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After testing frequently have a brow furrowed after evaluating Samsung smartwatches, wondering what may have been. It’s not that they’re unpleasant, unattractive, or uncomfortable to wear. Actually, the reverse is true. The $279.99 Galaxy Watch 5 is no exception to the rule that Samsung’s smartwatches are now the best ones that Android users can buy. (However, once the Google Pixel Watch is released, that may change.) Samsung’s smartwatches would render the Apple Watch obsolete if it fixed one or two issues. I had hoped to say that Samsung had finally nailed it, but the Watch 5 is more the same, for better and worse.
This is not meant to be figurative. The Galaxy Watch 4 and the Watch 5 are almost exact replicas. The 40mm and 44mm sizes are the same. It appears the same, save from a couple different strap colours. I’ve spent years testing every every smartwatch under the sun, yet the only way I could quickly distinguish between my Watch 4 and Watch 5 review units was by the colour of the band.
- Less dependent on Samsung’s ecosystem
- Upgraded features for accessibility
- Compact, light-weight style
- Increased robustness
- Battery still isn’t very good.
- The temperature sensor is still ineffective.
- The improvements are rather minimal.
- Careless touch bezel
The Exynos W920 CPU, 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, contactless payments, GPS, optional LTE, contactless payments, and 5ATM water resistance are all shared by the Watch 5 and the Watch 4. The significantly upgraded 3-in-1 BioActive sensor offers the same health features, including body composition analyses, ECGs, and heart rate monitoring. The only new thing in terms of hardware is an infrared temperature sensor. By the way, that doesn’t do much right now. According to reports, it will increase the accuracy of sleep tracking, but as Samsung stated during Unpacked, it added the sensor so developers could experiment with building future health features. Additionally, it runs Wear OS Powered by Samsung software (aka Wear OS 3 running a Samsung skin). The Watch 5 is a relatively basic update, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which launches alongside the Watch 5 on August 26, sports fresh design cues and swanky features like turn-by-turn navigation.
The handful of people probably won’t notice the few changes Samsung has made. The somewhat larger batteries in the 40mm and 44mm watches cause them to be a little heavier—roughly the weight of a penny. The rear is more curved to ensure better skin contact and higher precision. It doesn’t really change much different on your wrist even with the curved rear. Although Samsung claims it is 9.8mm thick, YouTuber DC Rainmaker discovered that when the sensor bump is taken into account, the true thickness is closer to 13mm. However, you won’t really notice it. For added durability, the Watch 5 also incorporates sapphire crystal glass. That’s terrific, but anyone who isn’t a klutz, an explorer, or an adventurous klutz won’t enjoy it.
The purple dragon appeals to us.
Naturally, there are also new watchface alternatives. You’ll notice some of them. Others won’t. I like that you can now make the blobby number face more complicated. I like the new purple dragon face because the Chinese zodiac animal represents a dragon, and I’m also on a purple gadget kick. However, you won’t use a new (or old) watchface if you don’t like it, so you won’t even notice it is there.
Although the Watch 5 is the epitome of an incremental update, I would be negligent if I failed to mention two urgently required upgrades.
The biggest change is that Bixby is no longer a requirement. When the Galaxy Watch 4 was introduced in August of last year, the on-watch Google Assistant was a hazy promise. However, it recently became a reality. The first thing I did after un-packing and charging the Watch 5 was download Google Assistant and reprogram the Home button’s configuration to activate it rather than Bixby. The next thing I did was download a handful of well-known apps, including Google Wallet, Strava, Spotify, Calm, and a few others. My experience made right away as a result of my freedom from Samsung Health, Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Samsung SmartThings. (The Galaxy Wearable app is not negotiable, though.) I can use Google Wallet to pay at the pharmacy, Google Assistant to control my smart home, and Strava to keep track of my runs. The Watch 5 is less of a Samsung smartwatch than the Watch 4, which was very much one.
With a Samsung phone, the Watch 5 is still superior, but you now have more choices than you did the year before.
