It’s been a while since Samsung’s much-vaunted Gear S2 has seen a coat of fresh of software paint, but a few months after its firmware update from July (which added a recommended apps screen, a tweaked world clock and weather interface, enhanced voice assistant capabilities, and more), the S2 is getting another Value Pack.
In essence, the update makes the Gear S2 a bit more comparable to the S3. It’s a 130MB update, and includes “more opportunities to personalize your smartwatch and add to its convenience,” the addition of a Handwriting Mode in Korean, English or Chinese for Gear S2’s native Messages app, advanced activity tracking functionality, third-party widgets from Uber, Yelp, and USA Today, “streamlined” safety, and games including Stack or Monster Vampire. All this is to say that you’re sort of getting the functionality, or at least the UI, of the Gear S3, but for a lower price.
Granted, this update is nowhere near as significant as its last one, which added a recommended apps screen. That was notable: previously, checking out Samsung’s featured Tizen software annoyingly required thumbing around the smartwatch’s companion smartphone app. Now, browsing and installing apps can be done from the Gear S2 itself, and the same goes for the watch faces.
And when it comes to watch faces, these were also made a tad more customizable. You have been given the option of selecting a photo as the background of a watch face, or indeed up to 10 photos that now cycle in a slide show every time your watch’s screen powers on.
S Voice, Samsung’s voice assistant, was separately given the ability to start a timer on command. Also added was a new contacts app that let users quickly start a conversation or phone call with a saved number. You could manage ongoing notifications on your phone even when there “are no unread notifications.”
Not even the weather app and world clock escaped revamping. The former has gained UV index data, and the latter now features a “flatter” design and an abstract of the sun’s movement: during the day, the clock face adopts a bright-white color palette, and at night, it switches to a darker theme. Appropriately, it now shows times for the upcoming sunrise and sunset, too.
Samsung’s Gear devices seem to have carved out a niche in the smartwatch market. At the beginning of this year, the South Korean company reported that sales of the Gear S2 were up “several hundred percent” compared to a year earlier. And market research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that the company nabbed 14 percent of the global smartwatch market share in April — behind Apple’s 52-percent share. That success is incentive enough, apparently, for Samsung to continue iterating on its wearable ideas.