A couple of years ago, I decided to purchase a Fitbit Charge HR. I loved it. It was my sleep monitor, heart rate monitor, silent alarm clock, handy wrist watch, and a caller ID monitor. I didn't want much more. I needed a fitness band more than a smart watch. Besides, my phone is never more than arms length away (otherwise I start to twitch!)- so what's the point?
During a fun filled summer of 2016, I discovered that my beloved Fitbit Charge HR was waterproof- despite the company claiming it was merely water resistant! Fast forward to the beginning of the summer of 2017, and it turns out they were right after all. My first swim of the new season rendered my fitness band useless. So what next?
I did a lot of research into what a good replacement could be. The Apple Watch is still not on my radar. However, many fitness bands have added a lot of features since I last checked into them. It's a pretty wide feild- and what works for you is entirely dependent on your needs and budget. But the Samsung Gear Fit 2 caught my eye! It's selling for $130 on Amazon these days, I figured I would try it, and if I hated it, I could return it.
I love it.
The current versions of Samsung smart watches and fitness band are IOS compatible. When the device launched, that wasn't the case. There are some pretty miner drawbacks- but overall, I absolutely love what it does. Out of the box, all I had to do was download the Samsung Gear Fit app from the App Store. As soon as I powered up the Gear Fit 2 and launched the app- it paired, and I was up and running!
The unexpected happened immediately. I was getting notifications on my wrist for everything in my IPhone's Notification Center. Facebook messages, email alerts, texts, podcast updates- all of it. Everything you want to get notified about will show up on your wrist. As each message appears, you have the option of clearing it or blocking that app right on the touch screen. My only negative comment here is that the CLEAR button is directly over the BLOCK APP button. I accidentally blocked IOS Messenger, and getting it back was not easy. Perhaps down the line, Samsung will revise the GUI to prevent this. Some quick googling revealed that I am not alone in making this mistake.
The app options available to IOS users is limited to a couple of useful things and about a million different watch faces you'll probably never use or want. The most useful apps come loaded on the Gear Fit 2 already- but I added the Alarm app, which gives you that handy silent alarm feature I loved from Fitbit, as well as a weather app. I use them both often. In fact you can choose what app you want assigned to double clicking the home button on the side of the band. I chose weather. Also, some of the watch faces you can install have touch screen buttons for commonly used things. The face I've chosen has a button for weather, a calendar button, as well as readouts for battery level, steps taken, stairs climbed, heartrate and even the current time. Most everything you'd expect to find in a fitness band is represented here, with separate screens you can swipe over to for calories burned, walks, steps, floors climbed (which is generally WAY off... unless I sleep walk), heart rate, caffeine intake, and water intake.
The only other useful (maybe?) app available via IOS for Gear Fit 2 is FitEvolution. It's basically a trainer on your wrist- and it's quite nice! Simple- but it ads a degree of fun to things as basic as stretching!
One of the things that sets this fitness tracker apart is it's built in GPS. It's not going to give you directions. Instead, it maps your walks (or runs for you healthier people out there). But here again is a limitation of being on IOS. If you set it up for a walk, it will show you the path you walked on a nice little map at the end. However, there currently is no map detail on the Gear Fit 2 when using it with IOS. What you'll see instead is a grid against a black background with pretty colored lines showing where you walked. I'm sure this will get fixed eventually. So, whereas I was used to syncing my Fitbit to my phone and seeing a nice map- this doesn't exist (yet) for IOS users. The tradeoff is that Gear Fit 2 doesn't require you to be tethered to your phone in order to get GPS signal. In fact, you don't need to bring your phone with you at all! This is also because of...
Built in MP3 player:
Gear Fit 2 has a simple, you useful, MP3 player built in. There are two modes for the the music player app: remote mode that controls your Iphone player or standalone mode which accesses the music you put onto the device. Again, IOS users suffer a bit here- but not terribly. Apparently on Samsung phones, you can choose the music you want to dump onto the Gear Fit 2 directly. That is not the case for IOS users. I struggled to figure out how to do this- but once I did I was delighted. Information online specifies the storage as 4gig... but when I added music, it showed 2gig available. That's plenty for me. I will do a step by step write up later about how to do this, because it's not terribly obvious or well documented!
To summarize- I'm in love with this. I have a ton of useful functionality at a fraction of the price of an Apple Watch, in a sleek, water resistant (not water proof) form. The screen is as bright as you want it to be. On a scale that goes from 1-10, I find that 4 is plenty for indoor use.
The best way to look at this is as a fitness tracker that can work standalone or with your phone that happens to also have a healthy dose of smart phone features built in: notifications, music player, weather, etc.
Another plus for a big guy like me is the strap. The size large fits my chubby wrist perfectly with room to spare, whereas my large Fitbit was cutting off circulation.
In the minus column are the lack of IOS features (which I am sure will change), short battery life (comparable to those who use Apple Watch) and lack of calendar support for IOS, despite having buttons to access a calendar on the phone. I charged the Gear Fit 2 to 100% before bed. It tracked my sleep, was my alarm in the morning, and my fitness tracker/ watch/ Notification Center all day. My phone went into low power moder around 8pm the next day, and barely made it back to the cradle for charging. Most reviews claim 2.5 days of use on a charge- but if you're using notifications all day with little vibrations alerting you- expect a day or so at best. It's fine by me. It's not all that different than my iphone charging routine. But to be safe, I purchased an extra charger to keep at work.