Smart watches aren’t going away. The market is growing for all technology manufacturers, and as their list of features grows, so do the number of customers making the investment.
Samsung has just launched its new Watch, the latest iteration of its wearable devices formerly known as ‘Gear S’. Want to know more about Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, the newest and more budget-friendly Samsung smart watch? Read the full Samsung Watch Active review here.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch
I received a 42mm rose gold version of the watch to test for several weeks. I tried it out with my Apple iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2XL. While the iPhone X is my go-to smartphone device, it’s important to note most folks who’d want to buy this watch are mainly Samsung smartphone users, or Android users.
Either way, we’ll check out how well it works with Apple and Android devices, since I didn’t have a Samsung phone on hand for testing.
Gorgeous styling on Samsung Watch
The first thing about this watch is that it’s gorgeous. The round metal casing is complimented by the soft silicone band, and the rose gold face that comes installed makes it look like a high end watch.
The movement of the hands is realistic and the display is quite sharp and detailed, allowing the second hand to sweep realistically, even displaying a subtle shadow.
Samsung makes the Galaxy Watch in two sizes and three colors. The smaller, 42mm model comes in either all black or rose gold, while the 46mm model comes only with a silver case and black bezel and strap.
When I previously reviewed the Gear S3, I felt like the watch was too large for a woman’s wrist, but now, this new design is slimmer and lighter and feels much more ladylike and comfortable.
Operating the Watch and accessing apps
To access various apps and features of the Samsung Watch, you can either rotate the bezel or push one of the multi-function buttons on the side to dive into the available apps.
Watch comes with things like Messages, Contacts, Samsung Health, Alarm, Calendar, Reminders, Music and Weather, among others.
Get specific weather on demand
You can get up to date local weather from your watch, but to do it, you’ll need to grant permission for the watch to use your location. For Apple users, that meant going into the Watch app on my iPhone, selecting Settings>Apps>Weather and turning on location services.
From there I was able to choose Fahrenheit or Celsius and adjust how often the weather info updates; every hour, all the way up to only every 24 hours, if you want to preserve battery life.
With the Pixel 2XL (Android), it was a simple tap on the watch’s weather app to enable permissions.
Samsung Watch Features
Get alerts on Galaxy Watch
You’ve got access to a bevy of alerts on the Watch. Android users can easily select which alerts and notifications come also to the watch. You can read and reply to tests; using voice input, emojis or input text using an alphanumeric keypad. The alphanumeric panel hearkens back to when you used to have to peck out tests using the number buttons on your phone. It’s tedious and takes some getting used to, and the predictive nature of the responses means you’ll be constantly correcting it. I was immediately wishing for the drawing pad that the Apple Watch has where you can draw letters with your fingertip.
When it comes to getting alerts for Apple users, it’s a different story.
Using Samsung Watch with Apple iPhone
I was able to get my calendar appointments on the watch without doing anything, and messages came in also, though I was unable to reply.
Alerts came in from my Facebook Page, Twitter and my Ring Video Doorbell, plus Apple Home.
I was able to see notifications from Facebook and Twitter but couldn’t respond to them. I was not able able to reply to text messages, but not iMessages. I also couldn’t find a way to initiate a text message or to send an email. That’s disappointing but not surprising.
I also couldn’t find a way to switch off some of the alerts. It seemed it was an all or nothing prospect when info was coming from the iPhone; if I turned everything off, I got nothing. I just couldn’t see how to turn off only certain alerts, like Facebook and Twitter, but keep things like texts and emails.
Making calls on Samsung watch: is call quality good?
If you want to use the Watch to make phone calls, you can. The Watch will use your phone to make the connection, essentially turning the Watch into a speaker phone. The call quality is good; definitely as good as calls I’ve made on the Apple Watch. Of course you’re on speaker phone, so it is what it is, but if that’s the way you want to chat, this will deliver.
Activity & health with Samsung Health app: accuracy
If you want to keep track of your health stats, you’ll need to download the Samsung Health app. With it you can keep track of calories burned, floors climbed, steps as well as your heart rate. Data is available at a glance on the watch or more in-depth on the Samsung Health app, which you can download for Android or iPhone.
The Health app does a good job of collecting health and activity info, though I’d like to test it against my #1 activity tracker, Fitbit to compare. If I can hang onto the loaner long enough, I will.
I did a quick comparison on heart rate measurements and was a bit surprised by what I found. While the Fitbit Versa and the Apple Watch both measured my heart rate at largely the same number, the Samsung Watch was always quite different, usually a bit lower. Fitbit showed a heat rate of 81bpm, Apple registered 79 and the Samsung was 69. On another day, I tried this again and all the watches came very close; the Samsung reading 83, Apple showing 80bpm and the Fitbit showing 80. So what does this mean for accuracy? I’m not sure.
I did an experiment where I put on the Samsung Watch, Apple watch and the Fitbit Versa and hit the stairs in my house.
I hit the stairs in my house twice. The Fitbit recorded both times instantly. The Apple Watch and the Samsung Watch did not. Is this because of how they’re calibrated? Do I need to climb more steps in a single climb to get it to register? I can’t say. But in this case, Fitbit was more accurate at picking up my activity accurately.
When it came to steps, I checked the three watches against eachother. The Fitbit Versa and Apple Watch were quite similar. Fitbit registering 2,650 steps and 2,697 for the Apple Watch. The Samsung Watch showed a mere 1,961, and that’s despite the fact I had the Samsung on for about an hour before I put either of the other two watches on.
