Samsung Gear Fit review – a sporty perspective

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Samsung Gear Fit

The Samsung Gear Fit is the fitness variant of the Gear fit introduced in early 2014. The Gear ‘S’ and NEO models are of the wider-watch-like device format. The GEAR FIT is a ‘band’ format.

It really is a beautiful-looking smart activity tracker. SMART in the sense that it links to your smart phone and adds additional smartness through a high quality wrist based screen interface.

You can easily make some initial comparisons to other products:

IMG_3567Comparing it with the Microsoft BAND for aesthetics they are both great to look at. Some favour the curved AMOLED touchscreen and colour display of the Samsung, I’d probably agree that Samsung has the edge.

On the other hand comparing it to the Apple watch you might choose to look at Samsung’s, originally derided, battery life of 3-4 days. With the Apple Watch (2015) coming in at 17 or so hours then people are starting to realise that getting a decent battery life to power: a great screen; fancy chipset; and an optical HR monitor, is not so straightforward. Sure, some 2nd generation activity tracker that contains the first ever gyroscope might have a battery that can last half your lifetime but it simply NEVER could do all the fancy stuff that the current 3rd generation of smart activity trackers are supporting. COMPARE LIKE WITH LIKE.

Other Points to Consider before we get into the meat of the review

It’s essentially compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and newer. So if your model was RELEASED in early 2013 or more recently you’re probably wise to research a little further. It pairs with Samsung’s Galaxy S3 (and I got it working) but other reviews I read point to limited app support.

The official compatibility of Samsung models is listed <here> .

And the official Samsung Gear Fit manual is <here> , although I don’t think it is as up-to-date as the firmware.

I’m supposedly an athlete of some sort and I am reviewing this device from that perspective.

I’m not going to explain detailed setup and all the numerous compatible apps (of which there are MANY). I’m going to look at it from the points of view of: sporty-practicality; sleep/recovery; data openness; data accuracy and anything else that I find interesting.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMG_3576The box looks good, The smart watch looks good. It’s very light. There’s a rubbery strap with 2 securing pins, so it shouldn’t easily come off. It’s comfy, although perhaps a little tricky to get ‘tight’ and that may or may not come back to haunt us when we look later at the HR readings.

IMG_3578There’s a quirky cradle that clips onto the device to allow micro-USB charging from the mains or your computer. Works fine though.

The GEAR FIT is one of those simple-to-use devices where I did not really need to refer to the manual too much, which is always nice. There is only one button and a touchscreen so it’s mostly obvious or easy to correctly guess what to do next.

IMG_3569Display is initially HORIZONTAL which favours being worn on the inside of the wrist however for ‘normal’ wear on the outer wrist Samsung have enabled a VERTICAL display. The vertical display well works but sometimes limits what can be shown on the screen. How you wear the device is also a factor for the position of the OPTICAL HR device. Having the display on the inner wrist means that the OPTICAL HR is also on the inner wrist – compare this to the Microsoft BAND where the recommended way of wearing has the display on the INNER  wrist *BUT* the sensor for that BAND is on the opposite side. Also consider that many optical HR sports watches have the sensor underneath the watch face. So it seems that everyone expects the sensor to be on the OUTSIDE of the wrist. So we’ll need the VERTICAL display for the SAMSUNG GEAR FIT.

Setting Up

You need the Samsung “Gear Fit Manager” to connect up the device with Bluetooth and the Samsung “S Health” app to view the information later. I couldn’t find it in the Google Play Store but it was in the Samsung store (free, obviously). You then pair to the watch. If the watch is already paired to another active device a new pair won’t work, unpair first.

Here’s a video on how to do it with the S5

Whilst this all only works on SAMSUNG devices you could risk it and follow these instructions for other brands (I wouldn’t): http://www.androidauthority.com/gear-fit-works-with-other-android-handsets-368328/.

Here’s how to customise the Gear Fit Manager app.

OK, anyway, so you now have a way to manage the SAMSUNG GEAR device from your smartphone using the GEAR FIT MANAGER.

However the route to open the device up to other apps is to install the SAMSUNG S HEALTH app. Imagine that as the bit that all the exercise data goes in, waiting to be accessed.

CONNECTING APPS

There are very many APPS some sporty, many not. I would initially draw your attention to “Nike+ Running” and Endomondo (this apps effectively installs straight onto the watch).

I couldn’t find any app that would enable me to record HR and GPS (with or without a smartphone) nor enable such data to be exported in sport-industry standard TCX format (or similar).

CACHING

The Gear Fit stores data on the watch and later syncs to the S Health app.

