Samsung Gear 2 Smartwatch Review

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Camera & User Experience

Using the camera is easy, although it does take a few tries to get used to aiming the thing the right way; instead of holding it up like a smartphone or point-and-shoot, you have to hold your wrist horizontally.

When you open the camera app, it’s ready to shoot pics, and all you have to do is aim and tap the screen.

  

The camera has autofocus, and the controls are surprisingly extensive and include the ability to set the photo resolution (to 1920x1080, 1080x1080, or 1280x960); use auto focus or macro focus mode; add location tags to a photo; add a signature to photos; and set voice controls.

Yes, voice controls. When enabled, you can say “Cheese”, “Smile”, “Capture”, or “Shoot” to snap a photo, and you can start video capture (in 720p HD) by saying “Record video”. The Gear 2 obeys your voice commands with remarkable quickness.

  

When you’ve captured photos or video, you can view them in the Gallery (swipe left within the Camera app to get to it). From the Gallery, you can delete items or set them as your home screen background.

Frankly, we expected the camera to be nothing more than a novelty, and indeed that's about what it is. Sure, it'll snap a pic decent enough for a Facebook profile pic, but as you can see below, there's quite a bit of film grain, and the image quality seems curiously overexposed. You can't ask for too much more from a 2MP wrist-mounted camera, though.

  

  

  

Navigation on the Gear 2 is simple and intuitive. You can press the home button to turn the display on or off, and you can swipe right or left to see apps and options. To go back to the previous screen no matter what app you’re using, you just swipe down from the top of the screen. If you want to add an app to one of the home screen pages, you just press and hold its icon and then drag it.

We were impressed by how fluid and snappy the Gear 2 was to use. There’s very, very little lag no matter what you’re doing.

We must mention a few other salient tidbits from our time with the Gear 2. First, the Bluetooth connection with our Galaxy S5 was quite fast; any actions on one solicited a nearly instantaneous response on the other. That meant no waiting for syncing, no delay in picking up calls, and so on.

It was kind of neat to get messages on our wrist--note we said “neat” not “powerful” or “delightfully useful”--but easily the coolest feature is the ability to dial and make calls using only the Gear 2. You can quickly pull up a number and call someone from the Dialer app, and then you can hold the entire conversation just on the smartwatch via speaker. The call quality was excellent, despite the fact that--we can’t stress this enough--we were relying solely on the Gear 2’s speaker and microphone.

Other features are interesting and handy although perhaps not as compelling. For instance, the pedometer and heart rate monitor worked well (did you know that you’ll sprint nearly four miles over the course of a spirited game of ultimate frisbee?), but those aren’t necessarily applications that everyone needs.

Perhaps most importantly, the Gear 2 is comfortable to wear. It’s not at all too heavy and the strap is snug but doesn’t irritate the skin. I routinely forgot I was even wearing it, especially when engaged in physical activity.
 

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