To be clear, if you’re using a Samsung phone, the Watch 5 is still preferable. To begin with, the ECG functionality is exclusive to Samsung phones, and you’d need a dozen third-party apps to emulate all of Samsung Health’s wellness and fitness features on a phone made by a different manufacturer. Additionally, there doesn’t appear to be a method to reprogram Samsung Pay to activate Google Wallet when you long-press the back button. Samsung Pay is hardcoded as a shortcut when you do this. The Watch 5 may have two phone numbers thanks to One UI Watch 4.5, Samsung’s watch interface built on top of Watch OS, but only when it’s connected to a Galaxy phone that supports dual-SIM. However, the Play Store is my oyster if I want to give Bixby the finger or download a dozen apps to take the place of Samsung Health. Although it isn’t ideal, it is an improvement over the previous year and year before.
A lot of new accessibility features have been added to One UI Watch 4.5, and they have all been consolidated into a single, straightforward menu. Enhancements to visibility, such as high-contrast typefaces, colour filters, colour correction, and the ability to toggle animations or blur effects, are some of the new features. To balance the music between each ear, you can also alter the Bluetooth headphone settings. (However, you cannot do this while on a call.) Additionally, Samsung has made it possible to change the tap time and turn off repeated tapping.
The changes made to the Galaxy Watch 5 are iterative.
I can’t speak authoritatively about how well all of these accessibility features perform in real-world situations because I’m a hearing, able-bodied person. My ability to read on the 40mm Watch 5 was, however, greatly enhanced by the visibility improvements. When I received my most recent prescription, my eye doctor observed, “Sometimes you have to settle for good enough.” I was born with eyeballs that were so cursed. Additionally, I have small wrists. I’m so sick of having to decide between a small watch that’s pleasant to wear and a huge watch with a clear screen as a reviewer. Although I have no control over my vision or wrist size, the difference high-contrast fonts and the addition of a colour filter made is almost comical. On the readability front, wearables still have a ways to go, and I wish more wristwatch manufacturers would take Samsung’s lead in this area.
New keyboard inputs from Samsung have also made it simpler to type on small screens. Dictation, handwriting, and swipe-to-type options are now available. But your results may vary. I found handwriting and dictation to be helpful, but there is no way around the fact that swiping to type on a screen with a 40mm diagonal is not ideal.
A more advanced 3-in-1 BioActive sensor and a minimally functional infrared temperature sensor are both available.
These are certainly significant upgrades, but I can’t help but think Samsung seriously messed up the touch bezel and battery life.
By allowing you to navigate menus by gliding your finger along the edge of the display, the touch bezel simulates a physical bezel. The Watch 5 almost seems worse than the Watch 4, which was fussy. I clearly recall figuring it out on the Watch 4, but I had trouble this year as well. (During the previous year, I constantly used the Watch 4 Classic whenever I needed to test out new features.) Tiles would pass by more quickly if I swiped too quickly than my cat rushing for a second breakfast. It wouldn’t register if I moved too slowly. Furthermore, it was far too simple for my finger to wander outside the touch bezel or off the edge.
Technically, the touch bezel is completely unnecessary for the Watch 5. Although Wear OS 3 may share some DNA with Tizen, the UI lacks the same sense of humour that Tizen had when it comes to circular menus. Directional swipes are all that are required to traverse Wear OS 3’s interface. (Swipes and taps didn’t register on the Watch 5 as well either. However, I put that down to my fingers sweating more than usual from the recent heat wave.)
Here, the curve is easier to see. Galaxy Watch 5, Galaxy Watch 4, and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, from top to bottom.
I’ll admit that I’m a devoted supporter of Team Rotating Bezel, so that explains why I’m disappointed. I’m not against touchscreens or using swipes to open menus. For some things, like scrolling through notifications or zooming in on a map, it’s a lot more natural. Physical restraints, however, have their uses. They’re convenient and resistant to sweaty fingers and gloves, making them perfect for outdoor athletes. The tactile rotating bezel on Samsung’s smartwatch was a defining feature that simultaneously paid homage to the previous Gear lineup and distinguished it from every other circular smartwatch on the market. Additionally, using the rotating bezel is a lot of fun. The design of modern technology seems only too willing to forgo imagination in favour of elegant austerity.