GPS

It doesn’t have inbuilt GPS. On the one had this is bad because it means that you can only get that from a link to your smartphone as you run. On the other hand it’s good as it is one reason you get a ‘good’ battery life.

So, on this basis alone many sportier types will be dissuaded as they would not want to run with a smartphone on their arms. Of course there are other who actively DO want to carry their smartphones, for example, to listen to music.

HEART RATE

Here is a nugget from the Samsung site “Training Effect (TE, offered by Firstbeat) is calculated based on your user profile, heart beat data and the difficulty of the workout. It adapts to your fitness level as you train.”

This was the one bit of info that made me want to review this device. Firstbeat are a great HR ‘physiology-tech’ company who develop lots of clever algorithms to let you train better. Having this as part of your app/device, in my opinion, is usually a VERY good sign that some degree of intelligence and accuracy is going to be involved.

So what you need to do first is swipe over to the ‘Exercise’ icon.

IMG_3588And then choose the running icon
IMG_3589There are then 3 screens you can scroll through where you can change the HR settings (on/off)IMG_3590or these where you can get real time coaching and the watch may, for example, to ‘SPEED UP’ when you are running.IMG_3594But you probably just want to START and get going.
IMG_3592When you start the exercise it checks and measures your HR
IMG_3593I wasn’t wearing the watch here so it asked me to check it was clean, the GEAR was assuming I had had the sense to wear it !
IMG_3595 If you were to clean it you would be working at the green light area on the reverse.
IMG_3596Then off you go and your basic stats are displayed. HR=0 as I am not wearing the band. The “on-screen pace and distance covered stats” come from a motion sensor rather than a connection with the GPS on your smartphone.
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then you pause, stop/save and sync. All standard stuff really.

Over time you will build up a log something like the following.

Source: Pocket Lint

Battery Life

At 3-4 days the battery life is pretty good. The more you use it I suppose the less it will become. Those who compare this battery life to longer life in, say, the Jawbone are simply not comparing like with like. Powering the Samsung’s screen takes, errrr, power. And that comes from the battery. The optical HR takes battery power and, on other devices with GPS, even more power is required.

SLEEP TRACKING

The sleep tracking is OK. You have to enable that mode in the evening and disable that mode in the morning. Annoying if you forget but there are pros and cons of this method. It would be nice to automatically recognise sleep but no-one has yet found a relatively fool-proof way of doing it.

You get this sort of feedback of your sleep. Other apps might draw conclusions about the phase of your sleep based on the degree of motionlessness.

Screenshot_2015-05-02-23-19-10

RESOURCES

Full video review here by Isiah:

SUMMARY

The Gear Fit is appropriate for someone with a compatible Samsung smartphone who wants to do more than just basic activity tracking. Someone who wants to get FIT would benefit from one. The apps and notification integration and simple phone controls with the phone are great and work well. The battery life is good for what it is and the Optical HR is fine for low level activity monitoring. The screen looks fantastic and mostly works very well.

Potential purchasers should clearly note that the watch is NOT called the Samsung GEAR SPORT. If you are a sporty person who wants a chest strap free device to, for example, monitor their long training runs then this device is not for you. Which is a shame as otherwise I rather quite like it!

For £80 or so these represent good value. Much better than the initial RRP last year of nearer to £190.

COMPETITOR PRICE COMPARISONS

Black Friday 2015 Amazon Price
Basis Peak £149.99 Link
Epson Pulsense PS100 £42.99 Link
Epson Pulsense PS500 £79.99 Link
Fitbit Charge £49.00 Link
Fitbit Charge HR £74.99 Link
FitBit Flex £112.00 Link
Fitbit One £58.65 Link
Fitbit Surge Ultimate £142.49 Link
Fitbit Zip £49.70 Link
Fitbug Orb £30.95 Link
Garmin Forerunner 15 £79.99 Link
Garmin Vivoactive £123.31 Link
Garmin Vivofit £44.98 Link
Garmin Vivofit2 £73.95 Link
Garmin Vivosmart £79.99 Link
Jawbone UP24 £52.89 Link
Jaybird Reign £179.99 Link
Microsoft Band £89.00 Link
Milestone Altitude £28.91 Link
Mio Fuse £94.95 Link
Misfit Shine £59.99 Link
Nike+ Fuelband n/a Link
Polar Loop £45.60 Link
Polar A360 £131.32 Link
Samsung Gear Fit £63.99 Link
sony Mobile SWR10 £29.89 Link
Timex Move x20 £50.55 Link
Withings Pulse £54.99 Link

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