Taking on the Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit, Samsung's Gear Fit aims to be the only wristwear you'll ever need, combining a smartwatch with text, email and social network notification with a fitness tracker, pedometer and heart rate monitor.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/16/2014 2:26:44 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Attractive (for a smartwatch) and well made.
Curved screen is beautiful and bright.
Battery should see most users through three days.
Rarely displayed time when I wanted it to.
No GPS tracking.
Long texts not fully displayed.
S Health is confusing, with too much going on.
Cannot automatically detect exercise or sleep.
By Alistair Charlton, Devices Editor
Combining a fitness tracker and a smartwatch, the Samsung Gear Fit aims to be the wrist-worncompanion you need to keep track of your life - from email and text notifications, to your walking, running, cycling and heart rate, the Fit will be with you every step of the way. But is it worth you parting with £169, and should you ditch both your conventional watch and exercise band in favour of one device? I spent a week with the Gear Fit to find out.
The Gear Fit is a rubber and plastic wristband with a curved, 1.84-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen. There is a single button of the side to turn the device on and off, and the strap can not only be adjusted for almost any size wrist, but also be swapped for a range of different colours offered by Samsung.
The screen is protected by glass, has a resolution of 432 x 128 and is surrounded by a narrow chrome bezel. The Gear Fit is an attractive device that feels well made, durable and as if it would shrug off a sweaty gym session with little effort - a feat aided by being waterproof to one metre for up to 30 minutes.
On the back there is a heartrate monitor and a charging port, although just as with the Gear 2 smartwatch you’ll need to connect a cheap-feeling plastic dock, into which the Fit’s micro USB charging cable attaches - given the battery lasts between two and three days, you’ll be reaching for the plastic dock and cable more often than you’d like, and the dock feels like it’d be easily lost.
At just 27g, the Gear Fit is incredibly light - even non-watch wearers won’t mind strapping it to their wrists, as you soon forget it’s there. The Fit measures 23.4 x 57.4mm and is almost 12mm thick. I found it less of a burden than the bulky Gear 2, and it would just about squeeze under my shirt sleeves. I’ll also choose to ignore a friend’s comment that the Fit looks “like a futuristic prison tag,” as that could be said of any fitness trackers.
The Fit’s screen is beautifully bright and crisp, and despite the extra glare and reflections created by its curve, I could still read it easily when outside in bright sunlight. Unfortunately however, the screen does not adjust its brightness automatically like a smartphone does. This is a problem shared by the Gear 2, but with the Fit it’s even worse because unlike its bigger brother a long press of the Home button doesn’t provide a shortcut to switching the screen to its super bright ‘Outdoor mode’.
Instead, adjusting the brightness requires, from the home screen, a swipe, a tap, and other swipe and another tap, followed by two more taps. You can then pick from six levels of brightness, before pressing the button to return to the home screen. Trying to up the brightness from its lower levels while outside is almost impossible, and as with the Gear 2 the Fit only uses Outdoor mode for five minutes, before dropping two notches to level four.
Overall Samsung has done a good job with the Gear Fit. It fits well, looks good and has a premium feel which is sorely missing from the Galaxy S5 smartphone. If only it had an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust screen brightness.
Running Samsung’s Tizen operating system, the Fit’s menus and user interface is very similar to that of the Gear 2. Applications sit on a carrousel either side of the home screen and are opened with a tap. The display can be swapped for right- or left-handed users, or can be viewed vertically, aiding readability - we found the default horizontal layout to be awkward to read at a glance, which isn’t ideal when all you want to do is check the time.
Speaking of checking the time, the Gear Fit suffers from the same crippling usability problem as the Gear 2 - checking the time is difficult. The Fit is meant to light up when you flick your wrist as you would to look at a conventional watch, but it simply doesn’t work.
