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Samsung Gear Fit Review

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Interface


The Gear Fit features a simple touch and tap interface similar to that on a smartphone, but with more limited features, focused around showing you the time, weather, and fitness information.

The Gear Fit runs on something referred to as a ‘real-time operating system’ (RTOS), rather than on Android or Tizen. An RTOS is a much simpler platform than is tailor-made to complete specific tasks, but does not have the flexibility and versatility of more complex OSes. Put simply, you cannot put apps on the Fit - its RTOS is limited to what Samsung has already pre-loaded. There is also no software development kit (SDK) for Samsung’s wearable, and hence, there is no way for developers to code for it. What Samsung has done, though, is release an SDK so that developers can allow their apps to send notifications to the Gear Fit.

Why has Samsung picked the limited RTOS over richer platforms like Android or Tizen? The answer likely lies in the fact that such a barebones OS can make do with very humble hardware that consumes very little energy. This is what allows the Fit both to be compact and to last three to four days on average, something that other devices with color displays will find hard to match.

Another issue of the Gear Fit is its limited compatibility - the band works only with Samsung phones, and not even all of them. Right now, the Fit is compatible with 17 Samsung devices including the latest Galaxy S5, the S4, S III, Note III, Note 2, and others.

The interface itself is easy to grasp - it’s based on touching and tapping, just like on a smartphone. At the time of this writing, Samsung has already added support for both landscape and portrait orientation for the display. Initial prototypes of the Gear Fit had landscape support only and that made it a bit hard to read, but with portrait mode now available, there are no longer such issues.

Companion app and customization options


You set up the Gear Fit and customize its looks and functionality via Samsung’s official Gear Fit Manager application that you download for free from the Samsung app store. This app is where you first pair the Fit to your phone (via Bluetooth 4.0 LE), and you’d need it if you want to load up custom wallpapers, watchfaces, or to just re-arrange the icons on the bracelet.

The application features a set of wallpapers optimized for the long and narrow display of the Fit, and you can crop images from your phone as well, and load them up as background art. You can actually change the wallpaper on the Fit itself, but there, you only have a small sub-set of pre-defined images, and to load up new ones, you’d need the companion app.

Functionality


You unlock the Gear Fit by either pressing on the single physical key on its side, or by raising your hand in a natural motion towards your eyes, just as you’d do when you look at a traditional watch. The unlocking with motion works okay most of the time, but there is a slight delay until the screen turns on. This is a bit of a nuisance when all you want to do is check the time. It’s also very annoying when the screen refuses to turn on, and you have to repeat the gesture over and over again (something that can get embarassingly weird or funny when you’re in public). We tested whether the screen would mistakenly turn on when you walk, and we can say that it almost never does, but if you’re working out or exercising, for instance, it does occasionally turn itself on, mistaking your movements for attempts to unlock it. Still, with all its quirks, turning the screen on is our preferred method of waking the device since it does not require you to use both your hands. We ought to mention that the screen turns off after a few seconds (you can change screen timeout to up to 5 minutes, but that would worsen battery life), so you would need to wake it up every time you want to glance the time, weather, steps or something else.

Once unlocked, you have the main screen which you can customize to show you one of the following things: clock + weather, clock + upcoming calendar meeting, clock + steps, dual clock, just (a fancy) clock.

In addition to the main screen, you have four additional menu pages that you can swipe between. Each of them houses three icons. Here are all the functions on the Gear Fit: notifications, media controller, pedometer, exercise (running, cycling, hiking), heart rate, sleep, timer, stopwatch, find my device, and settings.

Notifications


The Gear Fit might not support third-party apps, but it shows you notifications from all kinds of different apps from native email, to calendar, Facebook, Viber, and all others that have implemented the feature. Such a rich notification system is welcome, as other popular wearables like the Pebble, for instance, cannot receive notifications from all that many apps, plus some have a problem with non-Latin text encodings. None of those issues are present on the Fit.

