At the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona this week electronics giant Samsung launched its updated smartwatch, Gear 2 along with a lighter and cheaper Gear 2 Neo. They both build and improve on Samsung’s first smartwatch released last year, but the company also used the event to launch the brand new fitness focused Gear Fit, with a curved screen and integrated heart rate sensor.
Fitness is a big focus for Samsung with these new products. The new Gear Fit is a dedicated fitness gadget, less of a smartwatch and more a fitness tracker. With it, Samsung is aiming at the growth of Fuelband-type devices currently on the market, popular with runners, but with potential for cyclists too.
It looks sleek with its curved 1.84in Super AMOLED screen, which can be used to display essential data like heart rate, speed, calories burned, time and distance covered. For some, that’s more than enough data to accompany any ride. It's light too, just 27g, and the battery lasts a claimed four to five days, depending on usage.
Gear Fit syncs up to a Samsung smartphone and allows you keep track of your ride. It uses the phones GPS to record your route, or an internal accelerometer and gyroscope for walking and running. It also provides instant notifications for incoming call, emails, texts and much more.
More feature-rich are the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. They’re billed as ‘essential companion devices’, which means they connect via Bluetooth to a Samsung smartphone. While the Gear Fit won’t be compatible with apps, Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will be, with MapMyFitness announcing an app this week and one on the way from Garmin and Strava too. And more can be expected if the smartwatch sector grows this year, as many tech pundits expect it too.
Like Gear Fit, both Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo have an optical heart rate sensor on the back of the watch so it can record and display your level of exercise, meaning you don’t have to wear a heart rate strap. This data can be uploaded to Samsung’s S Health app, or a third party app like MapMyFitness, Garmin or Strava. The Gear 2 smartwatch will record metrics like speed, distance and heart rate and transmit it to the phone, which can then be uploaded to the web and shared with your friends.
Gear 2 has a 1.6-inch screen with a 320x320-pixel resolution and interchangeable straps. It also has its own memory so you can use it to listen to music separately from the smartphone. The Gear 2 has a 2-megapixel camera while the cheaper Gear 2 Neo makes do without one. Both offer a claimed battery life of about three days and they’re IP67 water and dust-resistant. The Gear 2 weighs a claimed 68g and the Gear 2 Neo 55g.
Now of course if you consider yourself a ‘serious’ cyclist you’ll probably already have a dedicated cycling computer that does everything you need. A smartwatch offers another way though, and with more people now owning smartphones, and frequently using them for cycling with a proliferation of cycling apps, a second screen wrapped around your wrist could be appealing to a lot of cyclists. If you want an easy and uncomplicated way of tracking how fast and hard you’re going, and do other sports like running and walking, a smartwatch offers interesting potential.
MapMyFitness screengrab from the Samsung Gear 2
No prices have been announced yet and availability is expected in early April. More at www.samsung.com/uk
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.