I found even a highly exaggerated twist of my wrist wasn’t always enough to make the screen light up, and neither was lifting my hand from my waist. When I got the movement just right, the Fit would still take a second to light up - by which time I’d already be looking away from a traditional watch. I hope this can be fixed with a software update, but to me it seems Samsung is scared of ruining the Fit’s battery life by having the display light up too easily and too often.
Back to the user interface, and although notifications for calls, texts, emails and third party apps like Facebook and Twitter all comes through as you would expect - handy to check messages when your phone might be out of reach or you don’t want to keep your phone on the pub table.
Unlike the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, calls cannot be made or answered with the Fit. Instead, the device will vibrate and light up, giving you the option to either reject the call, or reject and send a pre-written text message to the caller. These can be written in the Gear Fit Manager app on your Samsung smartphone.
Unfortunately, while text messages can be read on the Fit, those longer than a couple of sentences cannot be seen in full - the message end abruptly, followed by the option of viewing in full on your phone. Why Samsung won’t allow messages to be fully display is beyond me. On one occasion, a text arrived on my phone as normal but never made its way to the Gear 2, which instead would only display an old, read message from the same contact.
Samsung claims the Fit will last for between two and three days or regular use, and up to five days of light use. I'd say these estimates are fairly accurate, as I saw the battery deplete by roughly 30 to 35% per day. This was with the pedometer constantly recording my steps, a Bluetooth connection to my S5 with all notifications on, and the screen set to various levels of brightness.
The Fit’s pedometer works just as it does on the Gear 2 and Galaxy S5 - that is to say, without issues, although you have to remember to start it each time you want to track your steps, and it needs syncing manually with the S5’s S Health app, despite sharing a constant Bluetooth connection. The Fit also needs telling when you are going to sleep and when you wake up if you want this tracking - other fitness bands do this automatically - and you must also tell the gadget when you are running, hiking or cycling.
A daily steps goal can be set, with the Fit vibrating to let you know when you reach the target. When paired with the S Health 3.0 app there’s a huge amount of data and customisation available. Enter your height and weight, provide regular heart rate readings, tell the app about your diet and record every time you exercise to get the most out of it. The app’s ‘coach’ section claims to advise on exercise, food, sleep, stress and weight, but it sometimes feels like there’s too much going on here.
The app is hugely functional, but feels too cluttered at times, and once I’d looked at every feature I wondered if I’d ever both using them again. The food coach, for example, asks how often I eat certain types of food each week, then tells me I am a balanced eater, giving a score of 75%. It felt like the app’s advice for food, sleep and exercise was stating the obvious and I doubt how many users would use much of S Health on a regular basis. I’m hoping Samsung will simplify and automate a lot of features for version 4.0.
One feature missing from the Gear Fit is GPS, which would be useful to track your runs on a map, as many iOS and Android running apps do.
Music can be played through Bluetooth headphones but stored on the Fit itself - instead you must stream the music from your phone, making the Fit more a wireless controller than a standalone music player.
The Gear Fit was my favourite product of the Mobile World Congress technology show this year. Where the Gear 2 offered too much and for a high price, the Fit stuck to the specific task of recording exercise and being a watch with a simple range of notifications.
Samsung has delivered a device that on paper makes a lot of sense and is hugely attractive to those put off by a full-fat smartwatch like the gear 2. Unfortunately there are too many things wrong for me to suggest you go out and buy the Fit. Not displaying the time when expected is a massive failure and shows that Samsung can’t even get the smartwatch basics right, while not showing full text messages is a pain and telling the device when you’re exercising, asleep and awake is an unnecessary inconvenience that other fitness trackers manage to do without.
The concept is sound - notifications discreetly on your wrist, exercise and health tracking, the time and date - but Samsung has failed to deliver and the smartwatch’s future takes another awkward stumble into the spotlight instead of a confident stride.
A future of intelligent, useful and affordable smartwatches will happen, of that I have no doubt, but for now manufacturers (Samsung isn’t alone here) are experimenting in public, and while the feedback will be invaluable, the next generation has to nail it.