I wish I could declare that the new $250 (£249) Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 provides the best Android watch experience ever. It’s close to being that, but I can’t quite say it. Yet after two weeks of wearing one of Samsung’s newest watches, I’ve grown to like it more and more.
It’s the first to use the brand-new Google Wear OS, a collaboration between Samsung and Google; while I’m optimistic about its long-term potential, I’m less confident about its near-term viability.
My concluding thoughts are not dissimilar to how I felt throughout the first several days of wearing them. The timepieces produced by Samsung are highly regarded. The Galaxy Watch 3 was an excellent smartwatch with a wide range of useful fitness and health-related functions.
Tizen, Samsung’s operating system and app store, however, has never been a part of Android’s ecosystem. The look and functions of the Galaxy Watch 4 are similar to those of the previous model, but it includes upgraded health monitoring sensors. In contrast, the operating system is the revolutionary new development.
The Watch 4 works on the well-established Wear OS from Google, so it should be able to be more closely integrated with Android phones. While this may be true in theory, many of the most useful features of the Galaxy Watch 4 now depend on Samsung apps, which in turn require a Samsung account.
It functions similarly to other Google products while maintaining its own identity. Although being compatible with Google Fit and other fitness applications, the Galaxy Watch 4’s ECG and new bioelectric impedance sensor for body analysis measurements can only be synchronised with Samsung Health.
For example, in some countries, you can only take your blood pressure and read your ECG using a Samsung phone. The Google Assistant, the single most desirable Google feature for a voice-enabled smartwatch, is also now absent. By default, Samsung devices use Bixby.
When compared to last year’s Watch 3, the changes made to this year’s Samsung watch seem incremental at best. While the switch to Wear OS is significant and may mean that this watch is as linked to Android phones as Apple Watches are to iPhones, it still feels like the Samsung ecosystem Band-Aid hasn’t been totally peeled off.
The fact that Samsung’s Galaxy phones can use both Samsung and Google apps side by side suggests that this is unlikely to ever change. Because I have no idea what the future holds for Wear OS watches, I find it difficult to wholeheartedly endorse this initial partnership between Samsung and Google.
Is Samsung’s iteration superior to others? At this time, sure, because I’m unable to think of another Android watch that compares well to the Watch 4 in terms of build quality and feature set. However, it is recommended that you use this with a Samsung device.
Back in Business: Google and Samsung (Sometimes)
The Watch 4’s most notable upgrade is its new Wear OS-based operating system. Unlike its predecessors, the Galaxy Watch is Android-only; earlier Galaxy and Wear watches had some iPhone compatibility.
If you’re familiar with previous Android watches, you’ll feel right at home with Wear OS: swipe down for fast settings, up for an app tray, right for notifications, and left for “tiles,” which are essentially miniature app readouts.
Previous Samsung watch users will recognise the tile interface, which allows them to view fitness dashboards, check the weather, and scan text messages. For me, the finest application is making quick trips to various fitness-related events.
With just a few swipes or turns of the bezel, I can begin my workout, conduct a full body analysis, measure my oxygen levels in my blood, and even receive an electrocardiogram.
All You Need To Know About The Samsung Galaxy Watch series 4
The Galaxy Watch 4 only has Google Play, so it can access all of Google’s services, including Fit, YouTube, and Maps. However, the remaining steps of the setup process are typically Samsung.
The watch is linked through the Samsung Wear app, and the primary health and fitness app is Samsung Health.
Design: The Bezel’s Back
Samsung has a history of producing timepieces with a pleasant feel when worn, and the Galaxy Watch 4 is no exception. The larger 44mm Galaxy Watch 4 (aluminium body) and the smaller 46mm Galaxy Watch 4 Classic were both on my wrist (stainless steel).
In contrast to the Watch 4, which uses a touch-based “spin” like the Galaxy Watch Active and Active 2, the Classic features a physical rotating bezel that clicks, like the Watch 3 and earlier Samsung watches (with some haptics-based feedback for “click”).
The recessed Gorilla Glass display on the Classic makes it more resistant to drops, but the bezel also makes it more difficult to perform some swipe-based interactions with the watch. It’s also more expensive and considerably thicker.
Honestly, I can’t decide between the Watch 4 Classic and the standard Watch 4. The more affordable and stripped-down Watch 4 has my preference, but I worry that the exposed glass will show more wear and tear over time.
Moreover, the touch-based bezel is more difficult to turn than a physical bezel, despite the fact that doing so is entirely unneeded (you can do all gestures you need through swipes and taps on the display, or by clicking the side buttons).
In addition, the physical bezel facilitates use of the watch even when wet, which is very useful for swimmers. The larger Watch 4 models looked excellent on my broad wrists, so I didn’t even bother checking out the smaller one.
