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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Switching from the Asus ZenWatch 2 to the Samsung Gear S2


Wow, it's been over a year since my last blog post. While a lot has happened, today I'll focus on one specific change in my recent history: My switch from Android Wear to Tizen OS. Or more specifically, the above 2 smartwatches in the title.

As you may have known, I had the ZenWatch 2 for over a year as well, but it was still not getting the Android Wear 2.0 update, and becoming cumbersome to use. The swipe controls are nice and all, but it was getting slow and I was making mistakes because of that. Phone calls and the like were taking too long to sync, and I didn't want to bother resetting it (again). Therefore, it was time for a new watch!

Since I own a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, I figured Tizen watches would work out fine (plus that platform is maturing nicely, even surpassing Android Wear in market share). There were basically 2 choices: the Gear S2 and the Gear S3. While there are multiple models of each (which I won't get into), I chose the Gear S2 for 3 reasons:
1. It's not that out-of-date and is still supported by Samsung.
2. The Gear S3 didn't have any new killer features I'd need or really want.
3. It's at least ~$200 cheaper here (even comparing Craigslist).

Now onto the main course, the comparison. What I initially noticed (and read about) is the rotating bezel navigation of the Gear S2 compared to the swipes. All I can say is that it's very intuitive and far more precise. I really like how you can seamlessly scroll through apps and settings, and not worry about making too many mistakes. Calls sync a lot faster so far, and I can answer or reject using the bezel as well. Plus, I get to reply to messages with not only canned replies, but voice input (of course), emojis, a T9 keyboard, and even handwriting! On the ZenWatch 2, you may need apps for anything but voice input (and I never seen handwriting before).

While the bezel may be great, touch and swipes still work (mostly for choosing options or launching apps). Swiping down from the main watchface allows you to see connection status, battery percentage, open music control, and toggle flight mode / do not disturb / brightness (all on the watch only). Rotating the bezel left lets you see notifications that you can reply to, dismiss, open in phone, or block. Rotating right gives you widgets which you can set up. I currently have reminders, contacts, alarms, weather, and world clock. On the ZenWatch 2, swiping down is very similar, swiping up gives you notifications, swiping left opens app drawer / more details, and swiping right dismisses / goes back. There are no widgets. The Gear S2 have dedicated back and home buttons, while ZenWatch 2 has only home. There are also actions associated with double-tapping or holding those buttons.

One thing that I am missing from the ZenWatch 2 is app support and some features. For example, do not disturb doesn't work for both the phone and watch, and there's no theatre mode where the watch turns completely black and ignores all touch input (you wake up with buttons). I do have all the apps I need though. For example, WatchMaker has really nice watch faces you can design for both platforms. Mine has time, date, day of week, phone/watch battery, weather, S Voice button, steps counter (very inaccurate unfortunately), and Bluetooth / WiFi connection status. Plus, features like always-on screen, vibrate on disconnect, and screen lock are also there. Unfortunately, there is no free app that can read notes taken on your phone, but putting those in calendar reminders work. Then I could go on about the apps I have, but I'll just keep it to one that many may not know (it's for 2FA): https://github.com/tesurijp/TOTP-Tizen

I will go over the Android Wear and Samsung Gear apps on the phone for a tiny bit. First of all, Samsung Gear was pre-installed in my S7 Edge, while I had to download Android Wear from the Play Store. The apps themselves look very different, but functions rather similarly. They both did their jobs fine, connecting and managing the watch to the phone. Since I haven't got the Android Wear 2.0 update, all apps on my ZenWatch 2 was installed from a companion app on the phone. The Gear S2 had independent apps that could be installed from the Galaxy Store (rather than Google Play).

And lastly, the hardware. This is not my area of specialty, so I won't go into it too much. With always-on display, my Gear S2 has worse battery life than ZenWatch 2, but can still last a whole day. It doesn't have a speaker either, but what it does have some sensors that ZenWatch 2 doesn't have: Heart Rate, Ambient Light, Barometer. Also has wireless charging, but not much difference when you still need a wire to the charger. It uses a 20mm strap instead of 22mm, but I bought mine with a decent steel one, so no need to change to my old ones.

There you have it, my long rambling of comparing my 3rd smartwatch to 4th. This post is mainly for my own reference instead of sharing for a wider audience (I'll still share on social media though). Anyhow, I will not resume to writing on this blog in a regular basis, but rather on a whim as I may have said before. Thank you for reading, goodbye.