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Samsung Gear Sport Review – An iPhone users experience

The Samsung Gear Sport is a feature-packed smartwatch slash fitness wearable that supports  Android phones, but also iPhone support. In this Samsung Gear Sport review, I am going to put it through its paces for a range of fitness activities along with everyday activities. During my review testing, I used it with an iPhone running iOS 11 and used the Samsung Gear app along with Samsung health to fully test the Samsung Gear Sport iPhone compatibility and performance

So in this Gear Sport review, you will get real world hands on use across cycling, running, hiking and fitness classes. I will tell you if the Samsung gear sport can fully work with an iPhone. So sit back and continue reading.

Essential reading: Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

Samsung Gear Sport in pictures

Samsung Gear Sport key features

  • Display – 1.2’ full-colour Super AMOLED display
  • Pixel – 360 x 360 pixels
  • GPS – Supports GPS and GLONASS
  • Size – 44.6 x 42.9 x 11.6mm
  • Weight – 50g
  • Battery life – 3-4 days
  • Wireless – Bluetooth, wifi, NFC but no ANT+
  • Industry-Leading Water Resistance and Swim Tracking: An ideal companion for any swim – from laps to playing in the pool – these devices are 5 ATM1 certified for water resistance. Now with Speedo’s latest swimming training app, Speedo On, the Gear Sport also allow you to easily track key swim metrics.
  • Top-of-the-line Heart Rate Monitoring: With improved accuracy, the devices offer advanced real-time heart rate monitoring. They help you continuously monitor your heart activity – whether it’s enjoying a stress-free nap or an invigorating cycling class.
  • Storage – Features 4GB of onboard storage and supports Spotify offline so you can stream music to Bluetooth headphones directly from the watch
  • Auto Activity Detection: Automatic activity detection built into the devices are in tune with your body and can recognise the following categories of activities: Walking, Running, Cycling and performing Dynamic Activities that could include dancing to basketball.
  • Personalised Motivation: You can customise your own wellness plan with tailored goals and alerts.

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Samsung Gear Sport review Design & screen

  • Polished aluminium case
  • Beautiful clear 1.2’ full colour Super AMOLED display
  • Wrist-based HR sensor on the back of the Gear Sport

The Samsung Gear Sport is available in Black or Blue colours and I went with the Blue version for this review. The Gear Sport is made of aluminium and is 45mm in size weighing in at  50g. I can honestly say the marketing pictures of the Samsung Gear Sport do not do it justice. The design is sleek and the Gear Sport feels premium when handling it and I would certainly say its one of the better builds for this price point. The Gear Sport also features changeable silicon bands that are 20mm in size which use quick release. In my first impressions article I pointed out that changing them was pretty fiddly, however, after a few weeks of use this has improved and I have not had any issues now

On the front of the Gear Sport, it features a rotating bezel that is used to navigate through menu’s and like my first hands-on with the Sport, I still love it. The rotation is precise. You can also use the Gear Sports rotating bezel to switch between screens when you are working out to look at various different data points, this is useful if you are swimming or have wet hands rather than using the touchscreen. In addition to the rotating bezel, the Gear Sport also has two buttons and these are for selecting options or accepting commands, you can also use the bottom button to return to the main watch face screen.

Samsung Gear Sport screen

Samsung has also included a wrist-based optical heart rate monitor on the back of the Gear Sport and this is more or less flush to the watch and feels nice when you have it on the wrist. I have not had much chance to test out the accuracy of the wrist HR.

Essential reading: Fitbit Ionic Review

Samsung Gear Sport review screen

Samsung has included a 1.2’full-colour Super AMOLED display which is 360 x360 pixels and on first use its a beautiful full coloured display that looks great at various viewing angles. I love the brightness and sharp crisp colours that seem to pop and its very easy to read. Using the touchscreen on the Gear sport is fluid and easy to use that is accurate. The touchscreen did suffer a little when my hands were wet and of course, it didn’t perform well during swimming, but the buttons and rotating bezel compensated for this.

