3X everywhere, on my wrist


Recently, at a nearby store, I held my watch near the register to pay.  The cashier said something like “I’m sorry our Apple Pay isn’t working.”  I smiled and said something like “that’s OK, this watch has magic technology. It will work.”  And it did.  The cashier and the lady behind me were impressed.  Nick has written about this magical watch before, but I resisted getting one for myself.  It has been years (decades?) since I’ve worn a watch regularly and I didn’t really want to resume.  But the appeal of earning 3X everywhere was too strong.

For the record, the watch is the Samsung Gear S3 which comes in two varieties: Classic and Frontier.  I wanted the Classic (it looks nicer in my opinion), but the Frontier was significantly cheaper so I got that one.  The Gear S3 is the only model Samsung watch that will work at nearly all payment terminals, even those not designed to accept contactless payments.  That’s because it’s the only model watch that includes technology (called MST) which uses magnetic magic to trick the payment terminal into thinking that you swiped your credit card.  Newer Samsung watches don’t include MST.

I previously had another reason for avoiding the Samsung watch: I was an iPhone user.  Yes, you can pair the Samsung watch with an iPhone, but you must pair it with an Android phone to get Samsung Pay to work.

Pixel 3 as seen by my iPhone 7 Plus

That excuse fell away when I bought a Pixel 3 phone during a ridiculously good less-than-one-day deal.  You can read about the expired deal here: WOW! Get a Google Fi phone & travel gift card worth the phone’s price.  It still took me a while, but I finally caved in and bought the watch.

The primary reason for getting the watch?  The Altitude Reserve Card earns 3X for all mobile wallet payments.  And, each point is worth 1.5 cents towards travel.  That means that I effectively get back 4.5% on all Samsung Pay purchases.  That’s awesome.

The watch paired easily with the Pixel 3 phone, but getting Samsung Pay to work was a challenge, to say the least.  The methods described in most online posts no longer work.  Samsung has apparently cracked down on people trying to use Samsung Pay with non-Samsung devices.  Fortunately, there’s a Samsung Pay install on a non-Samsung server that does work.  At least, it worked for me.  If you try to get Samsung Pay working on a non-Samsung Android phone and run into trouble, then here’s a shortcut: Install the Galaxy Wear app in order to pair your phone with the watch and then open this link from your Android phone to install Samsung Pay.

Impressions To-Date

The watch works great for the reason I bought it: Samsung Pay.  Of course, it is a smartwatch, so it can do much more.  For example, it can tell the time!  But seriously, it does the standard smartwatch things:

  • Launch apps designed for the watch
  • Send and receive text messages (sending is a pain, but receiving works well)
  • Make and receive phone calls (it works very well as a speaker phone on my wrist)
  • Receive app alerts as setup on your Android phone
  • Monitor fitness (and remind you that you’ve been still too long)
  • Etc.

Overall, it works very well, but there are some things I find irritating.  Most are probably due to me not spending the time trying to figure them out.  The biggest annoyance may be that it uses “S Voice” (Samsung tech) for voice initiated commands rather than Google Assistant.  Now I have to remember to say “Hi Gear” to my watch, “OK Google” to my phone, “Hey Siri” to my Apple devices, and “Echo” to our Amazon Echo Dot (we were accidentally tripping it too often with the default “Alexa”).

The worst part is that, except for Samsung Pay, the watch simply doesn’t add much over carrying around a smartphone.  I don’t wear it around the house and, as a result, I sometimes forget to put it on before going out.  That has to change.  I need my 3X :).

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