The folks at Samsung are wizards at making the best gadgets. While most will not agree with this notion because Apple and Google are considered to be the cool cats, one peek at the innards of an iPhone or Pixel reveals a lot. They have a marketing problem. The new Galaxy Watch Active is a classic example of this marketing problem. On many levels, this smartwatch isn’t just right up there with the fourth-generation Apple Watch, but it could be better. This watch is designed smartly, and they are intuitive to use, unlike most Samsung hardware. They tick most of the boxes you would expect from fitness and lifestyle focused product while being cheaper than an Apple Watch. This probably makes it the best smartwatch you didn’t care about.
- Firstly, the fact that it has a round dial makes a far better-looking smartwatch than the Apple Watch. I reviewed the stealthy black one which is coupled with a rubber band, which I found to be very comfortable.
- The Galaxy Watch interface is a neat one albeit a little inspired from the Apple Watch. You can swipe around to see all the functions of the devices, while you can scroll down to see all the apps. The interface is also very fast as the Exynos processor powering this watch makes sure things keep moving along swimmingly.
- The number of watch-faces and the diversity in them is remarkably fresh — you can go from cyberpunk to retrograde to a modern fitness tracker feel within a matter moments. It is something you cannot do with the Apple Watch, which comes with a limited number of watch-faces.
- Samsung’s Tizen based operating system has been developed quite well, and there are tons of features for one to explore. It is also deeply embedded with services like Spotify, which can be summoned directly from the watch itself.
- Its tracking capabilities are very reliable — be it the active heart rate monitoring, the pedometer, and the accelerometer. The health functions are on par with the Apple Watch with it being able to accurately your stress levels like abnormal heart rate. It also actively encourages you to relax with breathing activities and meditation programs. It’s perfect for a hyperactive tech-junkie like me.
- It comes with a full-fledged fitness suite which is more comprehensive than the one on the Apple Watch. Apart from Yoga, running, cycling, it even tracks Table Tennis, which is lovely for me as I play Table Tennis quite frequently. It certainly has encouraged me to play more often for the sake of fitness, which wasn’t the case before.
- Samsung has brilliantly managed to create a gadget which works across a multitude of devices which even includes iPhones, Android phones and obviously, Samsung’s own Galaxy smartphones. The Apple Watch only works with Apple’s iPhones. Considering I use both Android and iPhones, it was a handier smartwatch to use.
- The battery life on the Galaxy Watch Active is killer. It has two days of battery life, and it gets charged with a wireless charger that Samsung supplies in the packaging. It also works with other wireless chargers like the one that you get with the Apple Watch. Its battery life is also significantly better than the Apple Watch Series 4.
- The Galaxy Watch Active is also very usable for notifications. You can get it integrated with WhatsApp, email, SMS and even call notifications apart and the works. It works as one would expect it.
- The size of this watch is also very pleasing with 40mm dial and 1.1-inch OLED screen; it hits the sweet spot where it is neither too big nor too small. It doesn’t leave you confused like the Apple Watch, which happens at times because of its two sizes.
What’s not great
- The Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t have the elegant radial interface with the rotary dial on the bezel of the previous Galaxy Watch. While the Galaxy Watch Active is relatively simple to use, it doesn’t have that secret sauce in the interface which makes Samsung’s smartwatches unique.
- Samsung’s app developer ecosystem for the Galaxy Watch is not as robust or versatile as standard Android Wear smartwatches or Apple’s incredible ecosystem for the Apple Watch. This cuts through both in the software and the support for custom straps available.
- The Galaxy Watch Active a more affordable avatar of the Galaxy Watch, which means, corners have been cut in its fit and finish. It isn’t as polished as the Apple Watch by any measure. This becomes problematic because you can get an older Apple Watch for lesser and get a more holistic smartwatch experience.