Samsung Gear S3 frontier smartwatch review

Interface and user experience

The Gear S3 frontier is fast and intuitive to use, but limited app availability is still holding Tizen back.

Having total control over both hardware and software has allowed Samsung to create a smartwatch that’s intuitive and easy to use. The Gear S3 frontier runs Samsung’s Tizen operating system, which is designed to look great on the circular touchscreen and to work in unison with the rotating bezel. At the same time, the Samsung-made Exynos chip inside the device is powerful enough to ensure the excellent responsiveness of the interface. It can even run some simple games, even though playing on a tiny touchscreen is anything but comfortable.

But before I could enjoy the Gear S3 frontier, I had to pair it with a smartphone – in my case, a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The whole process was mostly painless. It took about 10 minutes, which also included setting up a Samsung account. I must note that the wearable is compatible with non-Samsung phones as well – any recent and moderately powerful Android phone should do – but certain features may be limited. For example, there’s no email sync capability for non-Samsung phones. Issues with notifications delivery and replying to messages may also occur, Samsung warns.

All in all, using the Gear S3 frontier as a smartwatch is pretty fun. In fact, the experience is nearly identical to using last year’s Gear S2. The first time I turned the device on, I was given a quick tutorial explaining the interface and its specifics. I had no troubles customizing the layout of my widgets and selecting the watchface I liked best. Notifications arrive almost instantly, and I can quickly reply to instant messages with a few flicks of the bezel or by speaking out my response. Alternatively, I can type it in using an on-screen keyboard or the option to draw letters one by one. Sure, text input on a screen this small is uncomfortable, but that’s better than not having the option at all.

But the Gear S3 frontier is not without its flaws. One of them is that the selection of apps still feels very limited. I was disappointed to find out that a Spotify app still isn’t available, even though it is clearly advertised on the Gear S3 web page. Samsung confirmed to me that the app was coming soon. Other popular apps, such as Yelp and iHeart Radio, are only available in a small number of countries. Yet I did find a few apps that had potential. HERE Navigator is a GPS navigation software that actually works, and Glympse is an app that lets me quickly share my location with others. I also had to download the Timer and Stopwatch apps. Samsung’s decision to not include these out of the box is odd, to say the least.

As most other smartwatches, the Gear S3 frontier can respond to voice commands – just double press the home button and state your wish. The feature does work, but is not as broad in capabilities as Siri or Google Now. It can do basic things like to call a specific contact, to set an alarm, or to perform a simple online search. However, it can’t handle more complicated queries, such as unit conversions or trivia questions like “How tall is the highest mountain in the world?”.

Activity tracking

A key selling point for the Gear S3 are its fitness tracking capabilities. Equipped with an array of sensors and a GPS, it is supposed to be a powerful tool for activity logging, but is that really the case?

As expected, the Gear S3 frontier handles the basics just right. It can accurately track my steps, the floors I’ve climbed, and it automatically takes occasional heart rate readings throughout the day. It will also give me a nudge every time I sit on my desk for over an hour – annoying, but for my own good. All the data gathered by the timepiece is synced with S Health on my phone, of course, where I’m given an overview of my progress. But to use the more advanced tracking features correctly, I had to go through a few “trial and error” sessions to get the hang of it all. Here follows an example of what I mean.

Although the Gear S3 frontier can detect some basic activities automatically, I prefer to choose the kind of exercise I’ll be doing before I start. This tells the watch to start actively logging my location and pulse to calculate the distance I’ve ran, the calories I’ve burned, the heart rate I’ve maintained, and so on. I played soccer this weekend, and since there was no preset for that, I chose running mode and disabled the auto-pause feature. An hour later, I had supposedly burned only 77 calories and ran only half a mile. A few days earlier, I did some archery practice, which is a much lighter exercise. There was no preset for that either, so I chose “Other Workout”. After 45 minutes of shooting, the Gear S3 frontier estimated that I had burned a whopping 258 calories. These calculations just couldn’t be right.

I’m not trying to present the Gear S3 as a poor fitness tracker, but obviously, it isn’t perfect either. The thing is that the wearable is only accurate and reliable in environments with less variables, such as when using the stepper in the gym or when running in the park. But I see no excuse for it being unable to properly track my activity during a sports game, especially when it is the most popular sport in the world.

UPDATE: Apparently, I've been using the Gear S3 frontier incorrectly. After reaching out to Samsung, I was told that the Running mode was made specifically for running, and the smartwatch's auto detection abilities should be relied on during activities like soccer, table tennis, badminton. I tested the S3 frontier a few more times, and indeed, it automatically started tracking my activity during my soccer practices. The estimate for calories burned was much more realistic this time around. But my exercise was logged as "Other Workout", and the downside of that is that my pulse or distance traveled aren't recorded. Oddly, the S Health app on my smartphone has "Soccer" listed as an exercise type, but the Gear S3 doesn't.