Samsung gear sport review pool

Samsung Gear Sport iPhone compatibility & Smart Features

  • Samsung gear and health apps available for iPhone
  • Notifications work well, but you cant reply
  • Some third-party apps require a companion app to sync back, meaning they don’t work for iPhone users

Whilst the Gear sport is made for Android devices, in particular, the Samsung Galaxy range, the Gear Sport is also compatible with iPhones and on first impressions it works well, but its when you dig a little deeper that you find the Gear Sport only works with the iPhone on the surface and is missing some key compatibility.

Let me start with the good stuff regarding the smart features. The integration with music services like Spotify and others works really well and it didn’t take much time to set up. The notifications from your iPhone come up by a screen pop and you can visit all the notifications by rotating left with the bezel and I think this works better than the Apple Watch.

Now lets discuss the things that don’t work well on the Samsung Gear sport review

Gear Sport and health app

Using the apps for the first time give you the impression of a polished set of apps that work well really and being honest I didn’t experience any app crashing issues, but they don’t have much depth to them. The health app, in particular, is lacking if you compare it to the Fitbit companion app as you cant drill down into say the heart rate data for instance. The Gear sport app does offer the best experience of the 2 apps and allows you to customise the watch and download new watch faces and third-party apps.

Gear Sport Third party fitness apps

This is the point I felt the gear sport was most let down and for full transparency, this is not in the hands of Samsung or Android, this is down to the limitations of the iPhone being such a controlled OS. I found that any third party app that I tried to use and for instance, the Speedo On app for swimming would not sync back to the Speedo on servers because it required a companion app and this is true for many others.

So in summary, the gear sport plays well in terms of set up and connectivity but lacks lots of smart features that you would get using it with a native Android device or Samsungs own Galaxy smartphone range.

Samsung Gear Sport review Activity tracking

  • Tracks steps, stairs climbed
  • Tracking inline with other fitness trackers
  • Easy access to daily activity information

The Gear sport tracks steps, distance travelled and all the usual stuff. It will also features Auto Activity Detection that detects activity based on movement and increased HR and when I went for a walk this worked well and caught the activity. The Gear sport also will give you an indication of how far you have towards your goals with a reminder and displays a nice animation when you complete a goal which is typical of most fitness watches these days.

To access the information you can either scroll left using the bezel and it will give you a summary of the various different activities with individual widgets or you can use the Samsung health app on the Gear sport and this is really good. The particular highlight for me is the daily log which shows you a huge amount of data which you can scroll through a timeline to see when you did something and what impact that had on your day. The Samsung Gear Sport health app on the watch itself beats the likes of Apple Watch and the Garmin app hands down and I wished they put more thought into the smartphone app.

 

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Samsung gear sport review stairs trackingI did a couple of tests using the Gear Sport and compared this to my regular fitness watch and all of the different things like steps, stairs climbed, activity minutes was pretty much spot on with only one day when the steps was significantly more on the gear sport, but this happens on my daily fitness watch from time to time so I would not be overly worried about this.

Samsung Gear Sport Fitness features, GPS and heart rate performance

  • Sport tracking from running to Yoga
  • Integrated wrist-based HR monitor
  • GPS tracking with speed, pace and distance

The Gear sport tracking ranges from running to yoga with lots in-between. You have the option to track running both indoors and outdoors along with other exercises that can be tracked both indoors and outdoors by the built-in GPS. Samsung has also included some work out tracking that tracks the reps for a given activity and I will talk more about this below. The Samsung Gear sport is also waterproof to 50 meters so you can take it swimming, but you cant use it for open water swimming and for pool swimming you can only set it the pool length to 25 or 50 meters with no option to set a custom pool length.

