I have been a fan of Google since Google Nexus One by HTC and so naturally, I have been a supporter of Google and its Wear OS despite its shortcomings and not to mention the lack of reliable and not bank-breaking smartwatches running it. The aforementioned reasons are why I have stuck with TicWatch until of late.
When Samsung revealed that it has concocted a Wear OS with Google for its new Galaxy Watch series, I immediately knew I have to take the dive. And take the dive I did and with not one but both the 40 mm and 44 mm model of the Galaxy Watch4.
I think there’s no need for us to get into the Classic, since it is pretty much the same, save for the size and the physical rotating bezel.
Anyhoo, as always, before we get into the main event, here’s a quick rundown of the spec-sheet detail:
• Material: Armor Aluminum • Connectivity: Bluetooth/dual band WiFi/LTE • Buttons: 2 (Home Key + Back Key) • Size: 44 mm or 40 mm • Display (44 mm): 1.4” Circular Super AMOLED (450 x 450 pixel) • Display (40 mm): 1.2” Circular Super AMOLED (396 x 396 pixel) • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass DX+ • Battery (44 mm): 361 mAh • Battery (40 mm): 247 mAh • Processor: Exynos W920 Dual Core 1.18 GHz • Memory: 1.5 GB RAM + 16 GB Internal Storage • Location: A-GPS/GLONASS/Beidou/Galileo • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Light Sensor, Optical Heart Rate Sensor, Electrical heart sensor, Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis Sensor • Build: 5 ATM, IP68, MIL-STD-810G
The new Galaxy Watch4 is essentially a follow-up to the Galaxy Active 2. This means it is the “sportier” version of the Galaxy Watch. Like the Active 2, it has a digital rotating bezel as opposed to a physical rotating bezel. Similarly, it does not have a Digital Crown.
It relies on the two physical buttons as well as touch for navigation and inputs. The touch bezel can be turned off if you do not want it. You turn it on or off from the setting on the watch, by navigating to the “General” menu. And now, I shall share my thoughts on the Galaxy Watch4 after using it as a daily driver for two months.
There is nothing to buzz about it. The watch came in a narrow box with the requisite documentation and of course, and a magnetic wireless charging puck. Like I have said, nothing to go ga-ga over. And also, yes, you have to supply your own charging brick.
While it is the successor to the sportier Active 2, the Galaxy Watch4 isn’t quite as sporty aesthetically, IMHO. If anything, it looks more, how do you say? Dress watch-like? But it is sleek alight.
It has a sophisticated, yet neutral look that makes it suited for both formal and casual occasions. Despite its rugged build, it does not look the part that may appeal to some people.
If you don’t, you can always slap on a rugged case for the G-Shock style look. And it is light on the wrist too.
I have one gripe though. The new Galaxy Watch4 has a redesigned case that has a gapless case-to-strap design. It reminds me of Apple Watch’s design. Because of the round nature of the case, the gapless design may not allow the watch and band to wrap around your wrist.
If your wrist is smaller, there will be obvious empty spaces between the end of the watch and your wrist, like so:
It can be kind of annoying to know it exists. Thankfully, this can be solved by ditching the stock strap and replacing it with any standard 20 mm strap. The 44 mm watch is perfect for my wrist, but the gapless design made it less than ideal. So, if you are obsessed with a perfect and beautiful fit, this may not work out for you unless you switch to non-gapless straps.
Well, it is a Samsung and as such, there is no question about the build. There are no visual flaws that I can find and very importantly, nothing loose. And yes, I gave it a good shake and despite it having two buttons and an interchangeable watch, nothing appears to be loose.
OK. I admit. I can’t stand any chatter from a gadget. It just gets on my nerve knowing that a device chatters if I shake it even though I knew very well that I won’t shake it whether intentionally or not. But that’s just me. But hey, if it does not chatter, it is a sign of a good build, isn’t it?
Apple Watch does not work with Android devices and so naturally, an Android-based smartwatch WILL NOT work with iPhones. I mean, is this even a surprise? Of course, not. However, Samsung Galaxy Watch4 will play well with other modern Android devices.
There is a caveat, though. While some functionalities like ECG and Blood Pressure Monitoring works natively with Galaxy smartphones, they will not work with other Android smartphones. Not unless you download the Samsung Health app anyways.
