played around with S-Health before you really should install it on your phone now, as it'll give you a glimpse into the kind of information the Gear Fit2 provides S-Health to put together a more full picture of your current state of health.  Each exercise is broken down into tiles too, clicking each tile will bring out your personal history of every time you've ever tracked a given exercise.  There's boatloads of information here and all of it ties in with what the Gear Fit2 tracks.  S-Health also provides linking with other fitness apps and services, such as Google Fit, if you prefer to keep that data elsewhere as well.

The Gear Fit2 is also designed to automatically track your sleep in the same way it automatically tracks fitness activities.  When in an inactive state the Gear Fit2 will then closely monitor its accelerometer, gyro and your heart rate to determine if you've entered a sleep state, or if you're just sitting in your cubicle for inordinately long periods of time.  Once it has determined that you haven't moved at all for a while and your heart rate slows down, it will enter sleep tracking mode and periodically check on your movement and heart rate.  After you wake you'll be presented with a graph that displays your sleep quality throughout the night, including the times where you may have been restless or otherwise moving, as well as a sleep efficiency rating.  You can also rate your sleep or manually track it if you forget to wear your Fit2 at night and still want to keep a record of sleep.

Experience and Battery Life

While the Gear Fit2 certainly provides a lot more functionality and value over many other fitness trackers on the market, it's worth noting that this isn't going to be a full-fledged replacement of your favorite smartwatch.  Aside from the functionality limitations in dealing with notifications, you'll also find little nuances like the complete lack of a date anywhere on the display, unless of course the watch face present on the display features this little tidbit of information.  There are other things like this that mean it won't replace a full on smartwatch, but for most users the Gear Fit2 will provide significantly more functionality than other fitness trackers, all while performing that job better than most fitness trackers too.  It's a win-win no doubt and something that blew me away when using it for the first time.

Another noteworthy feature is the standalone music player, which allows you to pair the Fit2 with your favorite Bluetooth headphones (or speaker) and listen to music without being connected to WiFi or a phone.  You'll need to preload music onto the Fit2 beforehand, and at the moment it supports nearly every audio file you're likely to come across.  Folks utilizing Spotify's excellent streaming service will find that they can also stream music from the Gear Fit2.  There's no offline playback though so you'll always need to be connected to your phone to use this feature.  The music player on the Gear Fit2 also controls anything playing on your phone as well, so as you might expect a music control remote feature on a smartwatch, you'll also get that here.

As we covered in the hardware section the screen itself is truly a gorgeous affair.  The curved nature of the glass gives it an incredible look that'll keep you saying wow even during every day use.  Watching the words "pour" over the edge of your view and up or down the curve is stunning and really helps cut down on the glare too.  Always on display that's become prevalent in smartwatches is here too, although it's guaranteed to keep that battery life down considerably versus being disabled.  A small time notation sits at the bottom edge of the screen for easy viewing from any angle, but its effect on battery life is extremely detrimental.  I found that I could only get a full day out of the Gear Fit2 when always-on display was running, and the same type of battery life should be expected if you regularly use features like playing music or others where it needs to constantly display or stream data.

Folks that don't use this feature will find that 3-day battery life is easily achievable, and that includes sleep tracking for all 3 days as well.  The charging dock Samsung includes with the Gear Fit2 is fantastic and features a dual pin system as well as a magnetic lock to keep it in the dock.  This means you can literally drop the Fit2 on the dock facing left or right and it'll charge, although the charging dock display doesn't stay on the screen, presumably to keep the screen from burning in if left on the charger for excessive periods of time.  The charger itself only carries a regular USB Type-A cable on one end though, so you'll either need to plug it into a computer to charge or an existing wall outlet charger.  On a standard 5v/1a charger it takes about 30 minutes to fully charge the Gear Fit2, whereas something like a 10W charger will bump this up to about 15 minutes or so for a full charge.  It's only a 200mAh battery so there's only so much time it's going to take.

The Good

Attractive design

Lightweight and comfortable

Gorgeous curved screen

3-day or longer battery life

Significant additional functionality versus other fitness trackers

Comfortable band

S-Health integration is phenomenal

Automatic tracking is incredibly accurate

Stats tracked are accurate and useful

Interface is superb

Galaxy Apps for additional expandable functionality

The Bad

App support is lacking at launch

Only a few watch faces to choose from

Always-on display drains too much battery

Clasp comes loose too easily

Final Thoughts

At this point in time, for $180, I would have to recommend the Samsung Gear Fit2 over any other fitness tracker on the market.  The value offered by Samsung's latest here, in addition to the design and feature set, is unmatched by other products.  It's not quite a full-fledged smartwatch, but it's only a stone's throw from being one anyway, and most importantly it performs its most basic functions perfectly and as advertised.  The original Gear Fit was a cool product but ultimately flawed in a number of ways, while the Gear Fit2 shows some incredible design and implementation improvements on Samsung's part to say the least.  This is an absolutely excellent product and one I would definitely consider replacing my other smartwatches with for many different reasons.  Expansion and development will only make this product better over time, and that's not just Samsung's updates either, it's all the developers working together in the Galaxy Apps store too.  The Gear Fit2 is absolutely one of the best wearables on the market, hands down.

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About the Author
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Nick Sutrich

Event / Reviews Editor
Nick has written for Androidheadlines since 2013, is Review Editor for the site, and has traveled to many tech events across the world. His background is as Systems Administrator and overall technology enthusiast. Nick loves to review all kind of different devices but specializes in Android smartphones, smartphone camera reviews, and all things VR, both here on the site and on our YouTube channel. He is very passionate about smartphones and the continued improvement they can bring into people’s lives and is an expert on many different types of technologies, including mobile devices, VR, and cameras. Contact him at [email protected]
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