Sunday, March 31, 2019

Samsung Galaxy Watch Review

Samsung Galaxy Watch

We've tested the Samsung Galaxy Watch for nearly a full day, and even though it isn't the Samsung Gear S4, it's a true upgrade with new features and
pleasing aesthetics.  

It's designed to look and feel like a real watch, yet help you stay fit and connected. It does that while also adding Bixby Voice, new watch faces, and better battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Watch at Amazon for $329.99

We're literally running paces on the larger 46mm Galaxy Watch in Silver, but we also tried the smaller 42mm version that comes in two colors and more strap shades.

Yes, the big 46mm Watch looked big on us, but it's worth it for the larger screen and extra battery capacity. If it fits you, that's the one to go for based on the specs.

All of this is just enough change for it warrant a new name. Here's what we thought.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch release date and price

Good news, the Samsung Galaxy Watch, depending on the size you want, is actually cheaper than the Gear S3 at launch. There are also both Bluetooth and LTE connected models of the smartwatch.

The Galaxy Watch price starts at $329 / £279 for the 42mm version, and it's a touch more at $349.99 / £299 for the larger 46mm one. When it first came out, the Gear S3 cost $349 / £349 (around AU$475), and it only came in one size. 

The LTE versions of the watches are set to cost $379.99 for the 42mm and $399.99 for the 46mm. EE will be supporting the LTE watches in the UK, but that won't be on sale until later in the year and we don't currently know the pricing.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch

New impressions

We've taken off our Apple Watch 3 and strapped on the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and we're believers – this is a better, more full-featured smartwatch. Watch out, Apple.

The rotating bezel to navigate the UI is inventive, the amount of watch faces you can choose from is in the thousands, the options for quick replies to messages are more plentiful, and the fitness tracker is smarter and more robust.

The Galaxy Watch doesn't look too different from the Gear S3 due to its circular face and metal casing, but it's among the most pleasing smartwatch designs out there. It looks more like a real watch than Apple's boxy smartwatch. It's the software and sensors inside that make the difference, especially for fitness tracking.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Pairing it with the Note 9 (it also works with other Android phones and even iPhones) we were able to set things up in minutes, and put the exercise tracking to good use right away. There are more categories (39 in total) and longer battery life. 

When we stopped exercising and sat down to write for an hour without much movement, the watch actually pestered us to do some torso twists (or other exercises). This is more than just a reminder to stand up once an hour. It actually tracked the torso twists reps, too.

Obviously, the Samsung Galaxy Watch battery life is going to fluctuate with use. Heavy heart-rate monitor and GPS usage is going to burn through the battery more quickly. But Samsung says the watch – even the LTE version with cellular turned on – should last you between three and four days with normal use, depending on the size (46mm is four days, 42mm is three days).

We're putting the battery life and other features to the test this week and all weekend to judge for ourselves. Our watch setup, a full workout, and did burn through the battery faster than Samsung's estimates, but we'll wait for a full charge and discharge before officially rendering a verdict on that. We're also seeing how much drain the always-on display adds to the battery life impact.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch


So far, the only things we dislike about the Samsung Galaxy Watch are Bixby and the lack of Google Maps on the smartwatch. Bixby is here, but asking it to bring up any sort of mapping software is futile – there is none as far as we've found. Likewise, Bixby didn't properly understand what we were asking. 

We're more confused than mad about the inductive charger's use of a microUSB port and cable (included). With USB-C becoming to ubiquitous on newer devices, we thought we were beyond that, Samsung. Luckily, it can be wireless charged using a Qi charger, like the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

The US release date is August 24 for both watches at Amazon, Best Buy and Samsung's own store. The LTE version will come to T-Mobile first, and launch right alongside the Note 9 on Friday. Later the LTE version will come to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Samsung's online store.

