BAD GPS! Otherwise a Good Smartwatch from Samsung - Samsung Gear Sport Review

Check out this small gallery of unboxing images before we jump into the review.

★★★☆ (3 out of 5)

  • Build/Design
    • Metal and glass construction with some plastic
    • 5 ATM water resistance
    • Vibrant screen
    • Rotating bezel still has a very satisfying tactile feel
    • The blue color is nice on the watch itself and the band is eye catching
  • Customization
    • Tons of watch faces to choose from
    • Widget customization
    • App layout customization
  • Fitness app Integrations
    • Under Armour app suite integration is nice. This includes installing the apps directly on the device.

  • Battery Life
    • With continuous HR enabled, about 60% of the battery was drained in 24 hours so it doesn't fare much better than the Gear Fit2 Pro did
    • When the watch seems to not "sync" with my phone for a while the battery dies extremely quickly
    • Sometimes an app somehow is continuing to run in the "background" and chews through battery like a mower cutting grass
  • Functionality Limitations
    • I knew this going into it but it's definitely limited when using with an iPhone/iOS device vs with an Android or better yet, Samsung device. 
  • Inconsistent Connection to Phone
    • The watch disconnects from my iPhone…. A lot
    • Extremely frustrating because I have to startup the Galaxy Watch app and wait a good 30 seconds for it to reconnect several times a day
  • Samsung Health
    • The iOS version of app does not seem to fully sync with the Under Armour apps
  • GPS tracking issues
    • Primarily with the Under Armour suite of apps

Other Thoughts
This is a good fitness tracker/smart watch. My experience would be different if I were using an Android device but I get an iPhone through my work for free so I will most likely not have an Android device unless I decide I want to switch and get a stipend in the future. The main gripes I have with this watch are the limited (yet oddly specific in some cases) selection of "on watch" workouts via Samsung Health and the lack of consistent tracking with Under Armour's suite of apps (UA Record, My Fitness Pal, Map my run, etc). Otherwise, Samsung's interface for the watch is great and I love using the rotating bezel to navigate the menus. Even with using this watch on iOS/iPhone, it has been a fairly pleasant experience. But the thing I care about most is GPS tracking with the Under Armour apps and being able to properly categorize a workout and this watch is falling short in that regard.

Full Review
I'm familiar with Samsung's lineup of devices because I used to own a Gear S2. Samsung makes good smartwatch devices. The build quality is high and the feature set is high (on a Samsung device 1st and android device 2nd). I have a previous blog post with quite a bit of information in it about the small "journey" I went on to find the right fitness tracker/smartwatch for me that you can check out here. I ended up with the Gear Sport in the end because I was already in the Samsung ecosystem and I loved their hardware and could look past the software complaints I had at the time. Oh and it didn't hurt that it was on sale at my local Best Buy as an open box unit with zero noticeable damage to the device or its accessories :) .

After receiving the device and setting it up, I was happy to say that everything just felt, "familiar". Transitioning over from the Gear S2 to the Gear Sport was super easy. I went through the process of signing up for the Under Armour apps which was quick and painless and gave me a free year of their premium subscription too! I had tried to use the 24/7 HR monitoring feature that this watch supported just like the Gear Fit2 Pro did but I just couldn't do it. Having to charge my watch every day was just too often for me. Especially considering other devices from the competition would last days on end with 24/7 HR monitoring. The 10 min interval HR reading was okay, but it really is only good for knowing what your resting HR is since it WILL NOT track your HR if you are moving during the time it tries to measure.

I never really used the other new feature of the watch (GPS tracking) after first getting the device because winter had begun rolling around and my outdoor activity time moved to indoors in the gym. That was a mistake and I'll explain why later. Anyway, for the roughly 6 months I had the device, I used Endomondo on a regular basis to track my weight lifting workouts without issue. I liked that Endomondo installed on the watch provided a less "oddly specific" list of workouts when compared to the native Samsung Health app and also provided continuous HR tracking during a workout. I did have an issue where sometimes the watch would burn through battery incredibly fast due to it failing to sync with my phone.  It was rather annoying because I would literally burn through 80-90% of the battery in a matter of hours. However, even though it was frustrating, it happened infrequently enough that I was able to look past it because a simple reboot of the watch and ensuring that it synced with Samsung Health seemed to resolve the issue.

So with that we're now up to two issues that bugged me about the device and It wasn't until I started getting outside more and attempting to map my Rollerblade and Bike sessions that things really hit the fan. The GPS on this watch is absolute garbage with the Under Armour apps. I don't know what the problem is but this watch failed multiple times to properly track my distance and location. It said that I went less than one mile even though I went on a 5 mile bike ride. It even started me out in the ocean one time! I tried all 3 of the Under Armour apps and all of them had the same issue.

On the other hand the Samsung health app seemed to work fairly well but the list of activities that Samsung has is probably the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. They have quite a few incredibly specific activities but then they fail to have fairly common ones such as inline skating/roller skating. A large swath of the activities are only available from within the Samsung health app and cannot be started or tracked from the Samsung watch. I don't know what they are thinking with this. If you are going to track an activity, tracking from your phone can only provide you with GPS data and time. It does not make sense why Samsung does this. It cannot be that difficult to just have the same list of activities within the phone app, on the watch too.

Anyway, with that little rant out of the way, if all I did was be a gym rat, the Samsung device would be okay. However, I am active both indoors and outdoors and the fact that this watch seems to struggle with GPS is not a good thing. Combined with the other issues I've mentioned previously, that's what really did me in on wanting to switch away from this device. I realized that this device simply won't work for me since I have an importance on the outdoor tracking. It's unfortunate to say that because I do overall enjoy the device. However, with my active lifestyle, not being able to actually use the activity tracking really ruins the device for me.

External Links
Product Pages