It is no secret that the Apple Watch has been the undisputed king of smartwatches since its launch in 2015. But Samsung has been chipping away before even Apple started and its Tizen based Galaxy Watch line has been perhaps the most viable rival. The problem for Samsung has been that its platform hasn’t had the tailwind behind it with developers that Apple’s gadget has had. Alongside this Apple problem of Samsung’s, its biggest partner in the smartphone space, Google’s wearOS has been leveraged by every tom dick and harry, with even the support of developers, but with a largely disastrous user experience. So finally, the two giants have come together to take on their arch enemy, Apple and the Galaxy Watch Classic is the first fruit of this union which involves a combined platform that looks and feels more or less like Tizen but has the developer support that Google has garnered and manages to give you the fluidity Samsung’s Tizen platform has offered users for years.
Why do I say this? Well, the user experience on WearOS has been quite abysmal for a while, but now it in a way gets the fluidity of what Samsung has been offering to its customers for years. The radial dial that’s on the bezel of the screen. I have always been a fan of this user interface and well, Samsung has adapted this element to the latest Galaxy Watch 4 Classic which just makes the navigation of the entire interface a breeze. It is truly the best way to operate a smartwatch and no matter how much Apple claims the digital crown is the way to go, for once Samsung has got both Apple and Google beat. This system works in tandem with two buttons that operate quite neatly.
(Image: Sahil Gupta)
Of course, at the heart of the experience is the gorgeous 46mm dial which comes with a 1.4-inch super AMOLED screen that has a resolution of 450 x 450 pixels. Suffice to say, this is the best screen right now that there is on a smartwatch. It even gets Corning Gorilla Glass DX which means it will not be very easy to scratch as this material borders on sapphire crystal levels of rigidity. It supports things like raise to wake and comes with a rich assortment of watch faces that will remind you of a proper wristwatch to boot. Now, you can also download more watch faces from the Google Play store which is another handy addition, something that’s not even possible on the Apple Watch. In terms of design, this is a classic watch-like design with a round dial and steel frame and even IP68 and 5ATM water and dust resistance. This is a durable beast and also a very comfortable and attractive one.
There is a new chip at the core of this experience which makes it quite wonderful in day to day use. It is Samsung’s own Exynos W920 dual-core processor that’s clocked in at 1.18GHz. Let’s just say that it blows everything outside of the Apple Watch Series 6 in terms of performance out of the gate. There is help in the form of 1.5GHz of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. This is by far the most fluid watch that I have used from Samsung and that’s even though their watches have always been quite decent in terms of performance. It also helps that now it supports a constellation of apps that have wearOS support -- this is a game-changer. Offline Spotify support is the headline feature of this new marriage. Generally speaking, it makes this watch far more useful to anyone who wants to leverage beyond its core features, which admittedly, in the case of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, is quite exhaustive.
(Image: Sahil Gupta)
It can do a ton of things that one expects from fitness trackers and smartwatches like the Apple Watch, but then it also does things like measuring your body mass composition -- to a decently accurate level. It can do this in just around 15-20 seconds using a new bioactive sensor which is below the dial of the watch resting on the wrist. It supports the ECG and AFib sensors as well. It does fairly well at detecting blood oxygen levels, I’d say superior to the Apple Watch Series 6, though still considering COVID19, it can’t be used beyond basic monitoring purposes. There is a pretty accurate pedometer and heart rate monitor as well which also comes under the ambit of the bioactive sensor.
Samsung adds its comprehensive stack of fitness functions which is expected. It supports several workout types -- there are 13 trackable activities on the Watch itself, and when paired with the phone there are 80 activities that can be added, all replete with phone-free tracking and elevation tracking thanks to the integrated GPS and baro-altimeter onboard. Its automated workout detection system is surprisingly accurate -- it detected when I was doing push-ups and when I went for a run. And last but not least is its impressive sleep tracking which even adds snore detection and a nice breakdown of sleep stages, blood oxygen levels, quality of sleep and some insight on how one can improve sleep.
(Image: Sahil Gupta)
The union between wearOS and Tizen is the big deal about this watch, at the end of the day. This means cool wearOS features like tiles have made their way to the Galaxy Watch Classic 4. It also combines things that Google and Samsung both have been good at -- like Samsung Pay support as well as Google Maps which wasn’t available on Tizen. It retains the Samsung interface which will be familiar for many folks as Samsung did sell quite a few Galaxy Watches in the past before the rest of the platforms.
The battery life of this watch is average at best -- decent but not stellar, which means one of the traditional strengths of Samsung hasn’t filtered through in this union which is perhaps also because of the pretty powerful chip at its heart. Its 361mAh battery would last one full day on a single charge which is a number similar to what one would get on an Apple Watch but it would do multiple days on a single charge.
More frustratingly, the ECG and blood oxygen monitoring work only via the Samsung Health Monitor app which only works with compatible Samsung Galaxy devices. Leave iOS support, even most Android phones cannot unlock this capability, and this is something Samsung should look to change.
Overall, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is probably the smartwatch to get if you own a Samsung phone -- and we know there are millions of them around the world. The lack of ECG and blood oxygen monitoring support on standard Android phones makes it a hard sell to most people who are looking for these critical healthcare features, but if you can live without these two, then possibly, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is the smartwatch to get for any Android user. The Apple Watch, probably, now has a challenger but Samsung will need to overcome this limitation which can be easily done so by releasing an app for Android in the Play Store.