First Look: Samsung Gear Fit2 & IconX wearables

In the pool with the Gear Fit2

Samsung has a long line of fitness orientated wearables that compliment their flagship smartphones. The most recent additions are the Gear Fit2 smartwatch (~$250 Cdn) and the Gear IconX cord-free earbuds (~$279 Cdn). Both are geared to the fitness crowd and for some reason Samsung thought I might want to check them out despite not being much of a fitness person. But I’m always curious about wearables so how could I refuse a test drive?

In the pool with the Gear Fit2

Let’s start with the Gear Fit2. Unlike Samsung’s other smartwatches, it’s not as fully functioned since it’s focused on fitness. There aren’t nearly as many apps, options or things it can be used for but that’s not the point. You can answer calls with it and even do quick replies to messages directly from the watch. You can’t pay for your coffee with it either.

It’s got a beautiful and curved super AMOLED display to better fit on your arm and after wearing it for almost a month, I found it much more comfortable than my Apple Watch. It’s also narrower than the Apple offering as well as about half the price. It’s available in two different sizes as well.

fit2watchfacesIt’s got an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance but I wore it into the pool with no issues…I wouldn’t take it diving or snorkeling though.

Like a typical smartwatch, you use various gestures to swipe up/down, left/right to view different screens of data. There is also two buttons on the side for navigating the various options. You can set up just about any types of notifications to go to the watch from your phone but you won’t see photos or other images beyond the user interface, although some apps do show icons like Instagram and Facebook. Despite being narrower, it’s surprisingly readable since it’s mostly just the highlights.

I really liked the watch face customization options. Being able to personalize it with a wide variety of fonts, styles, colors and complications was unexpected compared to other fitness devices I’ve used. But maybe shouldn’t be since it is a hybrid fitness/smartwatch. Sadly, no photo options. There are also widgets that can be added to the secondary screens you can view by swiping to the left. Things like heart rate, various different exercise specific trackers, step and calorie counters.

The activity tracker is automatic…it will detect what kind of activity you’re doing (you can also manually select it) and track accordingly and sync with S Health. There is a built in heart rate monitor that will take your rate throughout the day as well. There is also built in GPS so you can track your distance and route even if you left the phone at home.

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Another nice touch is that the Fit2 comes with a USB dock for bedside charging and rotates the clock display (not customizable unfortunately) to be be viewable while docked. It uses charging pads around the heart rate monitor on the underside to charge so you don’t have to worry about fumbling with cables, just drop it on the charger and it magnetically locks into position and starts charging.

It’s also a music player and even comes with a dedicated Spotify app so you can stream music to the Fit2. You’ll need bluetooth earbuds/headphones. It has 4gb of storage for music onboard which you setup via the Gear app on your phone.

Battery life was great on the Fit2. I was able to wear it for a couple of days with moderate (notification) use without charging.

Samsung loaned me a Galaxy S7 Edge to use with the Fit2 but I was glad to see that it’s compatible with any phone running a recent version of Android.

IconX Earbuds

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I was really looking forward to checking out these earbuds. They are completely cord-free bluetooth earbuds that are also a fitness tracker. They allow you to actually leave your phone at home, take some music and track your workout with nothing more than a couple of earbuds you wear. If you do take your phone with you, you can answer calls, stream music and get notifications through the earbuds wirelessly. It even has a built in heart rate monitor which is arguably (according to the internet) a better measurement point than your wrist.

Once you get back to your phone after your workout, it can download and sync your workout data to S Health.

They come inside a little pod that acts as a charging dock as well as the USB interface for your computer. The pod is also a portable battery for charging the earbuds on the go.
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The flat surface on the side of each earbud is also a touchpad for control. Swiping up/down and various taps are used to navigate.

Since there is no display, your navigation and notifications are spoken to you while wearing the earbuds.

Once connected to your computer, each ear bud shows up as a USB storage device which you can then populate with MP3 music for playback.

Strangely, each earbud has it’s own storage which was a little confusing when loading music onto it as it would depend on which ear was the primary ‘side’ (as set in the Samsung Gear app) as to which music library it would play. You can also use the included USB dongle to connect the pod directly to your phone to transfer music but I wonder why you couldn’t just do it over bluetooth…speed maybe? It’s only 4gb of storage (2 gb per ear – a little less than that actually with onboard software) but it’s plenty enough for hours of music listening.

A nice feature is the ‘ambient sound’ option which allows you to hear what’s going on outside your earbuds behind your music or whatever you’re listening to using the onboard mic.

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These were my first cord-less earbuds and it was a little strange to get used to. You kind of forget that you’re wearing ‘hardware’ since there is no cord and they aren’t headphones with a bulky band over top or clipped onto your ears. They are barely noticeable weight-wise so it’s like it’s all in your head after a while. I could definitely see appeal of these for workouts or just navigating the world wirelessly.

Aside from the storage issue, I also found the earbuds to be a little on the quiet side. I wasn’t using them in a particularly loud environment but I imagine they might be hard to hear over loud external music or ambient noise. When turning it up, you get a warning that you are going too loud but it was still quiet to my non-deaf ears. But perhaps it was a fit issue with the earbuds and my ear holes. I didn’t use any of the included rubber ear inserts which may have improved the fit.

Battery life on the IconX earbuds is harder to track. Since they are so small, whenever I took them out of my ears, they’d go right into the pod which keeps them charged. I was able to wear them while listening to music for a couple hours at a time so you should have no problem for the duration of most workouts. Each earbud has a tiny 47mAh battery with the pod having a 315mAh battery which can keep the earbuds topped up for a while.

It’s pretty impressive that Samsung was able to cram so much into these little earbuds despite a few quirks.

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