Samsung gets sweaty again with the Gear Fit 2, and we tried it on

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When you think about fitness trackers, chances are your mind jumps directly to Fitbit, not Samsung. Ever since the company released the Gear Fit back it 2014, it’s taken a hiatus from fitness trackers. Now, Samsung is getting back in the game with the new and improved Gear Fit 2.

We took a look at Samsung’s newest fitness tracker to see what’s improved and whether or not the Gear Fit 2 is strong enough to beat Fitbit at its own game. These are just our first impressions, so keep an eye out for our full review.

Most fitness trackers are sporty and not very stylish. Usually, you get a silicon strap, a button or two, and a few clinking lights to show your progress if you’re lucky. Occasionally, you’ll run into a small black and white screen like on Fitbit’s Charge and Alta, but most fitness trackers eschew the screen altogether. Not so with Samsung’s Gear Fit 2. Just like the original, it has a large color screen that’s set in a silicon band, but this time, the screen curves elegantly to sit comfortably on your wrist.

Although the 1.5-inch curved AMOLED screen on the Gear Fit 2 is technically smaller than the 1.84-inch screen on the original model, it boasts double the screen width, so you can see more on the tiny display. The wider screen certainly is much easier to navigate than the slimmer, less touch sensitive displays on most fitness trackers. The watch face is customizable, too.

The inevitable tradeoff of having a wider screen is that you end up with a wider device. On large wrists, that hardly matters, but for those with slim wrists, the Gear Fit 2 is simply less attractive looking than the Fitbit Alta or the Misfit Ray, both of which are slim and pretty. Samsung did make an effort to appease women, though, by offering a small band size and a magenta pink color option in addition to the dark blue and black bands.

The small band did fit much better than the large, though the Gear Fit 2 still looked ungainly on my spindly lady wrist. Could I wear it at the gym or on a run? Sure, but I would never wear it 24/7, which is, after all, the entire point of a fitness tracker. Ladies, buy a Fitbit Alta instead if you want a fitness tracker with a display, a Bellabeat Leaf if you want something that looks like jewelry, or a Misfit Ray if you want something in between.

However, there is good news for men. The Gear Fit 2 looks great on larger male wrists. It doesn’t look out of place with a t-shirt and jeans or a button-up shirt and a suit, and it would fit in just fine at the gym. Fitness trackers are rarely stylish, but at least the Gear Fit 2 is better looking than the outlandish, boxy Fitbit Blaze and the Microsoft Band with its awkward clasp.

It’s also less bulky than most smartwatches and definitely less chunky than your average smart fitness watch from Polar or Garmin. It’s even water resistant with an IP68 rating, so it should be safe from rain and splashes of water.

When you combine its relatively inoffensive looks with its truly stellar specs and functionality, the Gear Fit 2 starts looking like a great proposition.

The Gear Fit 2 may be a fitness tracker, but it boasts some smartwatch features, too. Any notification that appears on your Android phone will pop up on the Gear Fit 2 if you so wish. You can get calendar alerts, calls, and texts, too. Although you can’t use voice dictation to send unique replies to texts or calls, you can send canned replies or emoji. Likewise, you can’t download apps on it like you would on a smartwatch, but the ability to see notifications is very helpful.

In addition to these smartwatch-like features, the Gear Fit 2 boasts GPS and a heart rate monitor, so you can really keep tabs on your workout. The screen provides real-time data while you’re exercising, and it’s nice that you can see everything without having to sync up with an app on your phone. Naturally, the Gear Fit 2 tracks your steps, distance travelled, calories burned, sleep, and other common fitness stats. It also has a barometer, too, to detect your elevation.

Automatic workout tracking is the coolest feature on the Gear Fit 2, though. It knows when you start running, biking, or working out on the elliptical; and it can automatically tell what activity you’re doing, most of the time. You will have to let it know you’re doing yoga, pilates, and other activities that are harder to sense, but that’s typical of fitness trackers. We didn’t get to test the auto-tracking feature during our brief hands on, but we’ll let you know how it goes in our final review.

Another interesting feature that makes the Gear Fit 2 stand out from the crowd of fitness trackers is its ability to stream music directly from Spotify to a pair of Bluetooth earbuds or headphones. Sadly, this only works if your smartphone maintains a connection to your Gear Fit 2, since Spotify requires an internet connection to function.

However, if you happen to have your own workout playlists, you can download them onto the Gear Fit 2 for phone-free music while you exercise. The device packs 4GB of storage onboard, which should hold hundreds of songs.

The Exynos 3250 processor and 512MB of RAM ensure that the device runs smoothly, especially since that’s the same amount of RAM that powers most smartwatches. It’s slick and polished – much like a smartwatch.

As for battery life, the Gear Fit 2 should last three to four days on a single charge, though if you stream a lot of Spotify from your phone via Bluetooth, it may run out faster. Luckily, it’s easy enough to charge with the magnetic charger.

Since the Gear Fit 2 boasts a full color AMOLED screen, it’s very easy to see all your fitness data at a glance. The wearable runs Samsung’s Tizen OS, just like the Gear S2 smartwatch, but since the Fit 2 is rectangular instead of round and focused on fitness instead of information, the operating system looks quite different.

There’s a lot of swiping and scrolling involved to view your fitness metrics, but it’s nice to have it all there. You swipe through several screens, including your notifications, calories burned, workouts, steps, floors climbed, heart rate, water intake, caffeine intake, and the leaderboard where you can compete with your friends.

Inside each of these menus there is more detail if you tap and scroll through all the data. For example, if you go into the workout menu, you can tap to see all the details from your last workout, including a map of your route. There, you can share your workout on Facebook, if you want to brag. Inside the workout menu, you can also start a new workout with a specific exercise.

Each menu is laid out in a similar way, so it’s a bit difficult to navigate through all that data. There’s almost too much going on at your wrist, and it can be overwhelming to go through everything. That said, all the data is helpful and interesting – it just takes some time to learn how to find it all. Luckily, the redesigned S Health app should help you sort through all the data and get meaningful results on your phone or tablet.

We’ll have to take a deeper dive into the Gear Fit 2’s operating system to let you know how useable it really is once we fully review it.

If fitness trackers are your thing, but you want the notifications of a smartwatch, too, the Gear Fit 2 was made with your needs in mind. It’s a fitness-focused device that handles notifications just like a smartwatch would, minus the stand-alone apps and wimpy battery life. It works with any Android smartphone, and Samsung says it’s working to get iOS compatibility, too.

Extras like Spotify streaming via Bluetooth and the 4GB of onboard storage are intriguing, as is the automatic workout tracking, but both bear further testing before we can truly say if the Gear Fit 2 can tackle the Fitbit to win the title of best fitness band. It costs $180 and you can pre-order it on June 3.

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