In the UK you'll have to wait a touch longer as the Samsung website claims it'll be shipping from September 6. Those in Australia will have to wait until October to be able to buy the watch, and we don't currently have any pricing details for it there.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Galaxy Watch look and feel

The circular Samsung Galaxy Watch is getting closer to looking like a real watch that we don't want to take off for special occasions. It fits right in to your everyday life.

 It's very similar to the Gear S3 watch design, with a large face and durable-feeling metal body. There are buttons on the side, and you can also rotate the watch bezel to cycle through apps and menus.

The Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes: there's the larger 46mm silver watch with a 1.3-inch (33mm) circular Super AMOLED display. It measures out to be 46 x 49 x 13mm and weighs 63g without the strap, and it looks and feels quite big.

 The equally stylish Galaxy Watch 42mm comes in either Midnight Black or Rose Gold and it has a slightly smaller 1.2-inch (30mm) display. It measures 41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7mm and weighs 49g. It's a better fit for medium and smaller wrists.

There's some more color flair to the smaller watch, too. It uses 20mm straps, which come in colors of Onyx Black, Lunar Grey, Terracotta Red, Lime Yellow, Cosmo Purple, Pink Beige, Cloud Grey, and Natural Brown.


The larger 46mm watch uses 22mm straps with more limited strap color options: Onyx Black, Deep Ocean Blue, and Basalt Grey. 

Sure, you may get more color options with the smaller watch, but if the big size fits you, we recommend that one for its extra battery capacity. There’s likely to be a big difference between the battery life with a 472mAh cell on the larger edition and 270mAh on the smaller size.

Samsung says that the extra battery life helps the watch 'last for multiple days on a single charge'. That's very non-specific, so you'll have to wait for our full Samsung Galaxy Watch review for the complete battery life breakdown.

New Galaxy Watch features

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is dust- and water-resistant with a diving rating of 5ATM and a rating of IP68. On-board sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, heart rate monitor, and Ambient Light sensor. There's wireless charging on here, too.

Health is a big component of the Galaxy Watch, which expands on Samsung Health with new stress management and breathing features. There are also 21 new indoor exercises and 39 tracked workouts overall.

Samsung Galaxy Watch


Samsung says you have the choice of 60,000 watch faces, and we really liked the new circular watch face which hides calendar information in the on-screen dial. That's going to be our new go-to watch face when wearing this.

Bixby, which is Samsung's AI voice assistant, it supposed to replace S Voice on the watch, Samsung said at its Note 9 press conference. The company didn't have a lot of details on how it would work, but it should be able to mirror the commands you issue to your Galaxy smartphone and, soon, the Samsung Galaxy Home speaker. 

Samsung is continuing to push SmartThings and Samsung Pay from the wrist, which are convenient features once you actually set them up (and remember your Samsung ID and password for all of this).

The Galaxy Watch is compatible with Android phones as long as they're running Android 5.0 or later, and it works with the iPhone 5 and later as long as it's been upgraded to iOS 9. We still don't expect to be able to reply to iMessages from the wrist (due to Apple's walled garden).

Interestingly, while both the Bluetooth and LTE watches have the same dual-core 1.15GHz chipset, 4GB of storage, and Tizen OS 4.0 operating system, the LTE version has 1.5GB of RAM, and the Bluetooth model uses 768MB of RAM. That extra RAM may be to keep the cellular connection running.

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is launching at the same time as the Note 9, and it looks and feels like it's pushing  smartwatches to become more stylish and last longer.

Samsung is eschewing Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) with its latest smartwatch, and that may be the reason behind its longer battery life. Other perks include new watch faces, Bixby Voice on the wrist, and water-resistance almost as good as the Gear Sport. There's some neat workout software additions here, too.

It doesn't change enough for you to run out and buy a whole new smartwatch if you own the Gear S3 or Sport, but it does move the the needle – or dial – in the right direction.

The new Samsung Galaxy Watch is pushing smartwatches to look like real watches and last more than a day. It nails the look and feel even if it hasn't changed much from the Gear S3, and comes in two sizes for broader appeal.

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