The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro comes at a turning point for the fitness tracker. Activity bands have had a hard time this year; features have been cannibalised by smartwatches, which are now dominating the headlines. Low end, cheap devices are flooding the market. That's only intensified with the launch of the Fitbit Ionic alongside the Samsung Gear Sport.
So the long-windedly monikered Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro has a job on its hands. It's a full-featured super band, with 50m of water resistance, GPS, heart rate and a Super AMOLED curved display.
Essential reading: Samsung Gear Sport review
So let's embrace this band's elongated name for our own description: The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is a connected cuff concocted of a cornucopia of sports features. But can it put activity bands back on the map? We got hands-on at IFA 2017 to find out.
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro: Features and build
Available in two colours: black and black (with some barely visible red), the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is a serious hunk of band. But we don't mean that in a derogatory way. It's not unwieldy and is actually really comfortable – I came close to accidentally stealing one from Samsung during our preview, not realising it was on my wrist as I left.
But it's a form factor that's starting to lose face, especially at this size. And perhaps the biggest barrier to jumping on board is whether you want one of your two wrists dominated by a techy band. It's prime real estate and many users don't want to give up their wristwatch either.
So Samsung has to give prospective buyers a real reason to buy – and in this case that reason is pure, unadulterated tech. The band hides a bevy of sensors and high-end components, which make it one of the most complete bands to date.
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro comes with a 1.5-inch, 216 x 432 Super AMOLED display, which curves around the wrist neatly. It's got a heart rate monitor, GPS built-in and it's waterproof to 50 metres. Like the Samsung Gear Sport, it's partnered with Speedo to handle in-pool tracking – more on that later.
The strap itself is rubber, and comes in a couple of different designs, one with little asymmetric patterns which looks pretty nice. If you get past the whole giant screen and rubber combo, of course. It's comfortable and the form factor works, just as it did on the original Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro.
So here's a powerful statement: no maker of fitness bands has matched Samsung for the sheer amount of technical firepower on show here. Fitbit has only managed to waterproof one band, the basic Fitbit Flex 2, and even in Garmin's myriad of models a band doesn't appear that boasts the full suite. There's no compromise to make.
But that's the band market. When it comes to fitness-forward smartwatches, the functionality here is standard. The Apple Watch Series 2, Fitbit Ionic and Samsung Gear Sport have all married 5ATM waterproofing, GPS and heart rate tech together – but as all Wareable readers know, it's how this is implemented, not just the tech involved, that matters.
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro: Sports tracking
So let's get started on sports tracking – and again, it's swimming here that really hits home.
Like the Gear Sport, the tie-in with Speedo really shines here and turns the Gear Fit2 Pro into a serious swim tracker. Lengths, distance, time, strokes (all the key Olympic strokes) are all counted – and used to calculate SWOLF to gauge efficiency.
It's quick and easy to set the size of the pool you're using before a session. Afterwards, you can examine the performance of each length and stroke.
It all sounds great, and it will be… if it works. Just because Samsung has signed up Speedo is no guarantee that all these features will be seamless once taken into the pool. The Speedo Shine collaboration with Misfit didn't perform well in the pool at all, so there are hurdles that Samsung will have to overcome.
The next addition is continuous heart rate, which is included for the first time.
You can have your heart rate tracked all day, with the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro showing peaks and lows for the day, which should offer insight into your general wellbeing. Resting heart rate gets a mention on the watch itself, but we're yet to see how this is tracked. Knowing your RHR is one thing, but seeing it fall as you (supposedly) get fitter, or peak when you're sick or need to rest, is the real gold standard, and it remains to see how this will be implemented.
Aside from swimming there are dedicated modes for running and cycling, as well as a host of other tracked sports. The full GPS means you don't have to take your smartphone out as well, and that's even more important now Spotify offline syncing is included on the device.
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro: Early verdict
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is possibly the ultimate fitness band – on paper at least. But it comes at a time when fewer people want to buy fitness bands.
In a way the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is a smartwatch in another form factor. There are apps, notifications and fitness features, and it acts as another option for those who, for whatever reason, don't want to embrace a full-screen smartwatch. As the fitness band market losing ground to budget devices, it's good to see Samsung still pushing the boundaries of the form factor.
Samsung currently indicate the device will ship in mid-September, so check back for our full review in a few weeks.