It would vibrate and light up when you receive a call or a text message. For calls, you can reject or reject and send the single pre-defined text reply: “I’ll call you later”, but you cannot actually talk on the Fit, unlike the Gear 2. For text messages, you can read the whole message on the smart bracelet, and you have a few pre-defined replies that you can send straight from the wearable. The same holds true for email – you can read full emails, as well as send quick pre-defined replies via the Samsung email app. Notifications for third-party apps like say Facebook, Whatsapp, Gmail or Viber happen in a very similar manner, but unlike calling, SMS and email (that are considered first-party apps), you cannot reply to these notifications from the Fit.

Finally, we ought to mention that deleting messages on the Gear Fit is an unnecessarily complicated task. Imagine a situation when someone sends you a few lines on Facebook - in Facebook’s traditional interface this would count as a single message. Not on the Gear Fit, though - every line will be counted as a separate message and you’d have to delete every single one of those to clear up your notifications box. We hope Samsung finds a way to fix this (at least for popular apps like Facebook) in the near future.

Gear Fit as a fitness tracker


The Gear Fit is more than just a beautiful curved screen that you can wear on your wrist, though. It has aspirations as a fitness tracker, and your journey with it towards better health starts with setting up a profile. You’d need to tell the Fit how old you are, what’s your sex, as well as how your height and weight. After you’re done with this, you can start getting fitter.

Pedometer - this is the feature that records the distance you travel by keeping track of the steps you take, a must-have feature for any fitness tracking gadget. Keep in mind that the pedometer does not record your steps unless you start it first - only then, it will start running in the background. For us, that's just plain weird for a device with aspirations as a fitness tracker: such features are expected to be turned on by default - it makes no sense for the user to have to worry remembering to turn on fitness tracking features on a... fitness tracker!

After this sore start, the Gear Fit set us a goal of 10,000 daily steps and we started looking at the accuracy of each step tracked. While in most cases, it got it right, every once in a while it erred, so that the final readings were not as accurate as you’d get with a dedicated tracker.

Right on the fit, you can see your steps for the past few days in a graph, so you don’t have to turn to your device for this. The pedometer, however, does sync your daily steps with the S Health app, and there you can see more detailed reports for longer periods of time.

Heart rate monitor - while pedometers are at the core of most fitness trackers, the Gear Fit’s signature feature is somewhat different. It’s got a dedicated heart-rate monitor, a feature that is missing on most other popular trackers.

The technology of measuring your pulse, or your heart rate, is not complicated - a dedicated sensor beams infrared light onto the veins of your forearm, and it shows you your pulse by calculating what’s reflected back. This simple mechanism, however, turns out to be very fiddly in real-life.

There are just too many conditions that you have to adhere to in order to get your heart rate - you need to keep still and quiet for an excruciatingly long 10 seconds. We tried getting our heart rate while walking, and this would simply fail - your hand needs to be still. Finally, the readings themselves are not continuous, and even worse - not always accurate. We measured our pulse after a basketball game and got readings of 110 beats per minute and 55 beats per minute within a minute! With all this in mind, the whole idea of a heart-rate monitor on the Fit becomes moot - those who really care about their heart rate would probably prefer a dedicated medical-grade oximeter that gives accurate and continuous measurements.

Exercise mode (running, cycling, hiking) - while the pedometer is an independent function of the Gear Fit (it runs even when the Fit is disconnected from the phone), the exercise mode - sadly - is bound to your smartphone. In order to start tracking your cycling exercise, for instance, you’d need a phone connection to get your location. We like to go on short bike rides without a big smartphone dangling in our pocket - unfortunately, if you want to get some exercise data, that’s not possible with the Fit - it’s not a truly autonomous device. If you have it connected to a phone, though, it does a good job on tracking your trip.

The Gear Fit also has a fairly unique coaching mode, one area where the heart-rate sensor is being put to use. You basically select the type of exercise you’d be doing, tighten up the Gear Fit snugly, and go on your merry way - the wearable would let you know whether you need to speed up, slow down, or keep up your pace depending on your heart rate. Sounds neat, but given the mixed results we got with the heart rate alone, we wonder how accurate this advice really is. We tried running with the coach setting the tempo, and - a bit frustratingly - it told us to slow down after a couple of minutes of turtle-paced running.

