Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review: less fun but still a good time

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is tracking your Gear Sport, a simplified smart watch that focuses on tracking physical condition and notifications that can be viewed. With only $ 200, it's much cheaper than the $ 350 Galaxy Watch flagship and the Apple Watch Series 4. Saving money often means sacrificing features, but Active does not lose much; It's fast, swim-proof, has built-in GPS, includes a lot of fitness modes and lasts a long time with a charge. However, it renounces a piece of much loved hardware that has become a signature of other Samsung smart watches: the rotating bezel. But the Galaxy Watch Active still has a very attractive balance for its price. I would call it one of the best options for Android users who understand their limitations, which I will see below.

The design of the Active is quite generic. It comes in prettier colors than the black variant I checked, but they all share the same discreet style that almost looks like something Pebble would have done. It's not flashy, but it works. The 20 mm bands are also easy to replace.

The brightest attribute of the Galaxy Watch Active is comfort. Its aluminum case is much lighter than the stainless steel Galaxy Watch or the Apple Watch Series 4, and is thin enough not to get caught in the cuffs of shirts or warm clothes. The watch rests on my wrist, and I quickly forget that I'm wearing it, while I never really "forget" that my stainless steel Series 4 is on. It is such a nice setting that I have been able to sleep with the Active without any discomfort. The watch automatically switches to sleep tracking mode when it detects that it has gone to bed. It decomposes the quality of your sleep according to the time spent in each phase. None of this is unique among fitness wearables that offer sleep tracking (like a Fitbit), but it's something that the more expensive Apple Watch still can not do natively.


Verge Score

samsung galaxy watch active review less fun but still a good time

Good Stuff

  • Comfortable Lightweight Design
  • Reliable Battery Life
  • Good physical condition tracking features

Bad materials

  • Bixby is a poor voice assistant
  • clumsy for use with phones other than Samsung
  • fewer third-party applications than other smart watches

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Compensation for that convenience is a smaller screen, especially compared to the monstrous Galaxy watch 46 mm The Active has a 40mm case with a significant bezel around its 1.1-inch OLED screen. I would not call it cluttered per se: the content on the screen is perfectly readable, and you can touch where you need it without much error, but while the latest Apple Watch can sometimes feel like a computer on your wrist , the Galaxy Watch Active does not leave that same impression. It is possible that some people really prefer that, and Samsung clearly cared more about the setting than about the display properties on this occasion. Speaking of adjustment, the company includes two sizes of its silicone sports strap in the box; Immediately I had to change for the biggest one.

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But Samsung took something very important from the Galaxy Watch Active: it lacks the rotating bezel that has proven to be an intuitive, natural and fun control mechanism In other smart watches the company. The Tizen Wearable OS 4.0 software is designed to make good use of the circular shape of the screen, but navigating the Galaxy Watch Active can feel more complicated without the rotating bezel and its satisfying clicks.

samsung galaxy watch active review less fun but still a good time

On the one hand, the watch's software does not really take into account this significant change in the way it interacts with it. The user experience is largely identical to that of the Galaxy Watch, and is clearly designed to work better with a rotating bezel that can quickly scroll through the menus.

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Based only on touches and touches (plus the physical backup and start buttons) It is not the end of the world, but without a doubt it feels like more work. If the application you touch in the application drawer is not yet highlighted, for example, you must touch a second time to open it. The Active is at least a pleasure to slip through its smooth glass top and its curved edges. Your finger will not be hitting on an elevated bezel like with the Galaxy Watch. (Of course, that also means that you run a greater risk of a broken screen if you release it).

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Tizen OS 4.0 works very smoothly in the Active, which works with the same processor as the Galaxy Watch. From the main dial of the watch, you can slide down from the top to quickly change / configure, swipe right to see your notifications, or swipe left to move between the widgets (alarms, calendar, music controls, tracking of sleep, etc.) that you want to quickly access them. Press and hold on the main screen to change to another sphere or download more; There are thousands of watches available, which, frankly, seems impossible to navigate through them. But at least you have options.

The built-in sights were fine for my taste. You can change the color of some and others offer customizable complications to display the most important information for you. The faces of Samsung watches do not feel as as as rich in data as some of the Apple Watch Series 4, but, again, that probably has to do with the modest screen. Compare this with a Fitbit Versa, and the comparison changes in favor of Samsung.

