Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review

Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review

Introduction


I have a confession to make – I don't like watches. I don't like how they get bumped against doors and get caught in my clothes, I don't like how they remind me of school, where I had to instantly get from one class to another, I don't like the idea that they're intended to serve as a fashion accessory (not unlike a peacock's plumage), and I particularly don't like that they can't do much beyond telling the time – something that my phone does perfectly.

But when I reviewed the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch last year, I actually enjoyed it. The wearable looked good and felt okay on my wrist, but above all, it could do much more than to tell me that I was late for my weekly editorial meeting. That's why I'm now excited to test the Samsung Gear S3 frontier, which comes with a bigger battery, a built-in speaker, and a dedicated GPS for improved location tracking. Let's find out if it is worth the $350 asking price.

In the box:


Design

The Gear S3 frontier is a smartwatch made for adventurers – thick, solid, tough. The rotating bezel is as reliable as before.

Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review

This is no kids’ watch, that’s for sure. It doesn't look great on a lady's hand either, unlike the Samsung Gear S2 from last year. Made of stainless steel, the Samsung Gear S3 frontier is big and solid, with a manly look, and is noticeably on the heavy side. It wraps around the wrist with a thick rubbery band providing a tight, secure grip, further strengthened by a metal clasp. So if I were planning on spending a weekend in Bear Grylls’s company, this would be an ideal smartwatch to wear.

Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review
Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review
Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review
The rugged look and feel of the Gear S3 frontier come as no surprise. Samsung is advertising its smartwatch as IP68-certified and compliant with MIL-STD-810G standards for durability. Or in plain words, the wearable is resistant to water and dust ingress, as well as to unexpected falls and extreme temperatures. Keep in mind that the watch is not suitable for use while swimming, but giving it a quick rinse under the tap after an exercise will do no harm. Meanwhile, the raised bezel surrounding the screen protects its scratch-resistant surface against physical damage.

About the bands the Gear S3 frontier comes bundled with, it is made of what Samsung calls “active silicon”. The material is grippy, meaning that it holds on tightly to the wearer’s wrist. I wouldn’t call this the most comfortable or most beautiful band I’ve ever tried, but I grew used to it over time. Besides, given the fact that the smartwatch is meant to appeal to active, sporty people, I’d give its stock band a pass.

I should point out that wearable is compatible with standard, 22-mm wristbands, so if you’re not happy with the stock band, you’re free to exchange it with one of your own. A leather band, for instance, would be a lot more suitable to wear to a fancy dinner, and Samsung has offerings priced at $30 apiece.

On the right side of the Gear S3 frontier are positioned its Back and Home buttons. Both are readily accessible and easy to feel without looking. But to navigate your way through the user interface, you’ll be mostly using the rotating bezel. This is a design approach I really liked when testing the Gear S2 last year, and I’m happy to see that it is as reliable as it was back then. Each twist results in a satisfying, tactile click, and the ridges on the bezel’s outer rim make it easier to feel. My only complaint is that I had the bezel rotate by accident a couple of times, when it got caught in my running jacket’s sleeve during an exercise.


Display

Bright and crisp, the screen on the Gear S3 frontier is a pleasure to look at.

Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review

A round smartwatch is a classy smartwatch, and the Gear S3 frontier falls into that category. On its front we have a 1.3-inch circular Super AMOLED display, protected by the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass SR+, which is designed specifically for wearables.

To sum it all up, the screen is a pleasure to look at. That’s not only due to its high resolution – 360x360 pixels for 278ppi. It is also because it displays graphics in high contrast. Notifications, for example, are nice, sharp, and clearly legible, as text is shown with white letters against a black background. Colors are bright and vivid, making watchfaces, apps, and widgets look their best. And no less importantly, I’ve never experienced issues with outdoor visibility.

One thing I should mention is that the Gear S3 frontier has the option to leave the display always on. When not in use, the screen dims down after a timeout period configurable between 15 seconds to 5 minutes. This does have a serious impact on battery life, but it makes the watch feel more like a watch. If you choose to disable the option, the screen will turn on automatically when you lift your hand or turn your wrist – gestures that work pretty well, in my experience.

As far as sensitivity goes, the Gear S3 frontier performs better than I expected. Moisture can easily make a touchscreen unusable, but the sweat accumulated after a 1-hour workout wasn’t enough to cause any troubles. Still, keep in mind that the touchscreen will start acting up if it gets too wet.

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45 Comments

1. darkkjedii

Posts: 30786; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

This review should be three words long. 1. Totally 2. Bad 3. Ass

12. Klinton

Posts: 1408; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

Still 7.5, though:) I guess here, lower is better?

16. darkkjedii

Posts: 30786; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

If lower is better, than it should get a negative zero.

21. Mxyzptlk unregistered

If I say shut up and take my money, then it's good. I had to pry myself away from the Best Buy demo unit.

42. androidwindows

Posts: 216; Member since: Oct 04, 2014

The best Samsung devices always get 0.5 lower (or even lower) than apple devices on this site. Btw, they gave both apple watch and apple watch series 2 an 8. So ....

