Samsung unveils the new, classically inspired, Gear S3

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September 2016

The smartwatch is definitely still smart, but the goal was to also make it look like a smart-looking mechanical watch. How did the brand do?

Samsung unveils the new, classically inspired, Gear S3

The latest offering from South Korean tech giant Samsung is the Gear S3 smartwatch. It was on display at the IFA Berlin trade show and the brand’s strong exhibition revealed its ambitions: to solidify its position atop the smartwatch world. I suppose it was a good thing that Apple wasn’t there then.

The new Gear S3 comes in two variants, the Classic and the Frontier. The Frontier model is the sportier one of the two, and evokes a rugged outdoor look. The aptly named Classic model “pays homage to the minimalist, elegant style found in the most iconic timepieces.”

The goal this time was clear: try to make its latest release look as much as possible like a real (Swiss) mechanical watch. Perhaps that’s why the watch is designed by creative Swiss watchmaker Yvan Arpa.

Samsung unveils the new, classically inspired, Gear S3

Even the marketing jargon for the Gear S3 resembles the prose used by traditional Swiss watchmakers. See if you can spot it in the plug by Younghee Lee, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Mobile Communications Business:

“With the Gear S3, we continue to build on our wearables heritage of offering diverse choices to enhance consumers’ unique lifestyles… the Gear S3 marks a significant addition to our smartwatch portfolio.”

Yes, even tech companies have started to boast about their rich wearable “heritage”. But how far back does that heritage actually go?

To be fair, the nicely finished watch does borrow from traditional watchmaking design to some extent. Users interact with the dial thanks to an intuitive rotating bezel that is used to control the watch. That means that without touching the screen, they can accept or reject a call or snooze an alarm.

Samsung unveils the new, classically inspired, Gear S3

And the default setting of the Always On Display (AOD) is to display the time – rather than fading to black - which might trick some of us into thinking that this is a mechanical watch from afar.

The Gear S3 is compatible with standard 22mm watch bands, which means that consumers can easily personalize their watch - a nice touch. The watch is further customizable with watch faces available for download directly from the Gear S3 without the need of a smartphone.

In terms of performance, the smartwatch meets IP68 standards for water resistance and for the first time it features a special glass specifically designed for wearable devices to provide a tougher, more scratch resistant and crisp display.

As we expect from the brand, it comes with a rich range of apps for fitness, music, news, sports and travel.

Samsung unveils the new, classically inspired, Gear S3

In a move with convenience in mind, the watch allows users to register a bank card and use it to make mobile payments. And in case you have an emergency on your hands, SOS and location tracking capabilities can be activated to alert family and emergency services. I wonder how long it will take before someone plays a trick on their loved ones with that function?

The elephant in the room with wearables is of course battery life. The Gear S3 should last you up to four days on a single charge, but that expectation usually drops with real life use.

The electronics giant certainly couldn’t be ignored at IFA Berlin - it had a show hall on its own and the Gear S3 was proudly on display. And there’s plenty of reasons to like their latest wearable device.

But if Samsung’s goal was to make the most realistic looking connected watch, unfortunately they come in a close second in Berlin.

The connected watch that came out on top for us was the Withings Steel HR. The reason? The watch reflected the pure watchmaking form we’re used to; it looked more like a carefully designed timepiece – with actual hands, for example - than a tech gadget.