The Samsung Gear S3 frontier that I’m reviewing connects to a smartphone over Bluetooth and maintains the connection at a distance of up to 30 feet, as long as there’s nothing in the way – a typical distance for the wireless standard. Wi-Fi connectivity is also available, in case the Bluetooth connection drops. Passwords stored on your phone are synced with the wearable, meaning that it will automatically connect to every Wi-Fi network your phone has access to. Neat!

Having Wi-Fi connectivity allows the Gear S3 frontier to work independently – at the cost of increased battery consumption. The watch will keep on delivering notifications that you receive on your phone. You’ll be also able to stream music, to respond to incoming emails and instant messages, and to exchange regular texts. However, I couldn’t get phone calls to route over Wi-Fi, even though there should be a way of doing that, according to Samsung’s web page. After reaching out to Samsung, it was clarified to me that the feature may not work with certain carriers.

Speaking of phone calls, you can make them straight from your Gear S3 frontier, as long as you have the LTE version of the device. Needless to say, that model can also connect to the carrier’s cellular network for anytime, anywhere internet access.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay – Samsung's mobile payments platform – can be used straight from the Gear S3 frontier. The wearable supports both the MST and NFC standards, so it can be used to make contactless purchases from your wrist at terminals where swiping or tapping is possible. What's more, you're not required to have the watch paired to a Samsung smartphone in order to use Samsung Pay. Any compatible Android phone will do. Also, you should be able to make payments without your phone nearby, although some limitations will apply in this case. Samsung Pay is currently available in the following markets: USA, Korea, China, Australia, Spain, Singapore, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.



47. backto1

Posts: 17; Member since: Jan 10, 2017

Samsung Gear S3 News: Don’t Charge Your Gear S3 with a third party Charger​s-dont-charge-your-gear-s3-with-a-third-party-char​ger/

46. backto1

Posts: 17; Member since: Jan 10, 2017

Introducing New Wallpapers and backgrounds for Samsung Gear S2 and Gear​ers-and-backgrounds-for-samsung-gear-s2-and-gear-s​3/

45. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2292; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

Looks like a cheap @ss Timex.

44. Hsharma1

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 03, 2016

Where the hell is Verizon gear S3?? Anyone know? Thanks

43. kopkiwi

Posts: 102; Member since: May 31, 2013

So by PA horrendous bias towards apple. A 7.5 for Samsung is actually a 9.5 Man you guys suck,

41. Supersonic

Posts: 226; Member since: May 15, 2015

PA only gives good rating to Apple product. Everyone knows and hence no one believes their rating

39. zebraman

Posts: 68; Member since: Sep 11, 2013

I'm still confused how apple watch got 8 and this got a 7.5 Apple has 18 hours of battery life. Apple are that embarrassed about the battery they don't announce the battery life. Imagine if it had always on display it would last 4 hours S3 has 3-4 days but with always on display it gets 2 days Apple watch can't make phone calls S3 can make phone calls Plus the S3 looks much better

37. eyedoc81

Posts: 56; Member since: May 20, 2011

I still love my Gear S2 Classic and wear it every day. Not sure it's worth the update, although this one does look really nice. Best looking wearable on the market, imo.

36. cheetah2k

Posts: 2341; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

7.5? WTF?

35. DeusExCellula

Posts: 1390; Member since: Oct 05, 2014

Stupid this got a 7.5 while the Apple Watch 2 got an 8. The Cons are nitpicking....

33. infinitemethod

Posts: 151; Member since: Sep 04, 2012

Turd article from a turd that doesn't like watches. Why in the world would someone that doesn't like watches review a watch? Mind is blown!

31. schinnak

Posts: 116; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

I play soccer too with the watch and as advised by samsung - I let it auto-detect the tracking. It was fairly accurate in my experience. I have not faced any issues with the activity tracking otherwise. overall its a great watch. I have been using it for a week and have been enjoying it.

29. Jo_seph_B

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 29, 2016

You mention Nike+ as an available app, as far as I can tell this support was pulled back on the S2. I'm yet to see this anywhere for the S3 and can't see it coming as Nike joined with Apple. can you clarify if this is the case as for me this is the app I miss the most.

27. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Check one these out at Best Buy and nice. But I thought S2 look pretty great too. But I was their for a tablet and had to tinker with some gadgets.

24. TheChukwu

Posts: 27; Member since: Apr 02, 2014

im wearing my Frontier watch right now, and i got no idea what the hell this guy is talking about. So if you hate watches, why in the hell are your reviewing them. My Score: 9/10

20. jmill75

Posts: 127; 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

19. tedkord

Posts: 17529; 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.

18. ph00ny

Posts: 2084; 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

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.

14. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

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

13. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010


8. wando77

Posts: 1172; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

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

10. sissy246

Posts: 7129; 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

7. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1885; 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!

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: 1172; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

EXACTLY what I was going to put

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