The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, the mid-tier model available between the Watch 5 and the Pro, is still in the lineup, according to Samsung, thus the physical bezel hasn’t truly disappeared. But I’m also perplexed by this. You’re… charging more for the physical bezel, outdated sensors, and shorter battery life than the more recent entry-level watch? That calculation is incorrect.
You’re… charging more for the physical bezel, outdated sensors, and shorter battery life than a more recent entry-level watch?
Samsung made a point of expanding the Watch 5’s battery size because the Watch 4’s battery life was a prominent complaint among users. With the Watch 4, I was never able to log more than 20 hours. Over the past year, readers have reported anywhere from well under 20 to around 40. Sincerity be damned, I don’t believe that 24 hours on a premium smartwatch is always a deal-breaker. However, a few of you questioned whether the Watch 5’s battery life made it worthwhile to upgrade, so I’ve included a summary of my testing this past week.
- Heavy usage day: “Hey Google” wake word for Google Assistant enabled, always-on display (AOD) enabled, 60 minutes of GPS activity without my phone, and no music streaming. started with 100% at 9 AM and ended with 9% at 5 PM. Prior to leaving for home, I had to charge, and after a half hour, my battery had reached 38 percent. Wore it overnight and had a 2 percent battery when I woke up.
- Medium usage day: “Hey Google” enabled, AOD disabled, 30 minutes of GPS use without my phone, and music streaming from an offline playlist to my headphones. I ended the day with 55 percent of the battery remaining after that half-hour run consumed 21% of it.
- AOD and “Hey Google” were disabled, and I only used my phone and my GPS for a 50-minute run. spent the majority of the day napping or on the couch. The battery only ended 45 percent of the day after my run, which used up 12 percent of it.
Although actual battery life will much depend on user habits and desired settings, I never came near to Samsung’s 40–50 hour estimate in a week. I had to charge my phone every day, even disabling battery-sucking options, minimising syncing, and turning off notifications. Even worse, I didn’t have the LTE version! This still falls short of the two to three days you used to routinely get on the Watch 3, but I expect the larger 44mm will perform better simply because it has a larger battery.
The actual bezel is still present on the Watch 4 Classic (far right), which is still a part of the lineup.
The Watch 5’s rapid charging is advantageous. (The charger can also now be connected to a USB-C brick!) A half hour gets you anywhere between 30 and 40 percent, but it still takes roughly two hours to travel from 0% to 100%. That will get you home or will power a night of sleep monitoring.
The Watch 5 is a good but not perfect tool for tracking exercise and health. On the five runs and six walks I logged over the course of the past week, heart rate and distance tracking were comparable to the Apple Watch Series 7. Samsung continues to have one of the greatest automatic walk detecting systems. If you enjoy competing with pals, the Samsung Health app isn’t good, but I’ve seen much worse. Even while Samsung’s sleep tracking is the most sophisticated it has ever been, it still has its issues. While you can receive comprehensive sleep coaching, you require seven whole days of admissible sleep data in order to receive even one insight. I’ve only recently started receiving tips, so I can’t yet assess how well this function will hold up over time. When I review the Watch 5 Pro, I’ll know more. (Long lead times are beneficial when gathering health information, but they are not necessarily good when writing product reviews.) My Oura Ring and the Eight Sleep Pod 2 Pro Cover had some noticeable differences in the stages of sleep, especially REM sleep. But that doesn’t really bother me. The majority of sleep stage data should be treated with extreme caution. What’s more significant is that, like Santa Claus, the Watch 5 could tell when I was awake and asleep.
Although blood oxygen data is shown poorly in the app, sleep tracking is now more sophisticated than it has ever been.
