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Summary:

I took a closer look at the Samsung Gear Fit and chatted with Samsung about its newest wearable product. So far, the device looks promising. Here are a few things you should know about the Gear Fit if you’re considering one for your wrist.

Gear Fit vertical

When Samsung first announced its Gear Fit in February, I was intrigued mainly because it’s a hybrid between a smartwatch and fitness tracker. I’ve worn a number of smartwatches in the past and also currently wear a Fitbit Force (see disclosure) for tracking my daily steps. One device to pull double-duty sounds interesting to me, provided it doesn’t overwhelm my wrist with lots of apps.

The Gear Fit doesn’t, as I found out when meeting with Samsung to discuss the product and get a loaner unit earlier this week. There are only a few apps on the device and those that are there are ones you’d expect to track health and fitness. During my meeting — and along with some investigation on my own over the past day — I learned several interesting things about the Gear Fit that may help you decide if the device belongs on your wrist.

In no particular order, here are few of the most important ones:

  1. Yes, the Gear Fit can display information in a more ergonomic vertical mode. Earlier this week, we noted a software update to support portrait mode which makes much more sense for a device on the wrist. I found a setting that switches between horizontal and portrait mode:
    Gear Fit modes vertical
  2. All of the health tracking features must be first enabled, meaning the Gear Fit works differently compared to other fitness trackers. Those generally monitor steps, distance traveled, calories burned and more all the time. You have to start an activity on the Gear Fit for tracking to begin, which I hope the company considers changing in the future.
  3. The Gear Fit doesn’t include internal storage, so you can’t transfer music to it from a connected phone. That’s different from the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo which do support music storage.
  4. Just like the Samsung Galaxy S5 handset, you can measure your heart rate with the Gear Fit, thanks to a small sensor on its underside. However, like exercise tracking you have to turn this feature on. And unfortunately, the Gear Fit doesn’t monitor your heart rate continuously in real-time; you get a single reading which is saved to a history file. You also have to keep still when checking your heart rate.
  5. You can get real-time heart rate data to the Gear Fit with third-party accessories, however. I was pleased to see a number of supported heart-rate monitors, including a version of the Wahoo unit I bought for running some time ago.
  6. The Gear Fit works with dozens of app notifications. These are configured in the Gear Fit phone software and work very well. I’m already reading notifications from Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and more to name a few. You can tap the Gear Fit to open full messages from notifications, which shows them on the connected phone.
    Gear Fit notifications
  7. There’s a Gear Fit manager application used to configure the device but S-Health is separate. That makes sense to some degree: Folks who have a Galaxy phone but not the Gear Fit may still want to track their exercise, food and such. If you have a Gear Fit, however, it seems a little cumbersome to require two separate apps.
  8. Speaking of S-Health, while you can track your food intake, there’s no bar code scanner included with the software. I suggested to Samsung that it consider adding one as it’s far easier to scan a UPC code when you can, than to type out your food.
  9. There are 6 brightness levels on the Gear Fit and the default is super bright; I had to knock it down to level 3. Level 6 is suggested for outdoor use.
  10. You can wear the Gear Fit on either arm and there’s a setting to let the device know if you’re wearing it on your left or right wrist.
  11. Charging the Gear Fit requires a small, included piece that snaps on to the back of the device. It’s not as bulky as the Galaxy Gear charger but I could see it easily getting lost. If that happens, you’ll have to buy a replacement charger as there’s no USB port on the Gear.
    Gear Fit charger
  12. To attach the Gear, there’s a small two-prong buckle that’s very similar to the mechanism on my Fitbit. It’s easy to snap and the device hasn’t fallen off my wrist yet, so it seems pretty secure.
  13. Samsung says it plans to work with more third-party software partners, so you could see sensor integration with other popular exercise trackers.

So far, the Gear Fit looks like a solid first effort from Samsung to enter the quantified self market. I already see areas for improvement but thankfully, these can be addressed through software updates. From a hardware standpoint, the device seems fairly capable and well designed. Stay tuned as the Gear Fit becomes my daily wearable for the next week or so.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.

