With the new and improved Samsung Gear S3 unveiled, it’s time to see just how much better it is than its predecessor, the legendary Gear S2. Samsung got so much right with the S2 it might seem like there was little left to improve upon, but Samsung arguably has managed to do it. Let’s get into the thick of it with a quick Gear S3 vs Gear S2 comparison.
First, a note on nomenclature: there were three versions of the Gear S2: the regular sporty version, a 3G-equipped sporty version and the classier Gear S2 Classic. The Gear S3 comes in two flavors: the Gear S3 Classic and the rugged Gear S3 Frontier.
This comparison largely compares the regular Gear S2 with the Gear S3 Classic (the “base” model of the new range, as the Gear S2 was before it), but we do cover the other variants where relevant due to their visual and other similarities.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Gear S3 Classic is perhaps that it looks more like the LG Watch Urbane than the Gear S2 Classic (although the Gear S3 Frontier looks like the S2 Classic on steroids). That point aside, it’s all Gear underneath, running Samsung’s Tizen wearable OS 2.3.2 with that same great rotating bezel to navigate its circular interface.
From the Gear S2’s sporty plastic curves, the Gear S3 matures into more of a dress watch style, with minimal ridging on the bezel and two classic-looking crowns (buttons) on the right hand side at two and five. The rubber strap has been replaced with a leather strap and standard 22 mm pin in a metal body like the S2 Classic. Like their S2 predecessors, the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier are both IP68 dust-proof and water-resistant.
It might be more faithful to compare the Gear S3 Classic to the Gear S2 Classic, which had a standard 20 mm leather strap, even though the Gear S2 Classic shares more visual features with the bulkier Gear S3 Frontier. Inversely, the Frontier is the more sporty, outdoorsy version of the new S3s, a title previously held by the regular Gear S2. Confusing, we know.
The Gear S3 Frontier also uses a standard 22 mm pin, but it comes with a rugged rubber strap and uses chunkier flat buttons similar to the ones found on the original Gear S2. It’s also the heaviest Gear smartwatch yet, weighing in at 62 grams, but it packs an LTE antenna for getting into the great outdoors without the need for a paired smartphone.
Size and Display
Compared to the standard Gear S2, the Gear S3 Classic is thicker, heavier and has a larger screen than its predecessor. The Gear S3 is 12.9 mm thick, weighs 57 grams and has a 1.3-inch 360×360 pixel AMOLED display with a pixel density of 278 ppi. Both new Gear S3’s also up their scratch protection with Corning’s Gorilla Glass SR+.
The Gear S2 by comparison is 11.4 mm thick, weighs 47 grams and has a slightly smaller 1.2-inch AMOLED display with the same resolution but slightly higher pixel density of 302 ppi that no one would be able to spot with the naked eye.
If you like your displays measured on paper, the Gear S2 technically has a sharper but smaller display. To make up for that, the Gear S3 can display more on its always on display, which also keeps color rather than going to grayscale and supports more customization.
The more stylish version of the Gear S2, the Classic, was a lot smaller than both the Gear S2 and the new Gear S3’s. At just 44 mm tall, compared to 50 mm for the Gear S2 Classic and 49 mm for both new Gear S3’s, the Gear S2 Classic was also the lightest of the bunch at just 42 grams. While the Gear S2 Classic was among the smaller smartwatches available last year, the Gear S3’s are just as bulky as the rest now.
Besides its new looks, the Gear S3 takes a significant leap in terms of a few specs, including adding 50% more RAM and a 50% larger battery. At the very least, its 768 MB of RAM should help with those familiar smartwatch stutters. Wireless charging makes a comeback, as does the heart-rate monitor and NFC/MST support for Samsung Pay. GPS, previously only found on the Gear S2 3G, is standard on both S3 models.
The Gear S3’s larger 380 mAh battery should get you better battery life than the Gear S2’s 250 mAh supply, but we’ll have to wait for a full comparison to tell you just how much better it is. Samsung is claiming “up to four days” for the S3s, but we’ll just have to see about that.
The software experience on the Gear S3 is the same as that found on the Gear S2, except you can now rotate the bezel to accept or dismiss calls and there are a few minor visual changes as well. As before, the built-in mic and speaker lets you make and receive calls with your watch but we can’t say yet whether there has been an increase in sound quality on the newer models.
There’s no official Gear S3 price yet for the Classic or Frontier version but the Frontier will obviously be the more expensive of the two. You can expect the price of all Gear S2 models to drop when the Gear S3 price becomes official, which may make it a better buy if you’re not sold on the additional features on the Gear S3. The Gear S3 Classic and Frontier will be available sometime in October 2016.
With the Gear S3 officially not “replacing” the Gear S2, both lines are intended to complement each other. So even though the Gear S3 has more features than the Gear S2, the shift in design and bulk may mean styling will be the biggest differentiator when thinking about picking one of them up.
Which watch design do you prefer? Which one gets the essential features right?