Samsung does a good job of optimizing its portable applications for a round screen, but I still think that some of the icons and UI elements are ugly compared to the Apple Watch or the improved Google operating system. The company says there have been some visual adjustments inspired by its One UI design guidelines, but they are barely noticeable. Also, since Tizen is your own operating system, sometimes you are required to install a "complementary" application on your Android phone if you download viewing applications such as Uber. That feels like an unnecessary mess. Many applications send basic notifications without any useful response action, but you can customize which ones you want to reach your wrist.

The selection of third-party applications, in general, in the Active is terrible compared to the Apple Watch and Wear operating system, although Samsung has some popular applications of exercises like Strava on board. And the included Spotify app lets you download music to listen to offline, something that the Apple Watch version can not yet do. That's good news for brokers, and it might be enough to sell some people in the Active. But there is no Google Maps or Google Messages for Tizen.

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The Spotify application supports offline downloads.

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As with Samsung phones, Bixby is a weak point in the Active. Sometimes, he confuses the accuracy of dictated messages, and will often take you back to your phone to ask many questions if you dig deeper than asking about the weather or telling him to shoot a text message. At least, Bixby is easier to ignore when there is not a dedicated button for it. I do not foresee that people use applications beyond those used to track music and fitness in the Galaxy Watch Active. When you receive notifications from messaging or email applications, you can choose from a list of canned responses or add your own personalized response. If you do not, you can write a message letter by letter to the Apple Watch if you really have no other choice.

Samsung Pay is included for wireless payments, but only on terminals that support NFC; Samsung does not include the MST technology found in Galaxy phones, which can mimic the magnetic stripe of credit / debit cards, which allows Samsung Pay to be used in many other situations.

It's worth noting that Samsung phone owners get the best experience of the Galaxy Watch Active. It has versions of the email applications and messages of the company, but has no luck for Gmail or the application of Google messages. That's disappointing for those who use another Android device (or who do not like Samsung's software). In any case, you will need the installed Galaxy Wearable application to configure and adjust the clock settings.

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The Galaxy Watch Active still can not read blood pressure.

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Unfortunately, the new main function related to the health of the watch, the blood pressure detection, was not yet ready for the test at the time of printing. When it launches, it will be in beta. Let me reiterate that you should not trust that a gadget for the consumer is your doctor or a miraculous device that can detect all the ailments. Active sleep tracking seems pretty punctual, automatic exercise detection was surprisingly quick to recognize activity, and my daily steps closely aligned with an Apple Watch on my other wrist. So it hits the basics and also has a water resistance rating of 5ATM, which means that even a deep bath will not harm it.

Samsung's health app offers a ton of functionality; In addition to collecting your training totals and showing your progress, you can record your nutrition (food, water and caffeine intake) if you are willing to enter that information consistently. Completing the gym, Samsung includes breathing / relaxation applications and a new widget to control your weight. And if he is still for too long, the Asset will push him to make a set of twists in the torso instead of stopping.

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So far I've been happy with the resistance of the Galaxy Watch Active, despite the small 230 mAh battery inside. Samsung claims that it can last 45 hours on a single charge, but that is only a realistic number if you are using GPS only rarely (if at all) and it keeps the display option always on. Activating that is a big blow to the life of the battery. With the default settings, I was able to spend two business days before having to load. The asset can be upgraded when placed on the back of a Galaxy S10 through Samsung's new PowerShare feature. However, placing it in my Samsung wireless charging dock did not load it, so you'll need the Duo Dock if you want to go that route.

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Very few iPhone owners are going to think a lot about buying a Galaxy Watch Active. For them, the Apple Watch is the best option objectively. It has more applications, the software is better and more consistent, and its integration with iOS allows more complete notifications and simple actions when those notifications deserve a response. You will feel much more limited using Active with iOS than with Android.

Samsung's real competition is Fitbit with its Versa and products like the Fossil Sport that runs Wear OS and is on par with most of the features of the Galaxy Watch Active, albeit at a slightly higher price. With $ 200, the Galaxy Watch Active is a strong value you would probably consider before those two, assuming you can do without the rotating bezel and you will not envy other smart watches and their larger screens. Using the Galaxy Watch Active may be less fun than the other Samsung watches, but overall it's a good time.

Photograph by Chris Welch / The Verge

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