Gear owners have something to cheer over now that the S3 smartwatch has been given new functionality with a recent update, which the company has dubbed a “Value Pack”. It will roll out to the Frontier and Classic variants of the device. Included in this free update are several features useful to those seeking greater fitness functionality, but the newest capability is the unexpected addition of VR control.
The biggest new addition comes in the form of VR functionality. Essentially, this new update turns the Gear 3 into a controller for the recently updated Samsung Gear VR headset.
Samsung revamped the Gear by improving the design of the headset, and adding Oculus-powered controls. The company is also using technology that is backwards-compatible with old headsets, so you can take advantage of VR with almost any device. Those on a budget can find discontinued versions for less than $100, and sometimes even less than $60.
Details on the tech powering the Gear 3’s control functionality are scarce, but every product related to the Samsung VR ecosystem is now designed to work together. One of the reasons we suspect this functionality was added to the Gear 3 was to improve the consumer push into VR. The Gear headset has seen some improvements over time, and functions with many of Samsung’s flagship devices.
The update to the Gear 3 will improve overall functionality and create a sleeker presentation. But major changes are coming to the fitness portions of the watch. The first big change is the continuous heart rate monitor, duplicating some of the popular devices already on the market. Samsung is promising detailed feedback, which we take to mean more updates and engagement with the app. All of this comes packaged with the Samsung Health Fitness Program, which users can watch on TV and sync with the G3 for detailed statistics before, during and after the workout.
The gear is also getting a nutrition application that will give users a new way to calculate calorie intake. The idea is to make entering all of that statistical information much faster, and compare the current balance of calories consumed with historical data or your own fitness goals.
Samsung’s VR Push
Currently, the Gear VR headset produced in 2017 sits at around the $100 mark (a little bit more expensive, but not by much). This makes it an excellent consumer entry point with a large library of games to choose from, and many peripherals to accessorize and improve the experience. The added functionality of the Gear 3 will give users more control over the device, and may lead to some unique experiences.
That said, Samsung isn’t announcing plans to add full room tracking so the system won’t be as powerful as an Oculus or a Vive proper. However, VR developers have proven that running or moving in place really isn’t an issue for those looking to workout in VR.
The update also includes a new UI and improvements to the Gear 3 communications system. The watch allows for subtle ways to interact with callers or text messages, simply twisting the dial and touching the bezel of the watch. Reminders, which are hooked into the user’s smartphone, allow for greater functionality too. You now have to-do lists with very easy access, so you can stay on schedule. If you’ve ever felt like time was a prohibiting factor in your fitness, the Gear 3 feels like a step toward organizing your life.
This improvement feels like Samsung is trying to make their smartwatch a kind of all-in-one, and the Gear VR experience is nothing to scoff at. Legoland is adapting it at their theme parks to augment the coaster experience, and Samsung partnered with Oculus to bring access to several titles users will no doubt find engaging.