When designing the Samsung Galaxy Watch, “Anything Apple can do I can do too” was undoubtedly the song going through Samsung’s mind, and if Apple has its own smartwatch then you can bet your bottom dollar that Samsung wants a slice of the best smartwatch (opens in new tab) pie too. In reality, while the Samsung Galaxy Watch beats out the Apple Watch Series 5 (opens in new tab) in some areas, a few things are holding it back from true greatness.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Samsung Galaxy Watch is a gorgeous looking piece of kit with an aesthetic designed to mirror the look of high-end watches like Tag and Rolex rather than looking like a piece of wearable tech.
It comes with all the features you’d expect from a smartwatch too, with fitness apps, heart rate monitoring and support for contactless payments through Samsung Pay thanks to the NFC chip inside.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch connects to both Android and iOS smartphones via Bluetooth so you can keep it hooked up to your handset for when you need to alter settings that can’t be changed on the smartphone. This also allows you to receive notifications, messages and even phone calls using the smartwatch.
Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Design and build
- 46mm and 42mm options.
- Rose Gold, Midnight Black, or Silver.
- Super AMOLED screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes: 46mm and 42mm. If you go for the 46mm option then you’re limited to getting it in the silver color option, while the 42mm version is available in either Rose Gold or Midnight Black. There is a larger variety of strap options though, if you want to customize your look.
Beyond the obvious difference in screen size, the 46mm Samsung Galaxy Watch also has a larger battery capacity than the 42mm version, so we’d generally recommend it over the smaller version. However, 46mm is actually quite chunky for a watch, so users with more slender wrists should probably stick with the 42mm version unless you want to look like a cartoon character with an enormous novelty watch.
Unlike most smartwatches, the Samsung Galaxy Watch makes a concerted effort to look like a traditional watch, rather than a high-tech gadget. The circular watch face and rotating ring around it are extremely reminiscent of normal watches, and even the color options are all what you’d expect to find on something like a Tag or Rolex - there’s no neon green or vibrant reds here.
This imitation of normal watches is even seen on the screen, with the default time display screen essentially mimicking a watch screen rather than looking like a digital display. But when you do need it to function as a smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch’s Super AMOLED screen won’t let you down. You get a 1.3-inch screen on the 46mm model, and a 1.2-inch screen on the 42mm version.
Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Tracking and features
- Auto-tracking workouts.
- Heart rate monitor, calorie counter, sleep tracker.
- Limited apps.
While Samsung has its own fitness focused smartwatch in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (opens in new tab), the Samsung Galaxy Watch is no slouch when it comes to health and fitness features.
One of the headline features is the automatically tracked workouts, which uses your change in heart rate along with other sensors to detect when you switch to a different workout, though this feature is limited to certain workouts. In total, the Samsung Galaxy Watch will auto-track six workouts: Cycling, Walking, running, Elliptical trainer, rowing, and dynamic workout.
In total, there are 39 different workouts (21 indoor and 18 outdoor) that the Samsung Galaxy Watch can track, but you’ll need to manually activate most of them. In practice, the automatic tracking feature is better at some activities than others - Techradar found (opens in new tab) it was fine for walking and running, but found it didn’t trigger when they tried downhill cycling.
You also get a robust suite of tracking tools including a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, calorie counting, and timed breathing exercises, all of which work as advertised. In all honesty, unless you’re a super fitness buff, these are the features that you’ll be using most often. Proper fitness buffs should also consider one of the best fitness trackers (opens in new tab), as these are more focused on fitness than smartwatches, which do a bit of everything.
On the software front, the Samsung Galaxy Watch falls down a little though. The lineup of apps isn’t terrible and you get some of popular apps like Spotify and Uber, but many other key apps are missing. There’s no WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, so you’ll struggle to chat with your friends via the Samsung Galaxy Watch. This is a real shame, especially when competitors like the Apple Watch Series 5 have these apps.
Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Battery life
- Four day battery on 46mm version
- Three day battery on 42mm version.
- Chargers via proprietary wireless charger only.
Your battery life with the Samsung Galaxy Watch depends on which size you go for. The 46mm version has a four-day battery life, while the smaller 42mm option has a three-day battery. There is also a power saving mode which shuts off a lot of the extra features and connectivity to keep it going in a pinch. If you choose to use the always-on display mode then you’ll see a drop in your battery life numbers, which is to be expected.
Strangely, the only way to charge the Samsung Galaxy Watch is via the included wireless charging station - there is no wired connection. While we love wireless charging, the fact that you need the proprietary charger means that you could easily get caught short and unable to recharge your device if you’re on holiday or even just over at a friend’s house.
Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Price
Prices for the Samsung Galaxy Watch start at $259.99 for the 42mm version, and $279.99 for the 46mm version. Those prices are for the standard models, which have Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities. If you want the 4G LTE version then it will cost you $299.99 for the 42mm 4G watch and $319.99 for the 46mm 4G watch.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch?
There’s a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and it certainly destroys the competition in some key areas like battery life and visual styling. But the lack of apps will be a real stinger for some people. If you’re not bothered by the lack of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, then we’d recommend the Galaxy Watch over an Apple Watch Series 5, especially with its cheaper price. But if you need those apps, maybe consider the Apple Watch.