Samsung Gear 2, Neo smartwatches grow up
The Gear Fit is a design that stands on its own, but the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear 2 are really variations on a single theme. They're both evolutions of the original Gear, but the Neo is the slightly pared-down model: it's lighter, and it's missing the Gear's unique camera. Do you care about a camera on your smartwatch? Do you like the idea of a lighter watch? Do you mind a more plastic feel? Well, then, the Gear 2 Neo may be for you. And even though pricing hasn't been announced, it'll inevitably be less expensive. How much remains to be seen.
No camera, but everything else
To re-emphasize: other than the camera and the lighter-weight design, the Gear 2 Neo is the same watch as the Gear 2. It has the same processor, screen, 4GB of onboard storage, and general health functions. Whereas the Gear 2 offers a 2-megapixel snapper, the Gear 2 Neo leaves you without any means of capturing stills. Taking photos using the current Galaxy Gear isn't exactly the most graceful affair, so this might not be such a terrible omission.
Health: A step forward
The heart rate monitor, which is new to all of Samsung's newly announced products -- the Galaxy S5, the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo, and the Gear Fit -- works via an optical sensor on the back of the watch. It responded quickly and gave a readout within seconds when I tested it on my wrist with a press of a button.
Newer health apps promise to guide and collect fitness data more proactively than the pretty bare-bones way the original Gear did, and the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo will track sleep and stress levels, too. Third-party apps so far include ones from Under Armour, Garmin, and Runtastic.
Design: Bright and plastic
To distinguish it from the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo comes with a choice of alternatively colored straps. The Gear has a brown option, while the Gear 2 Neo comes in gray. Both models are also available in black and orange.
I tried the Gear 2 Neo on, and its polycarbonate wristband lends it a lighter, more plastic feel than last year's Gear or even the Gear 2. That's not a bad thing necessarily: in fact, in some ways, it feels almost like Samsung's bleeding-edge take on the original Pebble. The wrist-feel and less-bulky design are definitely improved. For spec nerds, it's 37.9mm x 58.8mm x 10.0mm and weighs 55g, versus the Gear 2's 36.9mm x 58.4mm x 10.0mm and 68g. But, it's still a large watch: next to a Pebble Steel, the Gear 2 Neo feels loud and big. If you want a more discreet smartwatch design, the Samsung Gear Fit might be the right choice.
Tizen: Goodbye, Android
The Gear 2 Neo runs Samsung's Tizen operating system just like the Gear 2, a move away from Android that could be a smart move for Samsung. But it doesn't change the essential feel and UI of the Gear from the original version I tried last year: in fact, most everyday users wouldn't notice the difference. The impact could come in terms of the types of apps it runs, but an SDK is being made available for app developers to explore the Gear universe.
Are you tempted by either of Samsung's new watches? Let me know in the comments below, and check out our feature on how Samsung built the first Galaxy Gear.