One UI Watch
The highlight here is clearly the Wear OS developed by Samsung and Google, and all the goodness that came with it or the lack thereof. But this being a Samsung, do not expect a so-called “pure Wear OS” experience. It does have Samsung DNA in it, i.e. Samsung’s UI overlaid on top of the Wear OS, and hence, it is also known as One UI Watch.
So what’s good about this Samsung-touched Wear OS? For a start, once you install watch-compatible apps on your smartphone, they will be downloaded onto your smartwatch. Though, I find that it does not always do that. I found myself installing Spotify separately even though it has a watch-compatible app and it was installed on my Galaxy S21.
Another feature is world time. If you have customized the clock app on your phone to show the time of different cities, it will also be reflected on your watch. Well about this. I never got it to work.
I think the single most important feature of the Wear OS powered by Samsung is Google Play. With Wear OS, you will have access to a myriad of third-party apps which you can download directly onto your Galaxy Watch4 and these apps include YouTube Music and Google Maps. And yes, this watch can do turn-by-turn navigation too.
This year’s Galaxy Watch is a huge leap. Not just in the software department. The sensor department also gets a boost. It now packs a 3-in-1 health sensor that not only measures heart rate, but also does blood pressure measurement, blood-oxygen level, plus ECG, and body composition.
This makes Galaxy Watch 4 the first smartwatch to offer bioelectrical impedance analysis. Not going to lie, it was the suite of health sensors – not quite the fitness feature – that prompted me to give it a go.
Fall detection is also a feature that is less talked about, but I totally think it should be one of the highlights. Though it may not be as sophisticated as Apple Watch. You can also set it to quickly send an SOS message and/or call when the Home key is pressed 3 times.
Finally, there are Gestures for taking calls and dismissing alerts and calls. A convenience you never knew you need. I guess?
The User Experience
Overall, the user experience has been pretty smooth. I said “pretty” because it could be better. Somehow, the screen isn’t sensitive to my touch. Are my digits too oily? I don’t know.
Not sure it is hardware or software issues? I have touched it harder when dragging down the menu and swiping it. TBH, scrolling through the apps is not as smooth as I would love it to be.
Ghosting is quite obvious and can be an annoyance if you are OCD like me. This is precisely the reason why I seldom scroll through the app list. That, and the battery life.
The battery is not great, but it is decent. With my usage habits, it consistently pushes 2 days. My usage includes quite an abundance of push notifications from my phone, countless glancing at the time and steps, fitness app use once a day, measuring various metrics (heart rate, blood oxygen, blood pressure et cetera) once a day, and the GPS on the entire time.
However, the always-on display is off. Also, I have set do not disturb from 11:30 PM to the next day at 6:30 AM, and I turned on low power mode when I hit the sack. With all these, I am getting nearly 48 hours quite consistently. When Samsung said it could have 40 hours, it is not lying about it.
It certainly can make the 40 hours mark, but be sure you don’t poke it too much. Of course, your mileage may vary. Battery life depends on many factors, including the watch face you use.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 is a smart-looking smartwatch that fulfills the most typical use of a modern person. It does automatic fitness tracking, push notifications, and helps you to keep track of important health metrics. Speaking of health metrics… this being a non-medical-grade device, we should take the metrics as useful references and not as if our lives depend on it. I am sure we are all aware of that.
The Wear OS powered by Samsung is a joy to use despite my complain about it not being the smoothest experience.
Overall, I am digging the Galaxy Watch4. If you share the same usage habits with me, this might just be the smartwatch for you. Another rationale for considering it is the price point against the reliability and reputation as a brand.
Samsung is a multinational giant with a good reputation and support. Those factors, along with the refinement and Wear OS mentioned in our review, and the current discounted starting price of US$199.99, makes it worthy of considerations.
Meanwhile, the closest competitor, the TicWatch E3, while having a 44mm case has a 1.3-inch non-AMOLED screen, also costs US$199.99. But before you make any decision, you may want to check out our review on the TicWatch E3 smartwatch.
So, if you take into consideration the reputation, brand name, and support, I think the Galaxy Watch4 is a no-brainer. But if a battery life that is good for disappearing into the woods for days and Wear OS are your priorities, you may want to look elsewhere.
In the event you are down for the new Galaxy Watch4, you will be glad to know that is now at a discount on Amazon. The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 40 mm now starts at just US$199.99. The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 44 mm, is now going for US$229.99 and up.
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All images by Mikeshouts.