But if you have dreams of using the Gear S solely as a phone, you’ll want to rethink that idea, because while it can make and take calls, and while it can send and receive messages, there’s not a lot it can do.
For instance, even though the Gear S feels like a small phone, it performs like a very limited phone when it’s strapped to your arm without an actual smartphone handset to talk to, and a Samsung handset at that.
That’s limitation number one: operating by itself, some of the things you’ll rely on go away. It technically supports email, but only by reading it from a smartphone, so you won’t get a single email on the Gear S without that phone. Seriously.
You have a calendar, but once again, it’s reading the information, so you can’t add dates or events from your wrist watch. In theory, Samsung’s “S Voice” should let you do this, talking to your wrist, but S Voice just told us in plain monotone “adding calendar updates is not supported”. Well then.
As a phone, the battery life takes a staggering fall, too. We don’t see this as a “limitation” (so it’s separate from our limitation count in this section of the review), but as a phone, we managed to eat through the entire battery in less than 12 hours, and that was with only a phone call or two, with the rest handled through awkwardly typed messages on the tiny cramped keyboard.
Not being used as a phone, you’ll see closer to two days of battery life, which will be handy for those of you keen to track footsteps and tell the time, but use it as a phone and watch that battery life drop.
Charging isn’t hard, though it does happen with a proprietary charger that clips underneath the watch and takes a regular microUSB plug into this section. If you lose this bit, however, good luck charging the watch (so don’t lose it).
Limitation number two is how few apps you have. you’ll find the read only email and calendar, some Nike running and a navigation app powered by Here maps, as well as weather, a news briefing, and even a neat “find my device” app which is useful for finding your phone when you only have your watch, but that’s mostly it.
You can find a few apps on Samsung’s Galaxy App marketplace, but once again, you’ll need a Samsung phone to get them loaded. Fortunately, most of these apps will work from the 3G data connection in the wrist phone, but some apps may only like it when you’re running the Gear S with the Samsung phone, meaning separation is not an option.
And that leads us to limitation number three, and possibly the most distracting of them all: you must have a relatively recent Samsung phone to make the Gear S work.
In theory, you can run the Gear S without a Samsung phone, making phone calls by talking into the watch face, craning your neck and wrist often and trying desperately not to look a little odd in public, but if you want your emails, your calendar information, and really anything else that would make a watch slightly smart, you need the phone.
And it has to be a Samsung phone. Samsung has made sure of that by throwing that requirement in, likely because it wants to keep you in its ecosystem, but also because the Gear S doesn’t run Android or even Android Wear, but rather Tizen, its own operating system that needs a link to Samsung’s Gear Manager to work, which itself is only available for Samsung phones.