Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

Everything you need to know about the new Gear S3
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There isn't much separating the new Samsung Gear S3 variants except for style but in a way, that's a big deal. Though both versions are ruggedised, the Gear S3 Frontier looks like it's built to withstand more outdoor activity.

Again, this doesn't mean the Classic can't – but you're more likely to wear the Classic into the office as is, where you'd probably change out the Frontier's band for say, a leather design in a smarter environment.

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However, if you're after the standalone model, only the Frontier will be able to field calls and texts without a phone thanks to the onboard LTE.

Read on to find out everything else there is to know about Samsung's sporty and sleek new Gear S3 Frontier.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Design + screen

The Frontier Gear S3 is aimed at fitness and 'exploration' fans, as Samsung puts it. On paper the Frontier and Classic measure in the same at 46.1 x 49.1 x 12.9mm, while the Frontier is weightier at 62g compared to the Classic's 57g. That's heavier than the Gear S2's 29g as well.

Instead of circular buttons, you get rectangular, texturised buttons on the side that are, once again, reminiscent of sports watches and probably easier to grip if you've worked up a sweat. You'll also get a brushed stainless steel body on the Frontier instead of smooth like the Classic's.

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Both the Gear S3's are ruggedised with an IP68 water and dust resistant certification. However it's worth noting that you can only keep it under water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 5 feet. Still, Samsung says it has tested the models with military level standards, ensuring that they're durable and able to withstand very high and very low temperatures, shock, dust and extreme vibrations.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

On the connectivity front, the Classic only comes with Bluetooth/Wi-Fi while the Frontier will offer up a Bluetooth or standalone LTE flavours.

The Gear S3 Frontier come with a 1.3-inch screen with a 46mm body, which is a bump up from the smaller Gear S2's 1.2-inches and 42mm body. There's still the same sharp 360 x 360 super AMOLED resolution on board to give you the traditional watch experience.

To add an extra layer of durability, it's also layered with Corning Gorilla SR+.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Tizen OS

As with the S3 Classic, it's Tizen running the show here and the latest version of Samsung's own smartwatch operating system on board.

There are no Frontier-only features but you'll still be able to access over 10,000 apps that includes the likes of Nest, Uber and Samsung Pay. In a bid to make it easier to send messages from a small display, you can now write and draw on the S3 screen. It was surprisingly responsive in our brief play with it.

One of the most requested apps from Gear S2 users was Spotify, and Samsung has brought it to the Gear S3 party. Now with an official Tizen app, you can stream music sans smartphone (with the 3G version) as well as access playlists and control playback.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Rotating bezel

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

Time and time again, we've praised how enjoyable it is using the rotating bezel on the Gear S2 – and we're excited to see it back again on the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic.

It's no surprise that Samsung has spent some time trying to make its standout feature even more useful. There are little additions like the ability to now answer and reject calls, but the real big news is that it's opening the bezel to third party developers. Samsung has already convinced Nest to jump on board, letting users rotate the bezel to tinker with their Nest thermostat.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Straps

The Frontier has a sportier look with its standardised 22mm rubber strap – though it can be switched out for any other band of that size, and there are plenty to choose from.

Samsung's releasing a bevy of options in addition to the third-party designs you can choose. Artist and industrial designer Arik Levy also helped create some of the Gear's strap designs, and produced a series of watch faces to complement the 15 faces already pre-loaded onto the watch.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Fitness tracking

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

On the tracking front the S3 Frontier is well equipped. Sensors such as an accelerometer, ambient light sensor and heart rate monitor are all included. There's a trio of outdoor friendly sensors here too. The altimeter, barometer and speedometer track things like altitude and atmospheric pressure as well as sudden changes in the weather when you're exploring the great outdoors.

As with the Classic, there's GPS (Glonass) built-in for sport tracking. You'll also get a new SOS mode that uses location tracking to alert family, friends and emergency professionals when you're in crisis. Samsung has teamed up with security company ADT to provide additional services, but hasn't announced pricing yet.

Samsung is also taking some features from the Gear Fit2 and adding fitness tracking extras like Challenges, leaderboards and activity auto-recognition.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Battery life

There's a much larger battery sitting behind the Frontier's larger face. At 380mAh, the Gear S3 has certainly surpassed the S2's 250mAh. That means you get about three to four days' of usage with and without LTE, compared to the usual two days the majority of smartwatches can muster.

Samsung doesn't have an answer for what the battery life is like in GPS mode quite yet, but it probably can't live up to dedicated sports watch brands like Garmin and Polar. It still also supports wireless charging, like its predecessor, and a power saving mode that kicks in when your battery is in its final hours. The charger for the Gear S3 is also backwards compatible with the S2.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Samsung Pay

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

Samsung Pay will be supported on the Gear S3 after being trialled on the Gear S2. Using NFC and MST (magnetic secure transmission), you'll be able to tap your watch against any card reader. Samsung emphasised that phones and even LTE aren't needed, which should be great news for joggers or people who've forgotten their mobile device at home.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Compatibility

All the Gear S3s are compatible only with Android phones, though not iOS despite the beta testing that's already in place with the Gear S2. We asked a Samsung representative about the potential of iOS support for the Gear S3, and they told us the following:

"While the Gear S3 does not offer support for the iOS platform at this time, we continually evaluate ways to broaden the availability of our wearable devices to more consumers by providing them with a seamless, connected experience that improves their daily lives." We think that means Samsung is focusing on getting it working on the Gear S2 before it moves onto the Gear S3.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: Price and release date

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier: A guide to the rugged smartwatch

Samsung has finally revealed Gear S3 pricing and a US release date. Preorders begin 6 November and both the Classic and Frontier models will be available for purchase on 18 November starting at $349.99.

In the US, the Gear S3 Frontier will be available at most major retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, Macy's and Carriers for the LTE version of the Frontier so far include AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, all of which will release their own specific availability and pricing.

It's likely the Frontier will match the Classic in pricing, however you can expect the LTE Frontier to cost more for the additional standalone services.

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Lily is a writer and editor specializing in tech, video games, marketing, education, travel writing, and creative fiction. 

She has over 10 years of experience covering the technology beat.

Lily has a passion for VR and AR technologies and was associate wearables editor at TechRadar US, before joining Wareable as US editor in 2016.

Lily will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in Creative Writing.

In her spare time, Lily can be found knee-deep in zine collaborations, novel writing, playing Dungeons & Dragons or hiking and foraging for mushrooms.

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