I walked around the house, taking 10 steps at a time. The Fitbit tallied them accurately and immediately, Apple tallied them mostly accurately, missing a step or two them adding the new steps to the total after a few minutes, while the Samsung Watch added steps only sometimes. Occasionally, 10 steps would appear on the watch a few seconds after I stopped. Other times, they’d never shop up on the counter.
Overall I wasn’t happy with the Samsung Watch’s activity and tracking features, finding it to be less accurate.
Auto tracking for activity
There’s a cool feature on the Watch called Auto Tracking. What is means is that any time you start an activity that lasts longer than 10 minutes, the Watch knows, and will track the activity and store the data for you. That eliminates the need to remember to hit start if you’re going our for a run or a walk or a bike ride for example. I found this feature actually worked well, adding a walk to my Samsung health app any time I took the dog out.
Is Samsung Watch Waterproof?
The Samsung watch package says it’s “Swim-ready and water resistant” and calls the resistance level “5ATM”. Most measurements of a watch’s water protection either give you a metre level or an IP rating (Fitbit Versa is water resistant to 50 Metres, as is Apple watch Series 3), which is the universal standard of water protection.
Somewhat oddly to me, Samsung is choosing to show its ATM rating too, which will send most people to Google immediately to see what that actually means.
What is ATM Rating for water?
An ATM rating is a rating monitored by a body called the International Standards Organization or ISO. ATM is a pressure test measurement. 5ATM essentially means the Samsung Watch should withstand pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 meters (164 feet) or 80psi, and be just fine for activities like being out in the rain, splashing, accidentally dropping it in some shallow water, like your sink, showering, surface swimming, and shallow snorkeling. Since this watch was a loaner, I didn’t test it in water so I can’t verify any of this.
How good is the battery life on Samsung Watch?
The battery life on this watch is outstanding. It lasts for days on a single charge. The battery is a 472 mAh (in the larger Watch) / 270 mAh (smaller version) and has been supplying about 3 days of battery life. That’s outstanding on many levels and kicks the poop out of even the newly announced Apple Watch.
Bixby personal assistant: you need another personal assistant to help Bixby do anything
The Samsung Watch comes with the Bixby digital assistant and I have to say I’m still not a fan. Bixby requires multiple requests, I often had to ask to summon Bixby multiple times, then if I was trying to send a text or make a phone call, it again to multiple tries. Though I only had three contacts in my phone/watch, myself being one of them, more often than not Bixby couldn’t find my contact when I asked her to make a call. She kept searching for ‘Aaron’ and finding nothing. Other times I’d get, ‘I can’t find a network connection’ even though the Watch showed it was connected to the phone.
In my opinion, Bixby is still a major work in progress and largely useless on this Watch.
Stress Test feature
A neat feature is something called Stress Test. Start the test on the watch and it will measure your heart rate and give you a rating of how stressed—or not —you are. Much like the Breathe app, once you’ve done the test, the Watch will walk you through some deep breathing exercises to help you relax and clear your head. Unlike Breathe, which reminds you during the day to pause, this app only worked manually when I started it.
Why is my Samsung Watch disconnected?
Several times during my testing the Watch became disconnected from the both my iPhone and the Pixel 2XL. I noticed I wasn’t getting any alerts and when I tried to see what was up I realized the phone was disconnected from the Watch. The same thing happened when trying to download some apps.
Frustratingly, after spending a good hour getting the Watch set up on my Android Pixel 2 XL and downloading watch faces and apps, the next time I went to access the app on the Pixel 2XL, I was logged out and the watch did seem to be disconnected. More frustrating, the app seemed to want me to start over from scratch pairing the Watch to the phone. when I tried that, it couldn’t find the Watch at all when doing a scan for nearby devices. Sigh.
I restarted the watch, the app and then the Pixel and still nada. There didn’t appear to be a way to simply log in to the Galaxy Wear app without starting the whole pairing process over.
I found it frustrating that the Watch, nor the app don’t really give you any assistance or troubleshooting help. When things don’t work you’re kind of just left to figure them out on your own.
In the end, I removed the watch, turned Bluetooth on then off, then tried to reconnect through the app and that seemed to work.
Overall thoughts on Samsung Watch
I have a love hate relationship with this watch: I love the looks and think its definitely the best looking smart watch out there. I love the faces, the rose gold case and the beautiful, comfortable bands. This watch looks great.
Where I start to lose love is in the connectivity. I found it finicky to keep connected to my Pixel phone. That trouble with connectivity means sometimes I’d get needed alerts and sometimes I couldn’t.
When the alerts worked, the Watch was great. I got Facebook and Twitter updates, plus texts, calendar appointments and more.
I found Bixby to be a bit of a waste of time too, but hopefully Samsung’s engineers are working on making Bixby smarter.
I thought that the connectivity with Apple iPhone X was pretty good, despite the fact these devices are like apples talking to oranges. You get the basics and for some people that might be enough to make them happy.
I think the Samsung Watch is good for Android users, and obviously best for Samsung phone users in particular. Apple users can probably get enough out of it to justify the purchase if they try, but other Apple iPhone users will be bitterly disappointed.
Samsung 42mm Rose gold Watch sells for about $419CAD from places like Best Buy and Amazon.