Update: The Samsung Gear S2 is still a fine choice if you're an Android user, but we're looking toward the future – to the Samsung Gear S3, that is. We have some high hopes for the next iteration of Samsung's excellent smartwatch.
We're currently getting cozy with the latest wearable from Samsung, but until then, the Gear S2 is the best option.
If you're shopping for a smartwatch today, also consider the Samsung Gear S2 Classic, which packs the same innards as the standard model, but rocks a steel case and leather band.
Also, we've added the Samsung Gear S2 to our list of best smartwatches of 2016. Although it isn't compatible with iOS, it's the best option outside of Android Wear that you're going to get.
Lastly, Samsung recently issued an update that brings along some minor improvements, including automatic sleep tracking, some added S Voice commands, and the ability to import your own photo as a watch face, among many other things. Find out more details here.
Original review follows below.
In the past Samsung had a scattergun approach to wearable design, releasing numerous devices with varying form and functionality. It was great if you were looking for something different to the all-too-similar Android Wear devices, but with hindsight, Samsung's first attempts weren't very good.
Fast forward to now, Samsung has a much more cohesive, well thoughtout approach in the Gear S2. It's clear without even touching the new watch, the company practically went back to the drawing board to craft a wearable truly worth your attention.
When looking at the Gear S2, it's obvious that Samsung has learnt from its past successes and failures. It's much more wearable than their previous attempts, it looks good and it's comfortable. More importantly the updated Tizen OS has been perfectly tailored to a smartwatch screen, with perhaps the best user interface I've seen on a smartwatch, making excellent use of the tactile rotating bezel.
Tizen also, however, leads to one of the devices biggest downfalls - it's an immature developer platform, and it lacks apps. But for now, let's look at the positives.
Unlike previous Samsung wearables, the Gear S2 isn't limited to those with a Samsung smartphone. The Gear S2 is compatible with most Android phones, and one day could even be compatible with iPhones.
The Samsung Gear S2 features a fully circular Super AMOLED touchscreen measuring 1.2-inches in diameter. That makes it smaller than the displays on the Huawei Watch and Moto 360. Despite having a smaller screen than its rivals, it doesn't impact usability, at no point during my testing did I feel limited by the size.
The device really impresses with a really high resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. Thanks to the relatively small screen, this gives a pixel density of 302ppi, matching the 42mm Apple Watch's retina display as the sharpest smartwatch screen available right now.
The pixel density really stands out when putting the Samsung Gear S2 next to other circular smartwatches (including the new Moto 360 and LG Watch Urbane). It's visibly much sharper, and clearer as a result.
It's my opinion - and that of the TechRadar team in general - that circular displays are more aesthetically appealing than the square displays of the Apple Watch and Sony Smartwatch 3. It just looks more like a traditional, analogue watch. In terms of functionality, it's hard to make a case for it being better or worse.
Samsung claims the sAMOLED (that's not a typo, the S stands for Super) reflects one-fifth as much sunlight as regular AMOLED displays. I didn't have any problems viewing the watch in direct sunlight, usually keeping to the eighth brightness level (out of ten). As it's AMOLED, the colours look lovely and saturated.
There's a noticeable gap between the display and the top layer of glass on the screen. You'd think this has a negative effect on viewing angles, particular in sunlight, but that is not the case. It does make the watch appear a little more retro however.
Just like ambient mode on Android Wear, the Gear S2 has an 'always on' screen option. In this mode the screen will dim after several seconds of inactivity, however, the time will still be displayed with a reduced interface. It's a useful feature that allows you to view the time without needing to raise your arm and flick your wrist to wake the screen, as with the Apple Watch, though it does reduce battery life.