Sammy Gets A Friend

Fabulous fitness bands like the Fit Bit Force (my personal favorite before this review), Nike Fuel Band and Jawbone Up, among others, have suffered from one major design flaw, a functional screen.

Enter the Samsung Gear Fit, a smart watch/fitness band combo that boasts exactly that ... A brilliant, curved AMOLED screen along with all the robust features of a fitness band. It's a great concept, a good accessory, with some minor flaws.

Thanks to folks at Samsung and the Black Ink team for providing a number of journalists and media professionals and me with our very own Fits to give real world tests. The extended, rather than truncated tests that are usually offered to Jamaican media, meant that we could really explore all the features of the wearable. So, here goes.

Right out of the box, the Fit is useless, even as a watch. The first thing to note is that the Fit is an accessory for 20 and counting Samsung devices including the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S5. The Fit requires a compatible Samsung to set up and configure.

Fortunately, set up is simple. Download the Samsung Gear Fit Manager on your handset, turn on the Fit and within moments, you are good to go. If you are a lover of Samsung's brilliant S Health app that tracks your steps, height and weight, calories burned and consumed and general level of fitness, you are out of luck.

Samsung has created a whole new app for the Fit, Fitness with Gear, rather than add Gear functionality to the S Health app. Further, as of this writing, Fit is not compatible with other popular fitness apps like Lose It and Run Keeper. Maybe that will change.

An earlier firmware update added the ability to adjust the orientation of the screen from landscape to portrait depending on your preference, which was great because the portrait orientation made the Fit really easy to look at.

As a fitness band, the Fit offers a pedometer to track steps through out the day and can monitor a variety of activities including running, walking, cycling and hiking (with more on the way I'm sure).  Users can enhance their training with both a stopwatch and a timer that vibrate rather than make an audible sound - a highly effective and discrete feature.

The Fit also tracks sleep patterns over time and reports on motionless vs active sleep with a view to providing insight on how restful your sleep may be.

All very effective features. But, the Fit stands heads and shoulders among other fitness bands in its price range thanks to a built in heart rate monitor.  Serious fitness enthusiasts will really appreciate the convenience of being able to check and track their heart rate while exercising.

Though the Fit does allow you to see the historical measurements, the real heavy lifting is done by the compatible Samsung device with which the Fit syncs.  Enter Fitness by Gear. This app, free from the Samsung App Store and required to configure and update the Fit, provides simple and easy to view charts and graphs tracking steps, exercise, sleep and heart rate. Regrettably, there is no tracking of calories burned, you'll need S Heath for that.

Fitness aside, the Fit does offer a suite of smart watch features as well.  Users can change the watch face, colour and style based on their moods with more styles coming with each update. Email and text message notifications pop up on the small screen and though small, I had no problems reading them on the go.  If I needed to see more, the nifty 'Show In My Device' would bring up the relevant message immediately on my screen. Cool.

Caller ID and short, pre-packaged text replies when declining a call are also standard, but no, you cannot use the watch as a phone. It is a watch after all.  The ability to control the media player on your Samsung handset or tablet is also baked into the watch; this is both practical and cool as I used this to really amaze by friends by controlling my speakers through my S4 from across the room.

Speaking of 'across the room', the Fit syncs with your Samsung device via Bluetooth.  It depends on that Bluetooth connection and your handset/tablet internet connection for much of its functionality including firmware updates.  If there is no Bluetooth connection, then the Fit stores the data until one is reestablished.

Samsung Gear Fit
There are some feature that are not yet available, that I guess will be available soon, such as:
  •    The ability to see pictures on the display, after all, the screen is gorgeous
  •    The ability to customize the wallpaper with user generated content
  •    Auto dim in sleep mode (the gorgeous bright screen is very disconcerting in my dark bedroom)
  •    An alarm clock even
But the absence of these features which I sure are on the way pale in comparison to what the wearable can do:
  •    Add a PIN for extra privacy 
  •    Wake up on raising your hand (which is better for battery life and for privacy vs the wake up on notification feature which is also available)
  •    Make your phone light up and make a sound with one touch of the 'Find My Device' feature
  •    Go for up to three days on a full charge, so plan a hike up Blue Mountain Peak why don't you 
  •    Pop out of its original band into colorful interchangeable armbands
  •    Resist sweat and water, clearly you can't go swimming, but you don't have to worry that your investment will go down the drain if it rains.
The Fit is immediately available at Samsung Lifestyle stores across the island ... That is the one in Kingston and the one in MoBay, hence stores, and costs about $40,000.00 as of this writing.

Even without greater compatibility with non-Samsung apps, the Fit is a formidable fitness band with an excellent design and many improvements likely in the wings. My Sammy is happy to have a friend.

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