Someday soon, smartwatches might be devices that work totally on their own, no phone necessary: as a connected Web browser, a music player, a fitness device. But the Samsung Gear S is not exactly that magic watch. Yes, it can do a surprising number of things. But it still needs a Samsung phone to make most features work. It runs Samsung’s limited Tizen software and dedicated Gear apps, closing it off from the richer ecosystem of Google’s Android Wear. And it requires a connected data plan to even use it as a cellular device.
For some of my time with the Gear S, I paired it with a Samsung phone. But for most of the time, I tried using it on its own, as a true independent smartwatch. Well, I should say “independent,” because if you’re going to use a Gear S, you’re still best off bringing a phone along.
Editor’s note: Updated November 26, 2014, with additional impressions of stand-alone apps and a correction on the Nike+ app’s capabilities.