When I’m done evaluating Samsung smartwatches, I usually walk away with a crease between my brows and the thought of what might have been. It’s not because they’re poorly made, unattractive, or a nuisance to put on. In point of fact, the reverse is true. There is no contest: Samsung’s smartwatches are now the best that Android users can buy, and the Galaxy Watch 5 (which retails for $279.99) is not an exception. (However, once the Google Pixel Watch is released, that might obviously change.) If Samsung were to address one or two faults with their smartwatches, the Apple Watch would be considered old news in comparison to Samsung’s offerings. I had hoped to be able to say that Samsung had at long last gotten it right, but alas, the Watch 5 is more of the same, for better or for worse.
This is not meant in a figurative sense. The Galaxy Watch 5 is virtually indistinguishable from its forerunner, the Galaxy Watch 4. It is available in the standard 40mm and 44mm dimensions. It appears to be the same with the exception of a couple new strap colors. I’ve spent years reviewing practically every wristwatch under the sun, yet the only way I could tell the difference between my Watch 4 review unit and my Watch 5 review unit at a glance was by looking at the color of the band.
Many of the features and specifications of the Watch 4 are carried over to the Watch 5, such as the Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, contactless payments, GPS, optional LTE, and 5ATM of water resistance. Tracking your heart rate, doing electrocardiograms, and performing a study of your body composition are all available through the significantly upgraded 3-in-1 BioActive sensor. Your sole brand-new piece of hardware is an infrared temperature sensor. Other than that, everything else remains the same. That, by the way, doesn’t really accomplish very much at this point. It is supposed to improve the accuracy of the sleep tracking, but Samsung has stated that it added the sensor so that developers can experiment with generating new health features. Wear OS Powered by Samsung is the software that is utilized, and it is also supported (aka Wear OS 3 running a Samsung skin). The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is where you’ll see fresh design choices and flashy capabilities like turn-by-turn navigation, but the Galaxy Watch 5 itself is a relatively vanilla update. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro will ship on August 26 with the Galaxy Watch 5.
I seriously doubt that the majority of people will even notice the very minor changes that Samsung has made. Because of their somewhat larger batteries, the 40mm and 44mm watches are a tad bit heavier than the other models, coming in at roughly the same weight as a cent. It has a more rounded back that provides a better skin contact in order to improve the accuracy. You won’t notice much of a difference in the way it sits on your wrist thanks to the curved back. When you factor in the hump for the sensor, YouTuber DC Rainmaker discovered that the device has a thickness that is closer to 13 millimeters than the 9.8 millimeters that Samsung claims it has. However, in all honesty, you won’t even notice it. In addition, a sapphire crystal glass display ensures the Watch 5’s long-term reliability. That’s fantastic, but it won’t be appreciated by anyone who isn’t a klutz, an adventurer, or an adventurous klutz. If you’re not one of those three types of people, you won’t get it.
There are, of course, new watchface options available as well. You could be drawn to some of them. Some of them won’t. The fact that you can now add complexity to the blobby number face is something that really tickles my fancy. Because I am a dragon in the Chinese zodiac and am currently obsessed with purple technology, the new purple dragon face is quite appealing to me. But if you don’t like a new (or old) watchface, you won’t use it, so you won’t even realize that it’s there. You won’t even know that it’s there.
Even though the Watch 5 is the very definition of an iterative upgrade, I would be negligent if I didn’t point out two significant enhancements that have been added.
The most noticeable difference is that you won’t have to suffer through Bixby anymore. On-watch When the Galaxy Watch 4 was first introduced in August of 2017, Google Assistant was only a nebulous promise. However, it has now become a reality in recent weeks. After taking the Watch 5 out of the box and giving it a charge, the first thing I did was download Google Assistant and reprogramme the Home button so that it would activate Google Assistant rather than Bixby. The second thing I did was to download a number of popular applications, including Google Wallet, Strava, Spotify, and Calm, amongst others. Because of this, the experience became immediately better for me because I was no longer bound to Samsung Health, Samsung Pay, Bixby, or Samsung SmartThings. (The Galaxy Wearable app, on the other hand, is not up for discussion.) My runs can be tracked by Strava, my smart home can be controlled by Google Assistant, and I can use Google Wallet to pay for things at the local pharmacy. In contrast to its predecessor, the Samsung Watch 4, the Watch 5 is less obviously a Samsung wristwatch.
