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Samsung Gear S2 is the best round smartwatch on the market…

It’s finally happening. The smartwatch market is growing up. Manufacturers are learning from their own mistakes and those of others. They’re listening to customers and paying attention to fashion and watch history. And with the arrival of Samsung’s wholly refashioned Gear S2 smartwatch, we now have two or more solid contenders for the best wearables on the market.

Over the last two years, virtually every smartwatch manufacturer has gone back to the drawing board at least once. Some, like Motorola and LG have made welcome, if incremental, improvements to their designs. However, when Apple introduced the Apple Watch earlier this year, it appeared as if the company had ingested every lesson in the history of wearables and then leap-frogged the competition. Quite honestly most of what I’ve seen since then has been companies playing catch-up. No one appeared to have the courage to start over.

Until Samsung.

Samsung calls its new wearable the Gear S2 to remind people that it’s part of the Galaxy Gear line of wearable products it started introducing in 2013. The first batch of large and not particularly well-designed devices all ran Android Wear, Google’s powerful wearable OS that’s also a notorious battery-life hog.

In 2014, Samsung dropped Android Wear in favor of Tizen, but the Gear 2 still had the same awful design.

With the Gear S2, Samsung’s wearable line gets a completely new, classic look and gains every benefit of running the ultra-light and fast Tizen OS. The result is the best round smartwatch on the market.

Setting up and using the Samsung Gear S2 is about as uncomplicated as getting started with a standard watch. You unbox it, charge it up and then pair it via Bluetooth 4.1 with any Android 4.4 or above device. Samsung lent me a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ (sorry, no iOS support, for now). You will need to install and run the Gear app, which, in my case automatically found and paired with the watch. The only issue I had is that the Gear app icon would not show up on the phone, so I had to search for it every time I wanted to open it.
Design

With the Samsung Gear S2, you have two broad design choices, the 42-mm Gear S2 and the 39-mm Gear S2 Classic. The S2 is available in stainless steel and dark gray (also stainless steel). The smaller classic includes a grooved bezel that will remind you of, naturally, classic watch design. Put simply, there aren’t as many material and design choices as with the Apple Watch, though I suspect that will change if the Gear S2 takes off (as I think it should). My test unit was the Gear S2 with a white back and white elastomer band.

Samsung-Gear-S2-sideview

First of all, Samsung’s Gear S2 is the first round smartwatch that doesn’t feel big or blocky. It is not smaller or thinner than the Apple Watch and, at 11.4 mm, it’s only a hair thinner than Motorola’s Moto 360. Samsung, however, made some truly smart design choices with the Gear S2 and it may be something it learned from looking at the Apple Watch: Curves make everything look smaller. The Moto 360 has a rather tall, straight edge around the circumference of the smartwatch. It makes it look thick and bulky. The Gear S2 is pretty much all curves — aside from the screen and flat back. Even the Gear S2’s outside edge is not flat, and it offers a slight, yet visually appealing bulge. It’s like what would happen if you squeezed some clay between two flat surfaces. You’d get a flat top and bottom and the bulge around the edge.

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