Galaxy Watch 4: Samsung comes to Apple Watch's crown with Wear OS 3 | MCUTimes

Galaxy Watch 4: Samsung comes to Apple Watch’s crown with Wear OS 3

Galaxy Watch 4 (left) and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (right) look sharp. And they’re running a brand new Google-Samsung OS.

Drew Evans / CNET

This story is part of Samsung event, our full coverage of Samsung Unpacked.

There’s a clear smartwatch for iOS: the Apple Watch. But for Android, there has not been a unique option. Will the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 finally become that watch? On Samsung’s latest fold-phone-focused Unpacked message where the latest Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 phones were unveiled, the company also announced the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic – which can be pre-ordered now and sold on August 27th. They are the first Samsung watches to have Google co-designed Wear OS 3, which does not come to other smartwatches until next year. After that already excellent See Active 3, will the Galaxy Watch 4 be even better? It certainly looks like that.

Like previous Samsung watches, there are two designs: a slimmer, cheaper Watch 4 and a more traditional-looking Watch 4 Classic. The latter brings back Samsung’s physically rotating outer frame and has more traditional clock-like looks and straps. Prices increase based on either design ($ 250 for aluminum 40mm watch 4, $ 350 for stainless steel 42mm watch 4 classic), size (the larger 42mm watch 4 / 46mm watch 4 classic costs $ 30 extra) or LTE data compatibility (an extra $ 50 on top of that). In the UK, the Watch 4 starts at £ 249, and the Classic at £ 349. Australian prices are TBD.

Samsung’s watches have always been good. Then there has also been Fitbit and even Google Wear OS. But Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 seeks to tie it all together and restart the Android landscape by finally not having a weird division between Samsung’s watch experience and Google’s.


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Promises better watch phone connection

Watch 4’s new Google and Samsung developed OS will eventually show up on other smartwatches. But for Samsung’s latest watches, that should mean a more Android-fluid connected experience. Messaging, calling, managing your phone, syncing your phone settings: Samsung promises that the Watch 4 will do all this better than previous watches. Samsung also promises better battery life and faster performance. This battery life can still only be about two days, but it is enough to go to bed with and track sleep overnight. Samsung also renamed its watch: The Watch Active name is gone. (Welcome back, Galaxy Watch.)

Galaxy Watch 4 is only made for Android phones, with no plans for iOS compatibility right now. While previous Wear OS and Samsung watches could be paired with iPhones, the Watch 4 is clearly designed to be a hassle-free connecting watch for Android (and specifically Samsung) phones. Samsung “One UI” philosophy is about synchronizing backgrounds, designs and settings across phone and clock. Will the watch feel like a hassle-free extension of the phone? We’ll see when we test drive one.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic

The new rear sensor array contains electrical bioimpedance, which promises scale-like body fat / BMI estimates.

Drew Evans / CNET

Health tech: Cord detection and bioimpedance-based body analysis

There are several new health features on the Watch 4 on top of those that were transferred from Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. In addition to heart rate, oxygen in the blood and electrocardiogram (and stress-sensing / blood pressure testing that requires calibration with a blood pressure cuff), Samsung is adding a few extras for sleep tracking. Cord detection works using the paired Android phone’s microphone, and the blood oxygen check now runs continuously once a minute overnight (or as a socket check during the day).

Samsung also added a new sensor to its rear array: an electric bioimpedance sensor for whole body analysis using a weak electric current to measure how conductive you are — and therefore show what you are made of. This type of sensor technology has not been on the latest smartwatches; the last laptop I remember promising bioimpedance was Jawbone Up 3.

When you use the body analysis feature, there will be readings on your BMI, muscle mass and body water along with body fat percentages, as well as some scales. I’m not sure how I feel about it! Samsung Health will use this reading to calculate an area where your health is compared to optimal levels.

New sensor technology is always a vomit: Will it work? Will it be useful? We do not know yet. Samsung aims for this to be a comprehensive body analysis tool that sounds terribly ambitious. Last year was Fitbit Sense also introduced new electrodermal stress detection sensors, but I never found them meaningful in my everyday life. The jury is also still out on the bioimpedance features.

Samsung Health remains the standard of fitness and health platform for the Galaxy Watch 4, despite the OS change. But a switch to Google Play for apps and new support for dial complications should also mean that many fitness apps are making the switch. (Complications are basically the small dial widgets that display data from other apps, and they’re pretty useful.) Samsung has already announced that Strava, Calm, and Adidas Running are supported. Spotify is also supported for music playback.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic

Can you see the rotating frame? It’s back.

Drew Evans / CNET

Increased specifications

The Watch 4’s new processor should be faster than the last Watch 3 (20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU, according to Samsung), and there is more RAM (1.5 GB) and storage space (16 GB) than before. It should make animations and app launches faster. The Super AMOLED screen is sharper: the 1.2-inch 42 and 40 mm models have a resolution of 396 x 396 pixels, while the 1.4-inch 44 and 46 mm models are 450 x 450. The watch can also be charged quickly and gets 10 hours battery life of 30 minutes charging.

The rotating frame is left

Both the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic rely heavily on touching the outer edge of the watch to “turn” and navigate: the Watch 4 has a touch-sensitive edge, while the Classic has a physically rotating frame. Samsung also puts touch controls in these watches to allow ironing, just like Wear OS watches. You can choose how you want to interact.

A few other buttons on the side of the clock control move back and forth in the interface and can be reprogrammed. One can press and hold for Samsung’s Bixby assistant; the other to Samsung Pay. But you can instead turn Google Assistant and Google Pay into go-to apps.

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Some of the Google apps on the Galaxy Watch 4 have a familiar Google look.

Google

Google Apps on board

Google’s Wear OS 3, which is on the Galaxy Watch 4, means it’s connected to Google Play, but it’s also got some renewed Google apps. Google has already committed to new YouTube, Google Maps, Google Pay and Messages apps that have new designs for Wear OS 3. There are also third-party updates with new tiles: Calm, Komoot, MyFitnessPal, Period Tracker, Sleep Cycle , Spotify and Strava are among the first to get updates. Google is committed to rolling out more updates over time, which means both Samsung and Google should keep this watch full of apps.

But you’re stuck with Bixby for now. Samsung’s voice assistant is still standard on the watch, which appears when you hold down the top button. Google Assistant is not currently available, which is frustrating – it’s one of the best things I would like to have access to on a watch connected to Google.

Could this be the best Android watch?

The Galaxy Watch 4 looks like the ultimate fusion of a Samsung watch with Google Watches – and it can be a winning formula for using Google Maps, connected phone features and third-party fitness apps in Google Play, which is the Galaxy Watch 4’s standard app store. It should be the hardware-boosted Google Watch we’ve been waiting for for years. The software interface looks exactly like what you would expect: share Samsung, share Google. But is it worth the wait to see how it works, or should you just go for this first model? Hard to say as it is the first of its kind.

It’s not surprisingly, Samsung’s new health features and its new operating system are not coming to older Samsung watches at the moment. Some of them can, but expect this to be pretty much a clean break and a restart. And we also do not really know how many of the Galaxy Watch 4’s features will transfer to the rest of Google’s future Wear OS 3 watch lineup, which will include watches from Mobvoi, Fossil and eventually Fitbit.

These Wear OS 3 watch updates will not come to the other watches until 2022, making the Galaxy Watch 4 the only new Google-connected Wear OS 3 watch this year. For that reason alone, it could very well be the best Android watch at the moment. How does it really feel and work? We’ll get a full impression and a review in the coming days … but the Galaxy Watch 4 looks extremely promising for any Android phone owner who wants a much more connected watch.

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