To clarify, if you’re using a Samsung phone, the Watch 5 will continue to perform better than any other option. To begin, the electrocardiogram (ECG) function is only available on Samsung phones, and if you want to reproduce all of the wellness and fitness capabilities of Samsung Health on a phone that is not a Samsung, you will need to download at least six third-party apps. When you press and hold the back button for an extended period of time, Samsung Pay will activate automatically. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be possible to reprogramme this shortcut to open Google Wallet instead. One UI Watch 4.5, which is Samsung’s watch interface built on top of Watch OS, also provides the Watch 5 with the ability to have two phone numbers. However, this capability is only available when the Watch 5 is coupled with a Galaxy phone that supports dual-SIM functionality. The Google Play Store, on the other hand, is my oyster if I want to give the middle finger to Bixby or buy a half dozen apps to replace Samsung Health. Even while it’s not perfect, it’s an improvement compared to both last year and the year before that.
Regarding One UI Watch 4.5, the redesigned user interface includes a large number of brand new accessibility features and organizes them all in a single menu that is simple to use. Some of the new features include the option to toggle animations or blur effects, color filters, color correction, and fonts with a high contrast ratio. Other new capabilities include the ability to correct color and adjust color. You can also change the audio balance between each ear by making adjustments to the settings of your Bluetooth headphones. (However, you won’t be able to do this while someone is calling.) Additionally, Samsung has included the option to change the tap duration as well as disable repeated presses.
As a person who is both hearing and able-bodied, I am not in a position to give an informed opinion on how well all of these accessibility elements function in day-to-day living. On the other hand, the visibility improvements made a big difference in how well I was able to read the 40mm Watch 5. When I went to get my most recent prescription filled, the eye doctor advised me that “sometimes you have to settle for good enough.” I was born with eyeballs, so it was a blessing and a burden. In addition, the circumference of my wrists is somewhat limited. As a person who writes product reviews, I am sick and tired of being put in the position of having to decide between a large watch with a screen that is simple to see and a little watch that is comfortable to wear. It is almost hilarious how much of a difference using high-contrast typefaces and adding a color filter makes, but my vision and the size of my wrists aren’t things I have any control over. When it comes to readability, wearables still have a ways to go, and I wish that other smartwatch manufacturers would follow Samsung’s example in this regard.
Additionally, new keyboard inputs from Samsung make it simpler to text on devices with smaller screens. Dictation, handwriting, and swipe-to-type are now available as options for you to use. However, your experience may differ from mine. I found that dictation and handwriting were helpful, but swiping to type on a screen that was only 40 millimeters was just not ideal no matter how you looked at it.
There have been some significant advancements made, but I can’t help but feel that Samsung missed a significant opportunity when it comes to the touch bezel and the battery life of the device.
You may navigate the menus by dragging your finger along the display’s edge using the touch bezel, which functions similarly to a physical bezel but looks and feels more like a touchscreen. It was temperamental on the Watch 4, but on the Watch 5, it almost seems to be even more so. I definitely remember getting the hang of it by the time I got the Watch 4, but this year I had a lot of trouble doing so again. (During the last year, anytime I needed to test out new features, I constantly opted for the Watch 4 Classic. Therefore, it has been a long since I last used it.) If I slid my finger across the screen too quickly, the tiles would fly by quicker than my cat would rush for a second helping of food. It wouldn’t have registered if I moved at an excessively sluggish pace. It was also much too easy for my finger to slip off the edge or outside the touch bezel region. This was an extremely frustrating experience.
In a strictly technical sense, the touch bezel on the Watch 5 is completely unnecessary. Although Wear OS 3 may share some of Tizen’s genetic material, the user interface does not have the same sense of fun and playfulness as Tizen did with its circular menus. Simply using swipes in the appropriate direction is sufficient to navigate Wear OS 3. ( The Apple Watch 5 also does not record taps and swipes quite as well as previous models. Having said that, I believe that the current hot is to blame for my fingers sweating more than they normally would have.
