Today, Samsung revealed the successor of the Gear S3, the Galaxy Watch. A larger battery, numerous new software features and a variant for narrower wrists are among the biggest innovations. But is this enough to give existing Gear owners an incentive to upgrade? Can the Galaxy Watch win over new customers? Find out in our hands-on review.
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Samsung Galaxy Watch release date and price
The two new Galaxy Watches will be released on August 24, and pre-orders are already open. Anyone who decides to sign up for a Galaxy Watch between now and release day will land a new Wireless Charger Duo, which allows you to charge a smartphone and the watch at the same time, thrown in for free. The Wireless Charger Duo can also be purchased for $120 after the official launch.
The larger model with 46mm housing is available exclusively in silver and costs $350 for the Bluetooth version. The LTE version will cost $399. The cheapest way to travel with a Galaxy Watch is with the 42mm version, which costs $330 without LTE and $399 with the increased connectivity. The smaller Galaxy Watch is only available in ‘Midnight Black’ and ‘Rose Gold’. LTE connectivity in the US is currently only offered by T-Mobile.
Both watches come with a silicone wristband in sizes ‘S’ and ‘L’. Samsung also offers a variety of additional wristbands made from different materials and in different colours.
Samsung Galaxy Watch: familiar design and build quality
At first glance, the new 46mm Galaxy Watch is indistinguishable from the Gear S3 Frontier. As with the Frontier, Samsung once again relies on a circular stainless steel case with a display protected by Gorilla Glass DX+. Even the dimensions, 46 x 49 x 13mm, are almost identical to its predecessor.
On the right are the two elongated, roughened buttons used to return to the home screen or to open the app drawer. On the left there are also matching indentations in the same place, but without buttons.
Whilst almost everything on the watch looks like the Gear S3 Frontier, Samsung has opted for a significantly finer ribbing on the revolving bezel, as seen on the Gear S3 Classic. The bezel is slightly tighter than its predecessor and should be inadvertently operated less often. There are four LEDs on the underside now to illuminate the skin in order to measure the pulse.
Apart from the size, there is no noticeable difference in terms of design between the two versions of the Galaxy Watch. Both behave like a modern sports chronometer and are protected against water and dust according to IP68 certification, MIL-STD-810G and up to 5 atm.
Samsung Galaxy Watch: excellent display
There is also very little innovation in the display compared to its predecessor. Samsung remains true to itself, at least with the 46mm model of the Galaxy Watch, and has gone with a 1.3 inch large screen. The resolution remains at 360 x 360 pixels per inch. On the smaller Galaxy Watch, the display comes in at 1.2 inches.
The brightness of the Super AMOLED display is excellent as soon as you switch it on. An ambient light sensor under the display automatically adjusts the brightness to the light conditions around you. The automation also includes a so-called ‘outdoor mode’, in which the brightness is turned up to maximum so that the screen can still be easily read, even in direct sunlight.
Samsung Galaxy Watch software
Samsung paid a lot of attention to software for the new Galaxy Watch. Contrary to what has been rumored in the meantime, the manufacturer does not rely on Wear OS, despite the name change, but remains true to its own Tizen OS 4.0. The software is compatible with all smartphones running Android 5 Lollipop or later and iOS, with some limitations.
New for this device is Watchfaces, a feature where calendar entries, alarms and appointments are displayed in a circle around the clock face in the form of a colored bar. This makes it easier to keep track of when your next appointment is due when you glance at the watch and you can quickly call up information about it by tapping on it.
Samsung also included a daily Briefing, which appears on the smartwatch when it detects that the wearer has gotten up or is putting the watch on in the morning. Information such as the date, weather, upcoming appointments, reminders and the expected battery life for the day are displayed. In the evening, the Galaxy Watch will spit out information about your training successes of the day and the weather for tomorrow before going to bed.
