MWC 2014: Hands-on preview with Samsung’s Gear Fit and new Gear smartwatches

The Samsung Gear Fit was one of the biggest surprises at Mobile World Congress this year. A dandy mini-smartwatch, it's the curved little sibling to Samsung's new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. I put all of them on my wrist at once, and got some hands-on time with the devices…

Let's start with the big siblings. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are still big tech watches, although they feel a lot sleeker than the original Galaxy Gear because they get rid of that hideous built-in watch band. They've traded it in for standard replaceable bands, and there will be a bunch of fashion bands available (see the slideshow at the bottom of this article).

The Tizen-powered Gear 2 watches felt a lot like the previous Android-powered model to use, although the test units I was playing with didn't have any of the promised third-party apps loaded. They still have punchy 1.63in OLED touchscreens, which you navigate by touch, and they still have a range of notification, dialling, health, and media apps built in. The health apps are dramatically improved by the heart rate sensor on the bottom, which stays in constant contact with your wrist.

But then we get to the Gear Fit (pictured above). The Gear Fit is curved, arching over your wrist like a bracelet and showing the time on its bright OLED touchscreen. (Interestingly, the battery isn't curved, Samsung said – only LG has curved batteries right now.) In that, it's much like the Huawei’s TalkBand which was also unveiled at the show, but these devices have different focus points: The TalkBand actually has an earpiece, whereas the Gear Fit has a heart rate sensor, making it a more traditional health device that's enhanced with notification features. For instance, while you're running it'll check your heart rate and tell you to run faster or slower to maintain your target heart rate.

Better battery life will be a big selling point here: All of these watches are supposed to last at least three days with moderate use on a charge, as opposed to the old Gear, which had to be charged every day.

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I'm not sure the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo change my mind about Samsung's smartwatches, but the Gear Fit might. The big criticisms of smartwatches right now aren't that they don't do enough, but rather that they're too big, clunky, and power-hungry. That's why the clean and sleek Pebble is our still our favourite on the market. The Gear Fit goes in that direction, with a look that's distinct from the other square-ish smartwatches on the market, and far more similar to hipper fitness wristbands. That's a good direction for Samsung to move in.

If you want to read up more on the new Gear devices, have a look at our article which asks whether Samsung’s trio of smartwatches can really be competitive.

For all the latest news, photos and analysis from MWC 2014, check out our live coverage of the event.