Samsung’s $279 Galaxy Watch 5 is the top pick of Android smartwatches for now


Samsung's $279 Galaxy Watch 5 is the top pick of Android smartwatches for now

I’m a fan of smartwatches. I’ve worn either a Samsung or an Apple watch for years and quite frankly feel naked without having one on my wrist. That’s why I was excited to try out Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 before it officially launches on August 26th.

Starting at $279 — far less than the $399 Apple Watch Series 7 — the Watch 5 is an evolution of the Samsung Galaxy Watch formula rather than a reinvention. Running Samsung’s One UI on top of Google’s Wear OS software, the Galaxy Watch 5 brings a more durable design, skin temperature sensor and longer battery life to the lineup.

If you’re an Android fan looking for a smartwatch, you can’t go wrong with Samsung’s latest. But if you have last year’s Galaxy Watch 4, there’s not much reason to upgrade now.

That’s because the Galaxy Watch 5’s user interface hasn’t changed all that much overall compared to the Watch 4. You can still send and receive texts and other messages. make calls; and get important app updates. In other words, it does everything you’d expect from a smartwatch, including controlling your compatible smart home devices.

More robust design, no trick bezel, longer battery life

The Galaxy Watch 5 has a stronger, more stable design than its predecessors thanks to its sapphire crystal display. Apple uses a similar type of display on its own Apple Watch, and while it’s not exactly unbreakable – I’ve scratched my own Apple Watch – it’s more durable.

One change you might notice if you’re a longtime Samsung watch wearer is that the Galaxy Watch 5 doesn’t include Samsung’s trick rotating bezel found on older models. In its place is a touch bezel that lets you scroll through content by swiping the outer part of the display.

The lack of a physically moving bezel isn’t the end of the world by any means, but it was a nice addition to the watch that set it apart as a James Bond-esque device.

The Galaxy Watch 5 offers a variety of notification options. (Image: Dan Howley)

The Galaxy Watch 5 is available in two display sizes: 40mm and 44mm. I wear the 44mm version and it fits my wrist well. If you’re looking for a watch with a larger screen, you can opt for Samsung’s $449 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which includes a 45mm face and a protruding bezel that widens the Watch 5 Pro’s screen to protect against nicks and scratches.

In terms of battery life, the Galaxy Watch 5 gets a 13% bigger power plant than the Galaxy Watch 4, while the Watch 5 Pro gets a 60% bigger battery than the Watch 4. The Watch 4 lasts far more than a day on a single charge. I ran the watch for nearly two days with both the always-on display and continuous heart rate monitor active. After the battery life got too low, I switched to watch-only mode and was able to use the device for a few more hours. Samsung says you can get more than five days out of the Watch 4 if you use it in watch-only mode.

health and fitness

Smartwatches serve as wrist-worn fitness and notification devices, and Samsung delivers on both fronts. You can access your workout via the watch’s built-in fitness tracker, which can track more than 90 exercises. Automatic workout tracking can record your run automatically without you having to select the option in the watch’s fitness app.

While you can track everything from swimming to table tennis, I wish Samsung included an option for general free weightlifting. You can choose custom weightlifting routines like bench press and deadlift. However, I tend to switch from one exercise to the next and don’t want to bend over to choose a new routine every time I transition from bench press to tricep pulldown. There’s an Other Training option, but Samsung doesn’t make it very clear what that covers.

Like most smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 5 has a built-in activity tracker.  (Image: Dan Howley)

Like most smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 5 has a built-in activity tracker. (Image: Dan Howley)

Like the Apple Watch, Samsung offers users three daily exercise goals, represented by hearts on the Watch 5’s display: steps, active time, and active calories. And just like with the Apple Watch, I quickly became obsessed with achieving those goals. Other health and fitness features include the ability to track your calorie and water intake.

The Watch 5 also gets an updated sensor on the back. In addition to measuring your heart rate and blood oxygen, the Watch 5 can also check your skin temperature. Well it eventually will. Samsung needs to issue an update to enable the feature, so I couldn’t test it. But if it works, the company says it will help provide deeper insights into things like sleep tracking.

Apple is reportedly adding a temperature-tracking sensor to its next Apple Watch, although how the company intends to use the sensor remains to be seen.

Samsung is constantly evolving its watches: improving durability, expanding health and wellness features, and adding new sensors. But the company isn’t the only game in town. And while it’s collaborating with Google on the Watch 5’s operating system, the search giant will also launch its own competing watch.

We’ll see how the two stack up against each other when the Pixel Watch launches later this fall.

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Do you have a tip? Email Daniel Howley at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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