Updated at 11:11am PT to correct the information about internal storage of music on the Gear Fit. A previous version incorrectly stated that the Fit had internal memory for music files.

  1. That new vertical orientation might push me to get one. Glad Samsung listened to feedback.

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  2. I grabbed one today and have put my fitbit to one side while I try it out. Agree that having to activate the pedometer is a pain; it would be nice if there was an option to have it on all day. You didn’t mention the “find your phone” function. This is kind of cool – quick tap and your handset starts to ring making it easy to find. Also have an “emergency – send help” function. Three rapid button presses on the watch and a “help” message (with your location) is sent to a preset list of emergency contacts that you manage yourself.

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    1. Agreed, those are useful features. I simply hadn’t found them all yet having just met with Samsung to get the review unit not 24 hours prior. ;)

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    2. Once you turn on the pedometer it stays on all day. And the step count does reset at midnight.

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    3. Cynthia Schroeder Wednesday, May 21, 2014

      You can leave it on all day, I do. Once it’s turned on just never turn it off! It automatically resets after midnight just like my fitbit.

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  3. You are able to constantly track your heart rate with the gear fit while you exercise you do this through- exercise-choose type ( I.e walking, running ) scroll across to heart rate and tick the box.

    This will measure your heart rate though out your exercise and give you the average and peak after the exercise through the S health app on the device.

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  4. ,,,actually one feature has me stumped. Is it possible to set the Fit to wake me in the morning with an alarm? Seems obvious but I cannot work out how to do it ….

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    1. yes this works as long as you have it enabled in notifications for the default alarm on your galaxy phone.

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  5. No comments on how ungainly and silly it looks?

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    1. Sizewize, it’s about the same as the Fitbit Force I wear 7×24, so the size and look don’t bother me. Just my $0.02 of course.

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    2. I understand that Samsung is about to release a music track you can play while walking and wearing one of these. It’s got this rhythmic beat that matches your step, going “dork, dork, dork, dork, dork….”

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  6. Jefferson RFO Friday, April 11, 2014

    Looking at the picture, now I can see why Apple has been way too cool to enter the market. As for it, Samsung next tries to make unwrinkled prunes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5NxG_rr5aU.

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  7. I’m still not clear on this. Can I use this device just as a fitness tracker if I don’t have a Galaxy phone, or do I need to have a Galaxy phone to activate and consistently use this device?

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    1. You can use the device without a phone but to get the data from the Fit (say to S Health), you’ll need a Galaxy phone for the Bluetooth connection. You also need the Gear Fit manager app on a Galaxy phone for much of the Fit configuration. Once you’re set up with the Fit and a Galaxy phone, you can use the Fit without carrying a phone, but of course, you won’t get phone notifications and such.

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  8. Marva Solomon Saturday, April 12, 2014

    I got the Gear Neo because I wanted all the fitness options plus the ability to store and play music. Can the Neo do everything the Fit can do fitness wise? (Hope. Hope.)

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    1. No it doesn’t, the Gear Neo has no heart rate monitor.

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      1. Yes it does! The Gear Neo has a built in heart rate monitor

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  9. The “Fitness with Gear” app gets stuck on Note 3 when trying to open. message “Connecting to server” stays forever in the screen. Tried to Force stop a couple of times but no result.
    Another annoying thing…maybe my unawareness…but even if I put my phone on quiet mode and the Fit I select ‘sleep’…the dam things buzzes in my wrist if an email arrives in the middle of the night. Maybe I just don’t know how to avoid this or it is a bug in the programming…who wants to get alerts while sleeping?
    But still – I love the device, very nice :)

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    1. There is a blocking mode you can turn on to stop the alerts while you are sleeping.

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  10. TurboMichele Monday, April 14, 2014

    Just purchased mine yesterday and I am so excited to use. So far I am a little concerned about the continuous tracking ability for exercise. I do mostly elliptical, aerobics and weightlifting (I am not a runner or hiker) I am wondering which exercise setting should I use? Would be nice if they added these to the exercise section.

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