One fitness tracker that’s ahead of the curve...
It’s taken plenty of baby steps for fitness trackers to iron out their frailties.
Originally, wearing one felt like you had Fallout’s Pip-Boy strapped to your wrist, and they relied on our smartphone’s tech more heavily than a toddler clutching their parent’s hand when learning to walk.
Now, fitness trackers squeeze a plethora of sensors into something smaller than your wristwatch, churning out detailed workout reports without a smartphone’s training wheels.
The Gear Fit2 is a great example of this Eureka moment, taking 2014's already impressive heart rate-tracking, step-counting and style-savvy wearable and somehow packing in GPS location tracking on top.
Suddenly Samsung’s fitness tracker is all-grown up, having gained independence, but has it done enough for a spot on your wrist?
The Gear Fit2 looks like a wristband that took a trip in the Fly’s matter transporter, unaware there was an AMOLED smartphone in the other pod. So basically just like the original Gear Fit.
That’s no bad thing, though. Samsung cracked exactly what consumers wanted from their fitness trackers two years ago: simplicity.
There’s no fancy strap or hulking screen weighing your arm down, and if you’re the type to get throbbing head pains when confronted by too many buttons, you’ll be chipper to hear there’s only two here.
One is the power switch, while the other brings up the menu and wakes the band up from rest mode. Too lazy to press a button to jolt the watch awake? Simply flick your wrist instead. Is that simple enough for you?
Everything else is handled through the touchscreen. Which is gorgeous. The resolution is pin-sharp, so you don't need to squint to make out tiny text. Everything is legible, even from arm's length.
It’s really simple to swipe through the various menus and modes, and despite my grubby fingers prodding it on a regular basis, I’ve yet to see any fingerprints defacing the screen.
It might not be flashy, but the Gear Fit2 sure is comfortable - which is more important in our books. It wouldn’t be hard to forget you’re wearing one and jump in the shower - not that you’d have any issues, mind. It can survive a dunking down to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. You’re still probably better off with a dedicated watch if you want to track your swimming, but the Gear Fit2 should survive your bathroom adventures.
Smartphones are growing in size faster than the kids from Outnumbered, and well beyond anything you’d be happy to keep you company on a long run.
With built-in GPS, the Gear Fit2 will finally let you leave your phone at home, but still map out your route. You’ll get detailed results showing where you were speediest once you get back home, and where you had lost your rhythm.
The Fit2 can do a lot more without a smartphone, like tracking your step count, number of floors climbed and heart rate - even if praising a fitness tracker for these fundamentals would be like congratulating a cow for chewing grass.
Still, all your data gets displayed in simple graphics that are also easy on the eye. You can compare with competitive friends, or your own results from previous days through the S Health companion app.
S Health gets automatically installed once you download the Samsung Gear app. It breaks down your fitness data into even more detail, and is a lot easier to see on your phone than having to squint at your diddy tracker screen.
Samsung reckons the Gear Fit2 can keep track of how many calories you burn each day, too - useful for anyone that scrutinises supermarket packaging with ferocity.
However, as with most trackers, we’re not totally convinced by how accurate this data is. There’s barely any difference between calories burned on days I spent at the gym, and those burned binging on Netflix box sets. Either the Gear Fit2’s calorie data isn’t very reliable, or watching television is surprisingly fitness efficient.
The most impressive part of the Fit2’s fitness focus? Its ability to work out exactly what type of exercise you’re doing. Within minutes of starting a run or a session on the Elliptical trainer, the watch lit up with stats including speed and time elapsed.
However, I did notice that during a run, if I slowed my pace too much, the band would get confused and ask whether I was ending my jog. What a taskmaster.
And while it’s supposed to recognise cycling too, it wouldn’t work on a gym exercise bike - you’ll actually have to hit the road and risk saddle rash to record your bike-based exercise.
FIT FOR WORK
It might be a case of fitness first (the clue’s in the name really, isn’t it) but the Gear Fit2 isn’t just for jogging and gym work. You’re supposed to wear it 24/7.
Pair it to your Android phone (sorry Apple fans, Samsung has only just added iPhone support and we haven’t had the chance to try it out yet) and it’ll vibrate every time you get a text, email, or accidental Facebook post from that distant relative you really, really regret accepting a friend request from.
If you’re a social butterfly, there’s no need to worry that your wrist will never stop vibrating: you can manage notifications in the app’s settings menus, blocking certain apps from giving you a nudge.
You can’t dig deeper into apps through the watch beyond notifications, but it’s still handy for meetings where it’s more acceptable to look at your wrist than pulling your phone from your pocket.
My personal favourite feature? The music player. Listen to Spotify through your phone and you can use it to pause and skip tracks, or simply check which song your Discover Weekly playlist is currently piping into your ears.
There’s 4GB of on-board storage, too, so you can fill your band with music and have your very own Rocky Balboa montage while out on the move - as long as you’ve got a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
A GALAXY WITHOUT STARS
Samsung’s all-in with its Tizen OS, so it’s no surprise seeing it here. It runs smoothly on the Fit2, but there’s still not much in the way of apps.
The Galaxy Apps store is mostly barren of anything useful, which has been a persistent problem with Samsung’s wearables. It’s mostly filled with watch faces, and while it’s great to be able to customise your home screen, more third party support would be better.
The only apps are worth downloading are the “Workout Trainer” and the “Gear Navigator”. The former is stuffed full of workouts, from yoga to weight-lifting, with the app guiding you through each step and tracking your progress. The latter is essentially another Google Maps knock-off, but which you have to pay a small fee for.
OK, so there are Tennis and Golf training apps too, but that’s only useful if you know how to handle a racquet. Or if the word bogey doesn’t immediately make you want to blow your nose.
CAN'T GO THE DISTANCE
Samsung reckons the Fit2’s 200mAh battery will last between three to four days, it barely scraped three while it was on my wrist before it needed another dose of electricity.
I might use it a lot to skip music tracks, and notifications pop up more often than Donald Trump tweets, but that’s still not amazing. Competitors can usually last until the latter part of the week.
As long as you charge during the night, or at least when you’re inactive, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, although it won’t be the best of companions for a week-long camping trip.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to charge, and it clips magnetically onto the dock to avoid any faff. So if your arms are aching after a gym session, you won’t have to put them under further stress by trying to clip it in.
SAMSUNG GEAR FIT2 VERDICT
At $249, Samsung has hit the perfect price point for the Gear Fit2. It’s stocked full of tech, with GPS tracking really adding value to the original model’s otherwise comprehensive set of sensors.
Factor in the sleek design, and this fitness tracker has everything you’d need, whether you’re a couch potato searching for motivation or a gym-dweller looking for more training discipline.
But this impressive hardware feels wasted when there’s such a poor choice of apps to go with it. Sure, the basic software will mostly do the job, but it still feels like wasted potential.
Saying that, there’s still plenty of time for Samsung to fill their store with content. And why should we be so obsessed with extra content when it does the bare essentials so well?
If you just want a smart-looking fitness tracker to encourage you to finally fulfil your New Year’s Resolution, the Gear Fit2 has more than enough to get you over that hurdle.