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Samsung Gear S2: a hairpin bend that throws Apple into the second position

My hat off to Samsung. Those familiar with my blogs know that I am more likely to dish out harsh blunt criticism than a praise. Not this time (well, almost).

Executive Summary
For those in a hurry: with the launch of Gear S2 smartwatch, Samsung - for the first time - turned Apple into a follower. Simply put, S2 is genuinely and tangibly superior, in so many ways, compared to Apple Watch. Surely, Apple will respond, but that's precisely the point! With Steve Jobs gone, one begins to see clearly that arrogance and the "walled garden" approach are no longer working. Not being able to use my AW for dozens of exciting use cases (transit is the most obvious one) truly sucks. Especially considering that AW costs three-four times more - not counting that gold crap - than S2. Cupertino, that smell is coffee. And your customers are increasingly drinking it elsewhere!

Intuitive GUI
After two months of using AW, I am still not sure what that awkwardly-positioned top button (whatever it's called - ah, digital crown) does exactly. From talking to other AW users, I know I am not alone.

I blogged about the stupidity of a two-button approach on a smartwatch. I was wrong: it's not the number of buttons, it's how they are implemented that matters. S2 has two buttons plus a rotating bezel (a feature we demoed to Samsung two years ago - I wish we patented it, although back then such UI seemed obvious). Top one is "back", bottom one - "home". Bezel is for scrolling. Simples!

Multi-confirmation (didn't patent that either...) is another useful function: the end of a section, when scrolling, is confirmed via dots and vibration as well as by highlighting the corresponding edge of the screen. Small details that greatly improve UX.

NFC interface
In addition to SamsungPay, it will be open to third parties - unlike Apple's arrogant walled garden. That enables numerous use cases: access control (including offices, hotel rooms and cars), transit (including - hopefully - MultiPass), home controls, health etc.

Charging
Unlike AW silly "stethoscope", S2 uses a simple docking station which the watch can be dropped onto - thus, becoming a night clock. However, both companies should read (2) below.

Design
Simple, practical, elegant, minimalistic, unisex. Perhaps a bit Swatch-like at times, but then Swatch is based on functional unpretentious (unlike AW) design that works. 

Samsung collaborated with Alessandro Mendini whose company produced some (elegant) watch face and strap designs. Sports model is compatible with any standard strap made for conventional watches. Clever.

Even after Motorola and LG produced round watches, I was still not sure which shape works better. S2 answered that question: for most tasks and use cases, you don't even "notice" that the screen is round. Center-aligned text - email, for examples - seems to be weird at first, but you quickly get used to it (and the rotating bezel makes reading a long text super easy). Also, round shape does look and feel completely natural. AW is still an alien on my wrist.

Price
S2 costs much less than some AW straps... Ditto. (Cupertino, don't confuse loyalty and stupidity, when it comes to your customers...)

There is always room for improvement
My blog won't be complete without some criticism. There we go:
1. Sports watch must be water-proof. Full stop.
2. For charging, use (water-proof) Apple-style connector. On all Samsung IT products. It's a no-brainer.
3. Classic model feels as if it's made of plastic, not steel. Also, black steel doesn't work with most straps - stainless steel is much more flexible in that respect. For black and white colours, use ceramic body - introducing a premium model.
4. Bezel on Sports model should have some ridges - wet/sweaty finger do slip. Better still, no rotating bezel at all (see 1 above) - just iPod style touch sensor. Ridges on Classic model are too small - Samsung should have shamelessly copied Rolex bezel.
5. TV remote control. Doing that for Samsung TVs is a piece of cake.
6. Heartbeat biometrics. Including login and unlock functions.

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.


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