Samsung Gear Sport hands-on – A smaller, sleeker Gear that’s learned to swim

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We hope you’ve got some good Spot the Difference skills – because you’re gonna need ‘em.

The Gear Sport, Samsung’s latest fitness-focused wearable, looks an awful lot like the Gear S3. Spec sheet looks pretty similar, too – until you get to the bit about waterproofing.

See, the Gear S3 was never meant to be your swimming buddy, but the Gear Sport doesn’t mind getting its feet wet – it’s waterproof, and just begging to be given a dunking.

Here’s what we thought after a few minutes of play time after Samsung’s big reveal this week at IFA in Berlin.

WATER BABY

Those clever chaps at Samsung have subjected the Gear Sport to five atmospheres of water pressure – which is basically like taking it down to the bottom of a 50m deep swimming pool. Not something you’re going to find at your local gym.

It’s even certified for salt water, so you could take it surfing or snorkelling.

The bundled silicon strap will be perfectly suited to a dunking, although Samsung has plenty of fancier-looking alternatives, made in a range of materials. You’ll be able to add your own, if you like, because the Sport uses standard 20mm pins.

There’d be no point in getting wet if you weren’t keeping a track of your exercise, so naturally the Gear Sport has you covered there. An app developed with Speedo monitors your stroke, length count and lap times, with the built-in heart rate sensor increasing its readings from once every ten minutes to once every second, for more precise measurements when you’re going hell for leather.

SKINNY MINNIE

An inclination for the wet stuff isn’t the only thing separating the Gear Sport from the Gear S3, of course. It’s cheaper, for one thing. How much, we don’t know yet, but expect it to come in slightly more than the Gear Fit2 fitness band when it arrives later in the year.

It undercuts the S3 because it ditches LTE, meaning you’ll need to pair it to a phone to get connected and sync your workouts. On-board memory, Bluetooth streaming and offline Spotify playback mean you won’t need your phone on you while you work up a sweat, though.

The circular AMOLED screen is slightly smaller this time around, too, at 1.2in versus the Gear S3’s 1.3in. It’s a small difference, but one we noticed on the wrist: the Gear Sport looks a lot less imposing, even though it’s still a fairly big watch. The whole thing is slimmer, though, so you should slip it out from under a shirt cuff without any complaints.

Samsung’s Tizen OS hasn’t really changed that much for 2017, although there are now a few pre-installed partner apps from the likes of Under Armour, including MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and UA Record. You still spin the dial to switch between screens and watch faces, and the icon-based layout is still as easy to use as ever. Android Wear eat your heart out.

SAMSUNG GEAR SPORT INITIAL VERDICT

The Gear Sport seems to slot in nicely below the Gear S3 in Samsung’s bulging wearable line-up.

OK, it might not rock top-spec features like LTE for phone-free connectivity, and the battery is a little smaller, but it’s got just about everything else – including a few things its big brother doesn’t have.

Being able to take one for a swim is huge, and offline Spotify streaming is a big deal for everyone that prefers to stay on dry land. If Samsung gets the price right, it could be a very tempting buy, combining fashion and fitness in one very neat package.

We’ll be giving it a full review a little closer to launch, to see whether it really can swim, or if it’s more of a floater.

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