The pin-release watch straps are 20 Millimetres in width and can be swapped out for alternative bands. The straps protrude somewhat from the lugs, however, creating an unnatural appearance when worn on the wrist.
The Super AMOLED screen is gorgeous, with vivid Colours and sharp text. The aesthetic quality of Samsung’s default watch faces is high. The faces of this watch are the greatest I’ve seen outside of the Apple Watch because of the animated animals, adorable characters, and frequently dramatic effects.
There are many potential areas for difficulty in most (widgets for apps to show data, like weather or fitness info). Some people have none at all. There are several options to choose from, including Google’s own Wear OS watch faces and others found on Google Play.
The Watch 4 has an improved sensor array on the back that includes an electrical ECG sensor, optical heart rate, and a new impedance-based electrical sensor. The aesthetic value is high. It’s also thinner and lighter than comparable timepieces.
When held down for a few seconds, two buttons on the side activate Samsung Pay (or Google Pay) and Samsung Bixby, the latter of which is a voice assistant. Affirmative, Bixby. See below for details.
The Samsung Wear app, required to pair the watches with your phone, allows you to set the buttons a limited number of actions, such as single-press home/back navigation or double-press back, among other things.
In Pursuit of a Compelling Application, Body Analysis Remains a Feature.
Electrical impedance is Samsung’s newest health sensor on the Watch 4. This sensor technology can be found on various home scales and was featured on some of the earliest wearables, such as the Jawbone Up 3.
Body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, and total body water are all calculated using the impedance sensor’s electrical current estimate of body water content. After entering your daily weight into the app and placing your middle two fingers against the watch buttons for 15 seconds, you will receive a readout of your body mass index, lean muscle mass, body fat percentage, and water percentage.
It’s overwhelming to process all of these numbers. All of mine were negative (in the red range on a scale from green to red) and numerical (like pounds of body fat or body water, or skeletal muscle).
How dismal were these statistics? Should I be concerned? To visualise the data over time, Samsung puts it into its own Health app. What happens when I observe my development (or lack thereof)? Samsung does not aid in understanding what this implies or how worried I ought to be. How do I know what exercises to do next?
Developing novel sensors presents a constant challenge. Even though medically inaccurate blood oxygen levels were all the rage with Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit last year, I found that I largely stopped paying attention to the data.
I never found myself using the electrically based EDA stress sensor on Fitbit’s Sense watch very often, and I was never sure what to make of the readings. For some reason, using Samsung’s body analysis feature makes me feel uncomfortable and discouraged. I stopped going because I am so aware of how overweight I am.
Medical: A Samsung-Dominated, Samsung-Dependent Global Market
Most of the folks I know who regularly use smartwatches do so in order to track their fitness progress. Samsung is well aware of this fact, and hence places a premium on health and fitness features in its watches. But, that is still a Samsung app-based universe.
Samsung Health actually works pretty well. It’s loaded with features, in fact: tracking of sleep duration and quality (which isn’t medically accurate like any wearable sleep tracking, but can do a reasonable job overnight recognising how well you were sleeping) and a sleep quality score.
A run, and a breakdown of that run. Oxygenated blood. Maintaining a food and water database. Plans, objectives for action. Taking on adversity as a team. The fresh information gleaned from a body composition scan.
The watch’s ability to monitor my sleep was quite useful (much like Fitbit, the sleep score kept me somewhat aware of how bad my sleep habits are, and encouraged me to go to bed earlier).
Quick strolls and impromptu workouts benefit greatly from the watch’s automated activity tracking, which activates a face displaying a live heart rate measurement. It’s a great value for the money.
Speedy Operation. Two Days of Battery Life (or Less)
The Galaxy Watch 4 is the fastest Android watch I’ve ever used, and its app loading times are impressive. Although it is not always as speedy as the most recent Apple Watch, it is still very satisfying to use.
The upgraded chipset in the watch bodes well for the potential responsiveness of future Google watches. Power source? Sadly, it’s not as good. For a few weeks, I wore both a Watch 4 and a Watch 4 Classic on my wrist, switching between them when the batteries in either ran out.
The maximum amount of time a battery could last was two days. This is with the watch’s always-on feature disabled. When turned on, I was only able to use it for a day before it needed charging again.
The battery life of the smaller watch may be considerably worse. Expect much less battery life if you get an LTE-equipped model that also functions as a phone (which I didn’t get to test and costs extra). The same holds true for GPS-enabled exercises using the watch.
The charging time is acceptable, though; I was able to get a full charge in under an hour and wear the watch for the remainder of the day if necessary.