The blood oxygen statistics from Samsung didn’t quite impress me. The Samsung Health app said that I had a “minimum” blood oxygen saturation of between 80 and 88 percent almost every night. For comparison, a healthy range is 95-100 percent, while the minimal safe range for people with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is 88-92 percent (COPD). Hospitalization is required when the reading is at least 80%. I’ve tested a lot of sleepwear, so I am aware that these don’t accurately represent my sleeping SpO2. I probably received these statistics because I sleep on my side and have had similar experiences with Garmin watches. Samsung’s presentation of this data, however, can unnecessarily incite worry because a graph or instructional text are not instantly visible next to the alarming amount. Further information is only accessible by tapping, and even then, the graph struggles to effectively depict the data. To understand why data presentation and education are important, one just needs to consider the anxiety that a malfunctioning SpO2 graph created among Fitbit users. With any luck, Samsung will address this in a later release.
Despite my complaints, this is now the finest Android wristwatch for anyone looking for strong third-party apps, cutting-edge health features, and casual fitness tracking. Yes, the starting price is $30 higher than the previous model, however prices are rising due to inflation. The Galaxy Watch 5 is reasonably priced at $279.99 for the 40mm model and $309.99 for the 44mm model considering the feature set. (Options with LTE cost $50 extra.) Samsung isn’t overcharging because the Apple Watch SE starts at the same price and offers comparable features. The Fitbit Sense ($329.95), the $299 Fossil Gen 6, and the $299.99 Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS are all generally outperformed by the Watch 5’s more sophisticated features and sensors.
If you’re thinking about replacing your Watch 4, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you can find a fantastic discount or take advantage of a trade-in opportunity. The Watch 5’s best features are already on your wrist, and the battery improvements are good. If you own a Samsung phone and have been hanging onto your Galaxy Watch Active or Active 2, it’s a different story. You won’t miss a physical bezel since you’ve been using a Watch without one for so long, and the Watch 5 will provide a superior user experience overall. Samsung will shortly stop supporting older devices. Owners of the Watch 3 and Watch 4 Classic should wait to see if Samsung understands that not producing a Galaxy Watch 5 Classic was a mistake.
Wait to upgrade if you don’t currently have a Samsung phone. Right now, the Watch 5 is the finest you can buy, but that could change in just a few short weeks. This fall, Google will introduce the Pixel Watch. With the Snapdragon W5 Plus platform, Qualcomm is finally getting its act together, which means Wear OS 3 watches may soon receive a CPU that is even more potent than the one powering the Watch 5. The upcoming smartwatches from Fossil may very likely be powered by that processor. And before the year is out, some Wear OS 2 watches will receive an optional update to Wear OS 3 if you want to really take your time to see how the dust settles. Android users will soon have more alternatives for smartwatches than ever before. The Galaxy Watch 5 won’t be discontinued. Why the hurry?
Agree to go on: Galaxy Watch 5 from Samsung
Today, in order to use any smart device, you must first agree a set of terms and conditions that no one actually reads. We are unable to read through and evaluate each and every one of these agreements. But because these are contracts that Galaxy Watch 5 most people don’t read and can’t, we started keeping track of how many times you have to click “Agree” to use a device when we reviewed them.
The Galaxy Watch 5 has to be paired with an Android phone in order to function. This covers any terms of service or privacy guidelines that the phone stipulates. You’ll need to sign five agreements with Samsung in order to use Wear OS 3.
- Samsung Terms and Conditions
- Samsung Privacy Notice
SAMSUNG HEALTH TERMS OF SERVICE
The Samsung Health Privacy Statement
- Google’s Terms of Service, which also includes its Privacy Statement.
For features that may use voice, location, or camera, there are a number of additional optional permissions. You must agree their terms and give them access to your health data if you download a third-party programme like Strava or Calm. If you choose to use Samsung Pay, you might also need to accept its terms of service and privacy policies. If you choose to download the Samsung Health Monitor for ECG readings, you might also need to provide more permissions.
Six mandatory agreements and a large number of optional permits and agreements make up the total.
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