Sleep monitor - the Gear Fit also keeps track of your sleep, but just like all previous features, you have to manually start that sleeping mode everytime you go to bed. We just wished the bracelet would automatically detect when we go to sleep, but alas, it’s not doing that.

What does sleep mode do? Not much at the moment. It does not integrate with S Health yet (we expect Samsung to bring such support soon), and it only shows you how long you’ve ‘slept’ (the time since you pressed the ‘start’ and ‘stop’ button), and the percentage of ‘motionless’ hours during your sleep. No sleep cycles, no detailed breakdown, nothing. We do expect, though, that Samsung will improve on the limited sleep functions of the Fit in the very near future.

The timer and stopwatch features are straightforward, and work just as you’d expect them to. There’s also a ‘find my device’ feature, but unfortunately, we could not get it to work just yet.

15 Comments
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posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:42 4

1. Diego! (Posts: 505; Member since: 15 Jun 2009)


How come it got an 8 with so many cons? Maybe it'll get a software update to enhance its functionality.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:49 3

4. CoastCity (Posts: 110; Member since: 07 Mar 2014)


Maybe becase of "Killer style, Gorgeous curved Super AMOLED display"...

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:49

5. CoastCity (Posts: 110; Member since: 07 Mar 2014)


because

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 09:47

11. Kyokado (Posts: 115; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


Nope. Cos other reviewers rated it high.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 08:14 3

8. mrblah (Posts: 452; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)


Because there are fanboys that write articles also, I played with one for a bit, I'd say more like 5.5/10. Maybe next year.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 08:25 3

9. egbtmagus (Posts: 56; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)


Because it's Phonearena...

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 08:58 4

10. joey_sfb (Posts: 2932; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


Samsung track record on the Gear 1 watch is good. I got three major updates. One of them enable limited notification to full notification. You can select any apps alert to be display on the watch.

The second update add a second hand on my watch face. I need it to take a person pulse.

The third major update allow me to design my own custom watch face.

Samsung customer support is solid in my book.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 14:55 2

13. Victor.H (Posts: 419; Member since: 27 May 2011)


It's a very promising device even with all its limitations, and it gets one crucial part right - it's a wearable that's really comfortable to wear, simple as that. For the first time in a while this feels like the right form factor - both looking good, and very functional with that curved narrow display. We would hate to compare it to a device like the OG iPhone, but it's clear that at its time the iPhone would have come with an equally huge list of cons - it did not have 3G, it did not have video recording, and so on. It still managed to start something big. Again, we're not saying the Fit is in the position of the iPhone, but it's got a lot going for it.

posted on 13 Apr 2014, 21:31 1

14. mail2me98 (Posts: 7; Member since: 24 Feb 2013)


Don’t worry, haters gonna hate no matter what you wrote. Fanboy will spill a lot of comment or buzz around. This is how human act. Anyway, good review.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:45 1

2. Onami (Posts: 9; Member since: 29 Mar 2014)


Eventually Samsung can make a good looking watch, I appreciated it. I hope someday their flagship look cool like this.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:46

3. CoastCity (Posts: 110; Member since: 07 Mar 2014)


Too much cons, make the Gear 2 review now, please.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 07:51 1

6. ArtSim98 (Posts: 2798; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


Lol. So it's not really good even for fitness tracking. Smart Band is better

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 08:12

7. NokiaFTW (Posts: 2025; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)


Hope Samsung make these work with WPs.

posted on 11 Apr 2014, 12:30

12. Sora77 (Posts: 22; Member since: 31 Mar 2014)


The cons are all the things a fitness tracker should be good at. So the purpose of this device is totally failed except rich noti system. Still got 8. logic?

posted on 22 Apr 2014, 18:41

15. maxmppower (Posts: 48; Member since: 16 Aug 2013)


Not good enough

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