Gear sport pool

As I always do when reviewing products I actually use them in my daily life to give you a honest view from my point of view, rather than a generic write up about the features. So during my testing I used it for running, hiking, swimming, cycling, gym work and cardio and below I will talk you through my experiences

Running

Using the Gear sport for running was pretty good for outdoor running, it tracked the distance really well along with tracking the heart rate when comparing to this to a chest strap. However, using it for indoor running the Gear sport distance was out and didn’t compare to the treadmill distance or the Fenix 5x.

Gear Sport running

Hiking

I took the Gear Sport for a hike through a rainforest in Thailand and whilst the heart rate tracking was pretty much spot on comparing it to the chest strap on another device the GPS performance was not great. But I have to say that the forest was thick and this would have affected the GPS tracking as it was out by 2 miles comparing it to the actual route.

Swimming

The Samsung Gear Sport did track swimming well and it captured the distance and lengths correctly, but you are limited by the fact you cannot set the pool length and are stuck with 25 and 50-meter pools. You also cannot use the Samsung Gear Sport for open water swimming. Gear Sport will track SWOLF and other important swimming metrics and again I found this comparable with my Garmin Fenix 5x.

Cycling

I didn’t get the chance to use the Gear Sport for cycling outdoors, but I did use it for an indoor spin session. The Heart rate tracking was hit and miss when on the bike. I have put this down to move around a lot on the handlebars and this would have affected the optical heart rate tracker.

Gym training

Whilst the Gear Sport does not have a dedicated strength tracking app like found on other fitness, which is surprising as you can track reps for things like crunches, lunges and jumping jacks.The Gear Sport. Despite you don’t get rep counting for strength workouts you can still use it to track the activity, but I found the heart rate performance is not great and this is true with most optical HR monitors involving wrist-based activities.

 

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Gear SPort CyclingUsing the Gear Sport to track reps for things like Lunges, crunches and jumping jacks worked really well and I have read other reviews saying it does and my personal view is you need to follow the onscreen instructions and start in the position it tells you and make sure your form is good, then it will work as expected.

Samsung Gear Sport Battery life 

  • 2.5 days on average battery
  • 8 hours on average with GPS
  • Battery charging time around 1.5 hours

I found the battery life to be ok on the Gear Sport topping out at 3 almost 3 days before needing to put it on charge, But nothing to be blown away by. That being said the Gear Sport does perform better than an Apple Watch and given how good the Sport’s screen is its a pretty good performance.

 

Samsung Gear Sport smart featuresCharging the Gear Sport is pretty cool and this is done via placing it on a cradle either plugged into a computer or a power socket. The watch rests in the cradle on its side and the screen also rotates to match the orientation enabling you to still use the Gear Sport whilst on charge and this is useful if it is on your bedside and you want to check a few things. I found the charging took about 1.5 hours from about 10% battery and I also could get it to around 50% in 30 minutes which is useful if you are running low on battery and planning a run and need the extra juice to get you through the activity.

Samsung Gear Sport smart features
Samsung Gear Sport review verdict
The Samsung Gear Sport is a nicely built fitness smartwatch and you can see Samsung have put time and effort into getting the hardware to work with the software. The fitness features work well along with the activity tracking giving you a fairly accurate picture of your day and performance. The biggest let downs are the iPhone compatibility and the lack of third party app support when using an iPhone. I did use this with a Samsung Galaxy S7 and the issues with third party apps was removed.

The bottom line, if you are going to be using this with an Android phone then this is a great choice, but be mindful when using this with an iPhone and what experience to expect

Design97
Features84
Usability75
Performance80
Value86
Reader Rating1 Vote88
Pro's
Great build and design
Native sports apps are great
Fantastic screen
Con's
iPhone integration works, but could be better
Third party apps are limited on a iPhone
Battery life could be better
84

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Jon Ratcliffe
I am Jon R and the editor of Active JR that covers wearables, fitness tech and smart home. I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles and I like combining this with fitness.My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.You can contact Jon on Twitter @ActiveJR1

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