BERLIN — Smartwatch makers seem to have figured out that it's fitness tracking capabilities that will convince people to slap a smart device on their wrist. Samsung's embracing that trend whole-heartedly with the Gear Sport, a new addition to its smartwatch line.
The Sport, unveiled here at the IFA trade show, isn't the only fitness-focused device that Samsung's rolling out. It also rolled out new versions of its Gear Fit 2 fitness tracker and Gear IconX earbuds, both of which have been updated with workouts in mind.
The $199 Gear Fit Pro 2 goes on presale tomorrow (Aug. 31) before hitting stores Sept. 15, the same day Samsung's Note 8 smartphone goes on sale. Samsung hasn't said what the Gear Sport watch and updated IconX earbuds will cost, though they'll ship later this fall.
The Gear Sport's Fitness Regimen
So what can you expect from the Gear Sport, when the latest addition to Samsung's smartwatch line goes on sale? Expect a watch that's ready to tag along on your workouts, even if that means a dip in the pool.
Similar to the upcoming Fitbit Ionic, the Gear Sport has a 5 ATM water resistance rating, meaning you can take it into 50 meters of water without a problem. Samsung says its new watch will survive saltwater too, which open-water swimmers will appreciate. And whether your daily swim takes to a pool or the ocean, Samsung is tweaking the activity tracker on this watch to track your aquatic workouts, monitoring your laps and the number of strokes you took each time down the pool.
Even on dry land, the Gear Sport is pretty serious about tracking your activity. The watch's heart-rate monitor promises improved accuracy, as does its built-in GPS tracker. Samsung built auto workout detection capabilities into the Gear Sport, so that when the watch detects that you're moving around, it will start capturing any workout data, asking you later if you want to save what it's logged. The idea is to get you more focused on your workout and less on fiddling with your watch.
In the spirit of better workout tracking, the Gear Sport also gives you a quick way to enter calories you've consumed during the day via a series of taps. You'll have to enter in a specific number, as opposed to the type of food you ate, but the reward is a help at-a-glance view on your Gear Sport that shows you calories consumed and calories burnt. Ideally, you'd use that view to adjust your behavior for the rest of the day whether it's getting in another quick workout on the way home or indulging in dessert if your calorie count happens to be low for the day.
App selection has been a sore sport for Samsung watches, which uses the company's Tizen OS, but Samsung insists the situation is improving with more developers producing watchfaces and apps for its watches. The company didn't leave anything to chance with the Gear Sport, striking partnerships with Under Armor, Spotify and Speedo to provide apps for both the Sport and the Gear Fit 2 Pro.
That Spotify partnership will be particularly welcome if you like music to accompany your workout. Using Spotify's offline feature, you'll be able to access playlists and store them on your watch, which can hold up to 500 songs.
The Gear Sport's Look
The Gear Sport features the same circular watchface with rotating bezel that you'll find in the current Gear lineup. The display is a 1.2mm Super AMOLED screen and the casing will come in a single 42.9mm size. You can choose from either blue or black casings.
Samsung will let you swap out the straps, offering a variety of choices in leather and silicon. In a particularly clever touch, you can opt for a watchface that's color-matched to your strap. If you don't want one of Samsung's straps, the Gear Sport is compatible with any 20mm watch strap.
Samsung sees the Gear Sport as something you'll wear long after your workout ends, thus the ability to swap out a more functional silicon strap for something more fashionable. The Gear Sport can also pull off a few tricks that have nothing to do with monitoring your workout. It's got support for Samsung Pay built-in, meaning you can pay for items just by waving your watch at an NFC terminal. The watch also supports Samsung Connect for controlling Samsung devices, and it can double as a controller for both PowerPoint and Samsung's Gear VR headset.
Other Fitness Focused Updates
The Gear Fit 2 Pro offers many of the fitness features Samsung's touting for the Gear Sport. That includes 5 ATM water resistance with swim tracking features, heart rate monitoring and the partner apps from likes of Under Armor, Spotify and Speedo.
Like the Gear Sport, the Gear Fit 2 Pro also works with iPhones (the iPhone 5 and later) in addition to Samsung's Galaxy phones and any other Android device running Android 4.4 or later. That tackles a major complaint we had about the Gear Fit 2.
The Gear Fit 2 Pro comes in black with red accents as well as a solid black design. It's got the same curved 1.5-inch Super AMOLED screen as the original Gear Fit fitness tracker. A buckle-and-strap design should make the tracker feel more secure during your workouts.
As for the 2018 edition of the Gear IconX, it comes in black, pink and gray. But the biggest change to the earbuds will be vastly improved battery life. Samsung says the earbuds can now stream for 5 hours, up from 90 minutes before. Talk time remains at 4 hours. It also has 4GB of internal storage to download music.
The IconX isn't leaving the fitness features to the Gear Sport and Gear Fit 2 Pro. It now features a personal running coach that can shout encouragement and status updates into your ear. The earbuds also connect to the Bixby personal assistant that's now on board the Note and Galaxy S8 phones, though it augments the touch controls, not repacling them.
Photo Credits: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.