I’ll be the first to confess that I’m so disappointed because I’ve always been a dedicated member of Team Rotating Bezel. I’m not opposed to using touchscreens or swiping my finger across the screen to navigate menus. It makes certain actions, such as scrolling through notifications or zooming in on a map, considerably simpler and easier to understand. However, there is a time and a place for tactile controls. They are not only easily accessible but also fantastic for athletes who compete outside because they are not affected by sweaty hands or gloves. In the case of Samsung, the physical rotating bezel was an iconic calling card that brought to mind the original Gear range and distinguished it from every other circular smartwatch available on the market. In addition to that, the rotating bezel is a lot of fun to use. The design of modern electronic devices is all too willing to offer up inventiveness on the altar of streamlined minimalism.
Because the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is still available as a middle-of-the-road option between the Watch 5 and the Watch Pro, Samsung claims that the physical bezel has not truly been removed from any of its watches. However, this further muddles my thoughts. You’re… going to charge more for the physical bezel, which has older sensors, and has a shorter battery life than the more recent entry-level watch? That math doesn’t add up.
YOU’RE… CHARGING MORE THAN A NEWER ENTRY-LEVEL WATCH FOR THE PHYSICAL BEZEL, OLDER SENSORS, AND WORSE BATTERY LIFE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Users of the Watch 4 expressed significant frustration with the device’s battery life, thus Samsung made it a priority to increase the capacity of the battery in the Watch 5. The statistics I’ve heard from readers over the past year ranged from far under 20 to nearly 40 hours, but I personally was never able to use the Watch 4 for more than 20 hours. To tell you the truth, I do not believe that a battery life of 24 hours on a premium smartwatch is necessarily a deal breaker. But since a few of you were curious in whether or not the Watch 5’s battery life was sufficient to warrant the upgrade, I thought I’d share a summary of my tests from the past week.
- Heavy usage day with the always-on display (AOD) function on, the “Hey Google” wake phrase function enabled for Google Assistant, 60 minutes of GPS activity without my phone, and no music streaming. Started with a hundred percent at nine in the morning and concluded with nine percent at five in the afternoon. Before I could travel home, I had to charge my phone, and after half an hour, it had reached 38 percent of its capacity. After sleeping with it on, I discovered that the battery had just 2 percent of its capacity the following morning.
- AOD was turned off, “Hey Google” was turned on, and I used my headphones to stream music from an offline playlist while doing 30 minutes of GPS activity without my phone. This equated to a medium usage day. This thirty minute run used twenty one percent of the battery, and by the end of the day I had fifty five percent of it left.
- AOD and “Hey Google” were turned off for the day, and I went for a 50-minute GPS run with only my phone and no music. A good portion of the day was passed either lounging around or sleeping. 12 percent of the battery was used up during my run, and by the end of the day I had 45 percent remaining.
Estimates of how long a battery will last are highly variable and reliant on the user’s habits and preferences, however I used my phone for a full week and never came close to meeting Samsung’s 40–50 hour estimate. Even after disabling options that were a drain on the battery, reducing the amount of syncing that occurred, and turning off notifications, I still needed to charge my device every day. And I wasn’t even using the LTE version at the time! I have a feeling that the larger 44mm model will perform better simply due to the fact that it has a larger battery, but even so, this is a far cry from the two to three days of battery life that you could reliably expect from the Watch 3.
It’s a plus that the charging time for the Watch 5 is shorter. (In addition, the charger can now be connected to a USB-C wall adapter!) You will still need approximately two hours to go from zero to one hundred percent, but a half hour will bring you anywhere between thirty and forty percent. You should be able to go home safely or get through one night of sleep tracking with that amount of electricity.