2. abdoualgeria

Posts: 928; Member since: Jul 27, 2015

The best smartwatch on the planet Tizen is mindblowing ...

23. Mxyzptlk unregistered

A great smartwatch but I don't know. Best is highly subjective.

26. darkkjedii

Posts: 30786; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Easily the best I've owned. You can access the watch face portion of the Galaxy app store directly from the watch due to having LTE. It's got everything you could ask for in a watch and quite a bit more to be honest. Super battery life as well. The only thing it's missing, is a Galaxy Note device to go along with it.

32. Mxyzptlk unregistered

It has LTE, I'm assuming it has to be on a plan? I liked everything initially and may end up getting it around tax time.

3. maherk

Posts: 6680; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

In the words of almost all reviewers, it is the best smartwatch to date, yet it only gets 7.5 on PA.

4. maherk

Posts: 6680; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

It is compatible with every Android phone running 4.4 and up, and iOS compatibility is on the way, yet you put this as a con. Just checked the Apple Watch 1 and 2 reviews, and no where did you say that being limited to iOS devices is a con. And I ve never had any issues with the Gear Manager app, yet you find it buggy.

25. Clars123

Posts: 1073; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

Im pretty sure we've established that PhoneArena holds Apple devices to different standrds by now..complaining at this point isnt going to change anything A drag..I know but what are you gonna do?

5. ph00ny

Posts: 1986; Member since: May 26, 2011

So Apple watch doesn't get points taken away for not being compatible outside of iphones but this does? I've had the AT&T version of the frontier for more than a week and it's been stellar. I even used the watch for golf gps and it worked flawlessly and more accurately than the builtin gps on the golf carts. Latest update should provide updated workout support iirc. So which apps were you looking for? It seems to have all the basic/mainstream apps already

6. DavMor0069

Posts: 266; Member since: Dec 09, 2015

Gear s3-$350 ROUND display Stainless steel material Bigger screen Rotating bezel 3~4 day battery life Compatible with most android phones,with iPhone support to come. Lte option Standard 22mm band MST Samsung pay. Actually looks like a watch Apple watch s2 -$600 Stainless steel material Quadratic screen Smaller screen Tiny crown 1.5 day battery life Exclusive to iphones (thank God) No lte options Must buy proprietary bands ($50 and up) Nfc apple pay Looks like a toy.

9. wando77

Posts: 1166; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

EXACTLY what I was going to put

11. wando77

Posts: 1166; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Don't forget ALWAYS on display. One of the features that makes this infinitely better than Apples offering

17. darkkjedii

Posts: 30786; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Actually the band's are dirt cheap on Amazon. It's also very good smart watch, but way too dependent on the phone. The S3 is far ahead of it.

7. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1791; Member since: Apr 22, 2014

Best smartwatch to date! The only thing wrong with the one I have is the band irritated my wrist and started making my skin peel. I switched it out with a black leather band and problem solved... Android Wear 2.0 better bring it!

8. wando77

Posts: 1166; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

No mention in the Apple watch 2 negatives of a lack of Android support.... unbelievable!

10. sissy246

Posts: 6959; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

That's bias phonearena for you. This is the first smart watch that has made me want one. I got to play with one a few days ago and it is awesome. But I can't stand anything on my wrist, heck I can't even wear long sleeves with out pushing up the sleeves so I will have to pass on it

13. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

LOL..

14. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

What is the need for 10million apps on a smartwatch?

15. ctdog4748

Posts: 797; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

It's not about needing 10 million apps in a smartwatch, it's about having the apps available that YOU want to use.

18. ph00ny

Posts: 1986; Member since: May 26, 2011

Btw, gear s3 is around the same size and is lighter to boot compared to my daily driver (Skyhawk A-T Titanium) Not sure what the big fuzz is about. I even played golf with it on and didn't think for one sec that it was impacting my swing

19. tedkord

Posts: 17093; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I've defended PA before when people claimed they were Apple biased, but it's getting harder to do so. This is just silly.

22. Mxyzptlk unregistered

It's a word called opinion, tedkord.

34. dmh0284

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

Opinions are one thing. Inconsistencies in judging criteria is another entirely. I've never commented to complain about it, but PhoneArena has historically given apple phones a pass on features that it dings Android phones on. The lack of waterproofing, fast charge, wireless charging on some android phones all caused those phones to explicitly get listed as cons that affected their scores in their reviews. The same generation iPhones also jacked these features but the phones weren't dinged for it.

20. jmill75

Posts: 122; Member since: Jul 22, 2009

CON: Doesn't work with Iphone Really, because the Apple Watch works with Android right. But yet you will never here that as a con for the iWatch.

28. Jo_seph_B

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 29, 2016

Does work with iPhone. There is a beta of the Gear Manager. Use google. 10 minute install and a decent enough feature set, although not all the features work.

30. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

of course everyhing need to works with iPhone... and who care if apple watch didnt compatible with android? since every human in this world is using iPhone right now... /s

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