Taking on a dominant force single-handedly is no small feat, and the weight of expectations can make a mere mortal tremble. But, Samsung isn’t buckling under the pressure. Instead, it may have finally come up with a product that can truly take on the mighty Apple Watch.
We’re talking about the Galaxy Watch 4, which is Samsung’s first smartwatch to run Google’s Wear OS. So how big a difference has this change made? Will the smartwatch work with any Android device or just Samsung? We answer these questions and more in our review.
I know what you’re thinking – it looks the same as the Galaxy Watch 3, but it’s not a bad thing, is it? While the Apple Watch continues to look like a ‘smartwatch’ on your wrists, Samsung’s wearable looks like a proper watch. And it’s that difference that matters to a lot of people. It won’t be giving a Swiss watch master sleepless nights for sure, but there’s no denying that it is a darn good looking smartwatch.
There are two sizes to choose from for the Classic – 42mm and 46mm. We got the bigger variant for review, which felt a tad big for my wrists, but I was able to comfortably wear it for the entire day. The silicon straps are gentle on the skin and don’t itch even after a heavy workout session. If you want to swap them out for something classier, that is easy too.
Going round and round
The 1.4in display is a treat for one's eyes. It is bright enough to be easily read under direct sunlight, and the colours pop just as you’d expect from a Samsung display. There’s also a nice collection of watch faces to choose from, and the animated animal ones are super cute.
The Always-on display can be toggled from the settings menu, and it should be turned on. Even if it comes at the cost of battery life. Being able to continuously see the time is better than flicking your wrist every time as if dancing to a Daler Mehndi song.
The highlight of the Watch 4 Classic remains that rotating bezel which not only sets it apart from the standard Watch 4, but also from all other smartwatches out there. It is the best way to navigate on a smartwatch. Period. It was genius when it first came out, and it hasn’t lost any of its charm or functionality even now.
There’s a nice clickety click as you rotate the bezel and move to the next screen. Yes, you can touch and swipe, but the bezel makes this mundane task much more satisfying. Want to check notifications? Rotate left once. Want to track fitness? Two clicks right. What makes it fun is that everything just happens in a jiffy without any lag. Not to mention, it makes navigating the UI easier when you’re wearing gloves or have wet hands.
There are two physical buttons on the right edge. The top button takes you to the home screen instantly, while the bottom one acts as a back button when you’re deep on the settings page. Both buttons are also used simultaneously to calculate body fat percentage, muscle mass, and certain other parameters.
Wear it like a pro
So far it’s all been a little too familiar, but the biggest new thing here is the Wear OS. That said, despite running on Google’s OS, Samsung has done enough to make it feel as if you’re still using a Tizen smartwatch. Now Tizen wasn’t necessarily bad, this rendition of Samsung-nized Wear OS just feels more polished.
Swiping from the top shows quick access icons to frequently used tasks. A swipe up opens the app gallery, which looks quite a lot like the app clutter on the Apple Watch. One of the biggest advantages of Wear OS is the Google Play Store which lets you download your favourite apps, making the smartwatch so much more useful.
This also brings us to one of the disadvantages of this Samsung-Google collab. While the Galaxy Watch 4 will work with other Android smartphones, the complete experience is restricted to Samsung’s devices. Also unlike before, the new smartwatch doesn’t work with iOS devices. You could say that Samsung is taking a leaf out of Apple’s playbook, and there’s nothing really wrong with controlling the experience. But it sort of goes against the openness of the Android ecosystem.
As for battery life, the 361mAh unit is able to get to the end of the day with a bit of juice to spare. With more judicial usage, you can stretch the battery life to the next day.
Putting health first
Smartwatches these days are putting health first, and some of the good ones feel like a personal gym trainer and health expert on your wrist. The Galaxy Watch 4 falls in that category. There’s support for tracking over 90 workouts, and the results were largely on par with what we see on the Apple Watch Series 6.
Additionally, you get heart-rate tracking, and the ability to monitor blood oxygen and stress levels. On paper, it supports ECG monitoring, but the feature isn’t available in India. It also tracks your sleep if you’re able to save enough battery for the night, and there’s even a new feature called snore detection. As the name suggests, it works in tandem with the phone to pick up on your snoring and relay the data to the Samsung Health app. Now there can be no more denying when your partner complains how your snoring kept her awake all night. Take this with a pinch of salt because now Samsung can snoop on your nightly snores or questionable screams. Although you can turn it off if you want.
One major health feature is the ability to measure body composition, which is unique to the Galaxy Watch 4. It works by sending a weak electrical signal throughout your body when you place your fingers on the electrodes in the buttons. The sensors are then able to measure metrics such as body fat percentage, skeletal muscle, fat mass, basal metabolic rate and body water.
The idea seems to be to replicate what smart scales usually do, and it largely succeeds. These stats are quite useful if you’re trying to switch to a healthy lifestyle. But, as with such features, there are disclaimers in place, and you shouldn’t blindly rely on them. Still, it is a handy feature to have on your wrist.
The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is a result of Samsung and Google’s combined efforts to take on the might of Apple – and it largely succeeds. Getting Samsung onboard is a huge endorsement for the Wear OS, and the overall experience is quite impressive, if not flawless.
A timeless design combined with the advanced health tracking features makes the Galaxy Watch 4 a must-have gadget for any Samsung user. Though it also works with other Android devices, the experience is a bit lacking.