The good: Comfortable, Wide range of features for the price, Clear and colorful screen
The bad: Interface can be complicated, Only works on Android
Who should buy it: Athletes looking for an affordable tracker that offers all of the core fitness functions.
Samsung’s latest gadget is a Swiss Army Knife of sorts: The wrist-worn wearable functions as a step counter, calorie tracker, heart rate monitor, music player, messenger, watch — and more.
The $179.99 Gear Fit2, which launches on June 10, is among the few fitness trackers that includes a little bit of everything. Most alternatives require you to compromise in at least one area. One band might feature a heart rate monitor but no GPS tracking, another might come with both of those capabilities but no local storage for playing songs when your phone isn’t nearby.
Samsung’s wristband includes all of these, plus the standard features that have become common on most fitness devices, such as water resistance, automatic exercise recognition for certain activities, sleep monitoring, and basic tracking of steps, distance, calories, and floors climbed.
The company is pushing the wristband as a productivity device that can keep you connected without having to reach for your phone. You can, for instance, go for a jog wearing the Gear Fit2 and still listen to music or map your route without bringing your mobile device. If your phone is tucked away in your pocket or purse during your commute, you can still read notifications or check the time — a capability that’s becoming more common among fitness trackers.
It’s a lot to cram into a single device. For the most part, Samsung executes this well with the Gear Fit2, but the robust set of features does involve some tradeoffs. Here’s a closer look at what it’s like to use the Samsung Gear Fit2.
Physically, the Gear Fit2 is a notable improvement from the original model Samsung launched in 2014. The strap is softer and more enjoyable to wear, and the screen is significantly wider, making it easier to read text and view progress. The Fit2 is comfortable enough to keep on your wrist throughout the day and night. I’ve worn it while working, sleeping, running, and so on.
While some companies have paid careful attention to make their fitness trackers look discrete or fashionable, Samsung’s tracker looks like it was made for athletes. Since it’s packed with extra sensors (Fitbit’s sleek Alta tracker doesn’t have GPS or heart rate monitoring, for instance) it’s thicker than some alternatives.
The Fit2 comes in black, blue, or pink color options. Devices that are more focused on aesthetics, like those made by Fitbit, Apple, and Jawbone, allow for more customization.
The Gear Fit2 delivers on its biggest promise: providing a solid standalone experience for runners. After syncing tunes from my Android phone to the wristband, I was able to listen to music through my wireless headphones during my run even though my phone was at home. You can also choose to listen to songs from Spotify through the Gear Fit2, but you’ll still need to have your phone within range for that. A tiny map showing the box-shaped running route I took as I lapped around a few blocks appeared on my wrist shortly after my workout.
Samsung’s wristband is among the most comprehensive trackers I’ve used in terms of the sheer amount of data it displays on your wrist. When viewing data from a specific run, for instance, the watch’s screen can tell me how close I was to my goal, the time window of my run, a graph showing how my heart rate correlates with my speed during a run, my maximum and minimum heart rate, and more.
The screen, though it’s slightly too large for my wrist even in a small size offering, is capable of showing a wealth of information, health related or not. When I received a string of notifications from Google Hangouts, for instance, I was able to scroll through all of them and read paragraphs of text in the notifications pane, rather than just viewing message previews.
Among the most important elements of any fitness tracker is its accompanying app and how it analyzes data. Samsung’s S Health app shows activity and sleep trends over time, but I found the interface to be messier and more confusing than Fitbit’s app. The first piece of information I see when I open the app is a prompt to set a new goal for a metric I haven’t recorded yet (like sleep or nutrition), and I don’t see my data until I scroll past that reminder. Fitbit’s dashboard, by comparison, lists your statistics in a clean menu that’s visible as soon as you launch the app.
The Fit2 feels like part smartwatch and part fitness tracker, and while I appreciate the amount of information I’m able to see on my wrist, all that data makes the interface complicated. It takes roughly four taps to access music I’ve uploaded to the Fit2, for example, and it took some noodling around to find where those songs were stored in the first place. Some points of interest like this are buried in sections of the interface that I didn’t even know were there until I spent at least a day using the Fit2.
The Fit2’s battery life seems to live up to Samsung’s claims. After roughly three days of usage, the band was down to 24%. Although some less complex fitness trackers can last between five days and a week, this is an impressive lifespan for a device with a large, colorful screen with so many features. The Apple Watch, comparatively, usually lasts about a day and a half.
Samsung’s Gear Fit2 is a comprehensive fitness tracker that checks all the boxes. It offers a lot for the price: mainstream watches and trackers that offer GPS are usually more expensive, like the Fitbit Surge ($229.95) and TomTom Spark Cardio+Music ($199.99). The Microsoft Band ($174.99) is roughly the same price as Samsung’s tracker, but there are some differences to consider. Microsoft’s device can track more types of data, including ultraviolet light exposure and skin temperature. But Samsung’s wristband offers 4GB of onboard storage, which Microsoft’s offering does not.
Still, non-athletes and those who just want to keep an eye on how much activity they’re getting throughout the day might want to opt for something cheaper or slimmer. Plus, the Gear Fit2 is only available for Android phones, which limits the Gear Fit2’s audience.
Regardless, it’s promising to see companies like Samsung making a bigger effort to expand what a wearable can do when your phone isn’t nearby. It’s another step towards complete independence, which will ultimately make devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches much more useful.