The Apple Watch 5 is an option that is good but not perfect when it comes to monitoring your health and fitness. During the preceding week, I went for a total of five runs and six walks, and the Apple Watch Series 7 kept track of my heart rate and distance just as accurately as it had before. The automated pedestrian detection that Samsung provides is also still among the best. If you and your pals enjoy a healthy dose of healthy competition, the Samsung Health app is not for you. However, I have seen apps that were much worse. The monitoring of Samsung users’ sleep has reached its highest level of sophistication yet, although the results are still inconsistent. You can obtain in-depth sleep coaching, but in order to get a single insight, you need seven full days’ worth of data that is qualified for analysis. Since I’ve just started obtaining tips, I’m not yet in a position to comment on how effectively this function performs over the long term. When I’ve finished reviewing the Watch 5 Pro, I’ll have a better understanding. (Long lead times are advantageous when collecting health data, but they are not always helpful when writing product reviews.) When it comes to different stages of sleep, particularly REM sleep, my Oura Ring and the Eight Sleep Pod 2 Pro Cover provided significantly different results. This was especially the case. However, I’m not going to let that stress me out too much. The majority of the information on your sleep stages should be taken with a grain of salt. The fact that the Watch 5 could tell when I was asleep and when I was awake is far more significant than the fact that it was able to do so like Santa Claus.
The information that Samsung provided about blood oxygen was less impressive to me. The Samsung Health app informed me that my “minimum” blood oxygen saturation was between 80 and 88 percent nearly every night I used it. As a point of reference, a healthy range is between 95 and 100 percent; the minimum safe range for individuals with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is between 88 and 92 percent (COPD). When the reading is over 80 percent, medical attention is required. Because I have tried so many different sleep wearables, I am aware that these do not accurately reflect my actual SpO2 while I am sleeping. It’s possible that I obtained these numbers due to the fact that I sleep on my side and have had similar experiences while using Garmin watches in the past. However, the manner in which Samsung provides this information has the potential to induce unwarranted anxiety because it does not instantly present a graph or instructive text next to the frightening figure. You are need to tap in order to obtain further information, and even after doing so, the graph does not effectively visualize the data. It is not necessary to look any further than the anxiety that a malfunctioning SpO2 graph provoked among Fitbit users to understand the significance of proper data presentation and education. We can only hope that Samsung will address this issue in a next software release.
Despite all of my complaints, I still think this is the best Android wristwatch on the market right now for anyone who are looking for excellent connection, extensive third-party apps, comprehensive health capabilities, and casual fitness monitoring. It’s true that the product’s beginning price is $30 higher than the one it replaced, but we live in inflationary times. The pricing of the Galaxy Watch 5, which starts at $279.99 for the 40mm model and goes up to $309.99 for the 44mm model, is affordable considering the device’s feature set. (LTE alternatives cost $50 extra.) Since the Apple Watch SE begins at the same price point and offers a comparable feature set, it can be concluded that Samsung is not overcharging. The Fitbit Sense costs $329.95, the Fossil Gen 6 costs $299, and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS costs $299.99. In the meantime, the Apple Watch 5 offers more advanced capabilities and sensors that generally surpass these competitors.
If you currently own a Watch 4, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to a newer model unless you find an incredible sale or are able to take advantage of a trade-in offer. You already have what makes the Watch 5 amazing on your wrist, and the upgrades to the battery aren’t sufficient enough to make up for it. If you have a Samsung phone and have been keeping your Galaxy Watch Active or Active 2, the situation is quite different. You’ve never had a watch with a physical bezel, so you won’t even miss it by the time you upgrade to the Watch 5, and Samsung is likely to stop providing support for these devices very soon. The Watch 5 will also provide a better experience overall. Owners of the Watch 3 and Watch 4 Classic should wait patiently to see if Samsung comes to the realization that it made a mistake by not producing a Watch 5 Classic.
You should hold off on upgrading your phone if you are not already using a Samsung model. The Apple Watch 5 is now the greatest model available to purchase, but that could change in the next several weeks. This coming autumn will see the arrival of Google’s Pixel Watch. Because Qualcomm is at last getting its act together with the Snapdragon W5 Plus platform, it is possible that Wear OS 3 watches may soon receive a chip that is even more powerful than the one that powers the Watch 5. The next-generation of Fossil’s smartwatches may very probably be powered by this processor. And if you’d like to take your time and see how everything shakes out, there are some Wear OS 2 watches that will be eligible for an optional upgrade to Wear OS 3 before the year is over. You folks who use Android are soon to have more options for smartwatches available to you than you ever have had before. There are no plans to discontinue the Galaxy Watch 5. Why are we in such a hurry?
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