Before the Gear Fit, I was still using an analogue watch. No, not a Rolex or a Philippe Patek which are more pieces of jewelry for showing off than functional devices. I wanted something substantial, I needed something digital. Most smartwatches look awfully ugly, as the screen is too big for my small wrist and too small for all those crowded icons. It was design that won me over, and I fell for the look of the Samsung Gear Fit with its nifty colored straps. Adding to this, it works nicely with my (recently upgraded from a Galaxy S1) Samsung Galaxy S5. It’s a bit expensive for a gadget but still, I bought it.
It’s great for Samsung owners
Right out of the box, it immediately connects via Bluetooth to my Galaxy S5. No, it won’t work with other phones, as Samsung is using its own proprietary software. A quick download updates the software and you’re in business. Following this, a management program for the Gear Fit is installed on your phone.
It’s an actual “smart” watch, for real
You can change the home screen using different designs and colors, and include (for example) the outside temperature. This is all pulled from the weather application and GPS hardware on your phone. Next you have a whole set of services that could be tagged to send messages to the watch. Mail, calls and text are enough for me, but Twitter and Facebook could be included as well.
When the phone receives new messages, it sends an update to the phone, with the notification set at a light tremble as the headline appears on small glowing screen. Of course, this communication is of the type: “hello toilet, here is the bath”, but it’s nice not to open your phone constantly. And washing your hands is no problem as the Gear Fit is water and dustproof.
The Fitness applications are pretty slick
The Fit is the other part of this device. It registers heartbeats and the number of steps you have taken during the day. Shamefully, I had to shave my wrist as the device was not able to read the beating of my pulse through the bush that is my arm.
More interestingly is the continuous monitoring of your walks, runs and biking with the device. It registers distance, speed and calculates the calories burned. During the workout, it tries to read the heartbeat continuously. In combination with the health monitor application on your phone, the Gear Fit can also save the GPS track for running or biking. The Samsung application happily delivers further information after every workout.
Pity it’s such a data vampire
Of course you want to read the time. As the screen is always off, you have to activate it with a flick of the wrist. This in turn saves battery, which is irritatingly charged via a useless lump of plastic that has to attach to the phone charger and then clips to the Gear Fit. Why Samsung decided to do this, and not simply just use straight-up USB charging, is a confounding mystery.
I had one problem major problem, and it’s a common one in South Africa. Because of the soaring data costs, my phone’s roaming is set to “off”. Without a constant online connection, the Gear Fit is only a peculiar looking watch. However, when my phone was connected to WiFi it burst back to life again, with some of my friends looking a bit surprised to see the contents of a message flash by with a light tremble. Now we wait for the Apple Watch to see if Samsung’s Gear Fit and the like have the strength to beat Apple at their own game.