The Good The Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch delivers an improved design, better notifications, a heart rate monitor, and basic fitness tracking offer a lot of extras. It's water-resistant, too.
The Bad Limited number of apps; poor S-Health fitness app syncing; can only be paired to Samsung phones; camera is an unnecessary extra for the $100 it costs over the Gear 2 Neo.
The Bottom Line Samsung has made strides with the Gear 2, but this smartwatch is on its own island with few apps and Samsung-only device compatibility. At this point, you're better off waiting for Android Wear.
Watches are simple devices that do a few things well. The dream of a great smartwatch, of going beyond just a device on your wrist that acts like a pager, should be something that does a good handful of extra things: a Swiss army knife of clever functions that, collectively, you wouldn't want to live without.
Last year's Samsung Galaxy Gear tried and failed to be a killer smartwatch, but Samsung has returned with three new contenders. The $199 Gear Fit is an attempt at simplicity: a clear hybrid of fitness band and smartwatch, but lacking in fitness finesse. But the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are bigger and bolder, studded with features that cross over from impressive to intimidating. They're also clunkier, more like a regular squared-off geek watch. If they were Swiss Army knives, they'd be ones studded with random things like fish deboners and mini-laser pointers.
The Gear 2 is undoubtedly an impressive display of wrist tech, but it's not an essential companion. And that's where these new Gears, despite all of their hardware finesse, still feel kind of pointless. While they're definitely an improvement over the ill-fated first-generation Galaxy Gear, they don't deliver any real benefit you can't already get on your phone. (And yes, that phone needs to be a Samsung model, at least for the foreseeable future.)
This review is for the Samsung Gear 2, which has a camera, and is Samsung's top of the line smartwatch of the moment. That's the key phrase to remember: of the moment. Because you can bet that Samsung already has a Gear successor on the drawing board running the new Android Wear operating system that will be debuting in Motorola and LG smartwatches in just a few weeks.