Together with Samsung Health, the Galaxy Watch can now automatically detects 39 types of exercise. The watch can also be used to combine several different sports. After your training session, information such as total training time, calorie consumption, pulse, distance covered and average speed is displayed.
For swimming there is now a ‘water stop mode’. This prevents the Galaxy Watch from misinterpreting the water flow passing by the watch as an input on the display. In addition, when leaving the water, the watch automatically exits water stop mode and immediately starts to clear openings for the loudspeaker and microphone from water using compressed air. This is acknowledged with a corresponding warning tone.
Speaking of sounds: If you miss the usual ticking of a conventional analogue clock with your smartwatch, you can now make the Galaxy Watch tick like a real watch. A soft ticking sound is output via the loudspeaker - for those who miss the sound of an analogue watch.
Samsung Galaxy Watch: strong performance
The Galaxy Watch is powered by the new Exynos 9110 , another dual-core processor that no longer operates at 1 GHz but at 1.15 GHz. Samsung itself announced that the chipset is 35 percent more energy-efficient and powerful than the Exynos 7270 chip in its older watches. At least with the Bluetooth versions, which come with 768 MB of RAM, everything else remains the same. The LTE versions from Samsung come with 1.5 GB of RAM for onboard processing.
However, when we first tested it, we did not see any significant improvement in a direct comparison. But that seems hardly necessary when looking at the Gear S3. At no time has it proved to be too slow, ran smoothly at all times and reacted quickly to input.
The internal memory inside all versions of the Galaxy Watch is 4 GB, which can be used to store music, for example. If you like jogging, you can leave your smartphone at home. Simply connect the watch with Bluetooth 4.2 to a pair of wireless headphones and use it as an MP3 player.
Samsung Galaxy Watch audio
Like the Gear S3, the new Galaxy Watch has a speaker on the left side and an integrated microphone. Through the three openings comes the notification tone, music or also the person on the other end of the line, if you are using the smartwatch to make a telephone call. The LTE versions of the Galaxy Watch, which are equipped with an e-SIM, are particularly suitable for this kind of use calling.
Apart from outputting notification tones, however, the speaker is unlikely to be used for much else. Like its predecessor in our hands-on, the speaker delivers a rather poor sound. This is to be expected given its small size, though.
Samsung Galaxy Watch: battery life
Samsung has given the larger Galaxy Watch a 472 mAh battery - almost 100 mAh larger than the one in the Gear S3. According to the manufacturer, this will give the watch a runtime of up to 168 hours with a continuous Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. The smaller model features a, significantly smaller, 270 mAh battery. Here, you are looking at a running time of up to 120 hours. The battery is recharged inductively.
Of course, we could not check the battery life of the new Galaxy Watch during the first test. But even the Gear S3 was convincing with a regular running time of up to three days with a constant Bluetooth connection. This gives us hope that the new large model, in particular, might even last a working week. Only our extensive test will reveal whether that is possible, so stay tuned.
Hands-on first impressions
The Galaxy Watch represents Samsung’s successor to the Gear S3, but the new device has to move things forward to be a convincing success. The manufacturer has worked on its existing strengths, such as long battery life and good software, and it is delivering some improvements in these areas.
Since both of these things were already great on the last generation of watches, at first glance there is little incentive for owners of the Gear S3 to buy the new Galaxy Watch.
On the outside, too, the watch has nothing new to offer compared to its predecessor. Fans of the classic version may also be disappointed. If you were looking for an upgrade to the sleakier device, you’ll have to live with a bulky sports chronometer on your wrist for now.
If you haven't used a Smartwatch yet, want to upgrade from an even older model or are looking for a smaller model than the previous Klopper watches, you can expect to find a very good smartwatch with the Galaxy Watch.
But unfortunately, the Galaxy Watch is not a miracle. Special features such as a battery built into the wristband or the ability to measure blood pressure are missing. You can't blame Samsung directly, after all they were just rumors. Nevertheless, the watch lacks a real WOW factor and fails to truly to stand out.