Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: The battle between new and old

What's the difference between this pair of Tizen-packing smartwatches?
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The band of elite smartwatch options is growing, with Android Wear 2.0 hosting a bevy of fresh designs and a Fitbit smartwatch also on the horizon.

But if you don't fancy diving deep into that party, or strapping on the Apple Watch Series 2 from the folks in Cupertino, there's a strong chance you've got an eye on the wares of Samsung. And while the options inside the Gear S2 and Gear S3 stable obviously have their similarities, there's a few slight differences which could force you into a certain direction.

Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear S2 review | Samsung Gear S3 review

And we've been living with both over the last few weeks to give you a refreshed look at how the two fare when side by side, so read on to discover who comes out on top and which deserves a place on your wrist.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Design

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: The battle between new and old

As Samsung powers both of these models with much of the same software, the design is likely the biggest point of difference for you to consider.

Both devices are round, but offer two options for you to pick from. With the Gear S2, you'll have the standard model and a more upscale Classic design. The S3, meanwhile, gives users the choice to between the Classic and a sporty, rugged Frontier model.

No matter where you land with these options, you're getting a solid build – even with the plastic casing of the regular Gear S2. What you're not getting is the same depth of personalisation that you might from rivals, though there are still a number of straps to switch out if you're looking to make either your gym pal, as well as an everyday option.

So, where's the difference?

Well, anyone with wrists on the small side will likely want to steer clear of the S3's mammoth 46mm frame, with the S2 coming in at 42mm and its Classic sibling even smaller at 39.9 x 43.6 x 11.4mm. And while you can get away with mixing up your straps for different occasions, there's no denying the fact that the S2 generally offers a sleeker look.

Amazon PA: Samsung Gear S2

One of the strong points in design, and something which has helped both distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, is the rotating bezel, allowing for nifty movement around the watch without getting that screen grubby.

This works the same way on both devices, but we were even more grateful for its powers on the S2 due to the smaller screen. And though this feature is now supported through Android Wear 2.0, nobody else has thus far taken advantage, meaning going back to using other devices still feels like a chore.

As well as the bezel, you'll also have the same two buttons on every S2 and S3 model – 'back' at two o'clock and 'home' at four o'clock.

For our money, all the watches in this collection are very solid designs. We still prefer the more svelte look of the Gear S2 range, but those hunting for a hulking, outdoor option will be more than happy with the look of the Gear S3 Frontier.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Features

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: The battle between new and old

This is a fairly simple matchup to judge, since the Gear S3 is essentially a more advanced iteration of what the S2 offered.

That said though, it doesn't manage to take the next step in every single area. Taking durability as an example, the Frontier's IP68 water rating – which allows you to submerge it in water of up to 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes – is the same as that featured in the Gear S2. This means that neither model is capable of tracking your dips in the pool, unfortunately, but they should both survive a trip in the shower.

In typical Samsung style, the displays on both are also up there with the very best in the game. Despite offering a small 1.2-inch Super AMOLED screen, the Gear S2 still manages to pack in 360 x 360 pixels at an impressive density of 302ppi. The S3 offers the same resolution, albeit with a density of 278ppi, thanks to that larger, 1.3-inch screen.

Amazon PA: Samsung Gear S3

And with the company going into battle with its own software through both of these devices, you're dealt the same card in terms of support.

When the S2 first dropped, this was probably our biggest gripe with the device. Things have improved through the newer generation, with Samsung claiming there are more than 10,000 apps available for you to access from the Gear companion phone app. However, you're likely to only explore the likes of Spotify, Nest, CNN and Uber – these are the big fish in what remains a shallow pond.

As for the internals, there's a slight upgrade on the S3's end. You'll be treated to 768 MB RAM, as opposed to the 512MB on the S2, and Samsung's own Exynos 7270 chipset instead of the Qualcomm MSM8x26 which previously featured.

Read this: The best Samsung Gear S3 apps

It's also worth noting that while the optimal experience for these devices comes via Samsung and other Android smartphones, support is now there for iPhone users. You're not getting the full experience – notifications, for example, can only be dismissed and Spotify isn't available through iOS – but it's certainly viable.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Health and fitness

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: The battle between new and old

Samsung is on the bandwagon, making fitness more prevalent through the latest batch of smartwatches and software updates, and with the Gear S3 coming with inbuilt GPS to allow for untethered activities such as running and cycling.

The location pinpointing was also a possibility with the S2, but the 3G and GPS model was only released to the likes of the UK and Europe in May 2016 and generally felt like a bit of an afterthought. That's not the case with the S3, with this feature coming as standard.

When you delve into what's provided, it's a pretty standard affair on both fronts here. You'll be given the usual breakdown of steps, elevation and calorie burn through the improving S Health platform, while you can now also track exercise through the likes of UA Record, MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and MapMyRun, if you prefer.

Neither is set to replace your GPS running watch yet, with heart rate monitor performance and feedback still lacking slightly, but it's as strong as it's ever been from Samsung.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Price

There's no prizes for guessing that Samsung's fresher Gear S3 costs more than its older sibling, with both the Frontier and Classic models burning a hole of in your back pocket – recently seeing a price slash of .

As for the Gear S2, well, it's a cheaper deal. It's not completely on the discount aisle just yet, but for a smartwatch package this solid is hard to beat.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Battery

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: The battle between new and old

Thanks to the S3's bigger frame, Samsung has found room to squeeze in a larger 380mAh battery, which we found to last an average of around three days – all while keeping the screen brightness relatively high and using the GPS tracking regularly.

And although the Gear S2 only houses a 300mAh battery, it doesn't lag too far behind. There are fewer sensors, of course, but testing showed us that you're still prime to get just over two days of life from it.

This is around where smartwatch batteries are currently. It's not ideal, but Samsung is by no means the only culprit of battery woe. The bigger frustration, perhaps, is the company not pushing to implement the same rapid charging smarts into its watches as it does through its smartphones.

Samsung Gear S2 v Samsung Gear S3: Verdict

As it should be, the Gear S3 proves to be the superior smartwatch when it comes down to the finer points. However, as we explored in our review, it wasn't quite the leap forward that would have resulted in its predecessor being made completely redundant.

If you don't prioritise built-in GPS, or simply prefer the earlier model's sleeker design options, the S2 is still a viable smartwatch. However, for those looking to pick up either device, and especially the Gear S2, it's important to keep in mind that the clock is always ticking towards the expected launch of the Gear S4 later this year. That not only means some outdated features, but also the potential for less support further down the line.

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

Related stories