The Galaxy Watch 4 injects Samsung’s capable hardware with Google software

Today we’d like to take a first look at the new Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, the fruit of Samsung and Google’s smartwatch collaboration. In wearables, this is a big problem. That’s because after years of trying alone with its own Tizen platform on smartwatches, Samsung finally breaks the bullet and works with Google on the operating system.

With these two smartwatches, I get the feeling that Samsung is holding down a bit of a reset button with their wearable lineup. Yes, there is a Wear OS operating system, but Samsung also seizes the opportunity to rebrand its lineup.

So instead of splitting smartwatches into active and regular ranges, we now have the basic Watch 4 and the more luxurious Watch 4 Classic. The Watch 4 is best known as the successor to the 2019 Watch Active 2 (i.e. Samsung skipped the Active 3, RIP). Here’s the Watch 4 Classic, on the other hand, with a thicker design and rotating bezel. – Until last year’s Watch 3. Basically, the Galaxy Watch 4 is basic and the Classic is a step-up version.

The Watch 4 Classic starts at $349 for the Bluetooth model and goes up to $399 for the LTE model, while the Watch 4 is slightly cheaper with a starting price of $249 ($299 for LTE). Both are available for pre-order today and will ship on August 27th.

From left to right: 44mm and 40mm Watch 4, 46mm and 42mm Watch 4 Classic.

Watch 4 Classic with a physically rotating bezel.

The main difference between the two models is that the Watch 4 Classic has one of the much-loved physical rotating bezels on Samsung’s previous smartwatches, while the standard Watch 4 choice has a touch-sensitive bezel that you can access via: Swipe the edge of the screen. The Watch 4 Classic is also made of premium stainless steel rather than the aluminum found in the Watch 4. On the right side of both watches are a pair of control buttons.

The absence of physical bezels means the Watch 4 is the more compact of the two models, and is about a millimeter thinner than its predecessor, the Active 2. The Watch 4 is available in 40mm and 44mm versions, while the Watch 4 Classic is available in 42mm and 46mm versions. However, both have the same screen size and resolution, with a choice of a 1.2-inch 396 x 396 display in a smaller body and a 1.4-inch 450 x 450 display in a larger body. This means an overall higher resolution screen, especially if you opt for a larger model.

Aside from their external differences, internally the two watches share many of the same specs. Both are powered by the same 5nm Exynos W920 processor Samsung described yesterday, plus 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Battery capacity varies by size, but Samsung believes the average battery life, regardless of model, is around 40 hours. Some models have LTE, but if you were expecting 5G, you’ll be disappointed. Samsung says the amount of data smartwatch process is so small that it doesn’t think it’s worth it.

Watch 4 Classic in silver and black.

However, the biggest difference from Samsung’s previous smartwatches is that the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic do not run their own Tizen operating system. Instead, their software is the result of a collaboration between Samsung and Google that was announced in May. Google calls it Wear OS 3, but Samsung is branding the watch’s operating system as “Wear OS Powered by Samsung”. But either way, combining the strengths of Tizen with those of Wear OS is hopeful.

Specifically, the interface we’re seeing on Samsung’s watches is the One UI Watch, which is actually Samsung’s skin on top of Wear OS. Think of it as Samsung’s One UI software for mobile phones that is compatible with Google’s Android. The Watch 4’s interface has a similar look and feel to Samsung’s previous Tizen-based watches.

Google has promised that working with Samsung will lead to many high-level benefits to Wear OS, such as improved battery life, faster loading apps, and smoother animations. However, in the time I spent with the Watch 4, it was a little difficult to detect these improvements. That’s because it’s never really been an issue with Samsung’s previous watches, and I didn’t have enough time to test the battery life. . The real test is when we start looking at Wear OS 3 watches from previous manufacturers that have used Wear OS exclusively in the past.

One obvious improvement to running the operating system developed with Google is the ability to use apps from the search giants. We have Google Maps, Google Pay, and YouTube Music to navigate. One big question mark surrounds Google’s voice assistant, especially given the reputation of Samsung’s own voice assistant Bixby. Samsung has said that Google Assistant won’t be available at launch, and it’s unclear if it will come later. For now, that means Bixby continues to be the only voice assistant option.

Other than the voice assistant, Samsung’s other software doesn’t go anywhere. You’ll still have access to Samsung Pay and SmartThings, so if you’ve already joined the Samsung ecosystem, there should be no disruption.

As Samsung previously announced, the smartwatch can sync some settings on your phone, such as Do Not Disturb and Blocked Callers, as well as automatically install the watch app when your phone’s version is installed (Tizen’s A significant improvement over the previous manual process). Samsung says these options should work not only on Samsung, but on most Android phones using Google mobile services, and that we will see similar features in future Wear OS watches. The Google Play Store is also accessible from the watch itself, along with a convenient option to automatically install apps via phone.

There are already promising signs that a small number of smartwatch operating systems to target could improve app support from third-party developers. It’s not a new feature of Samsung wearables, but Spotify does come with an app in the operating system that supports offline listening. Hopefully this is a sign that things are coming.

Watch 4 is thinner…

… the Watch 4 Classic looks a little chunkier.

There are also new health features to talk about for the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic, many of which focus on Samsung’s new 3-in-1 BioActive sensor. It combines an optical heart rate sensor, an electrical cardiac sensor and a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor that detects everything from atrial fibrillation to blood oxygen levels and body composition. It also monitors blood pressure in certain markets, but not in the United States.

Samsung’s argument is that, in addition to detecting all of this individually, the new smartwatch is more effective at providing a holistic view of your overall health. There’s a new body composition measuring tool that works with two fingers on the button on the right side of the watch. This will display various metrics such as skeletal muscle mass, body fat percentage, and metabolic rate. Samsung doesn’t mention whether the watch syncs with Google’s Fit or Fitbit account, but it looks like this could leave the watch full of an almost chaotic number of different fitness tracking services.

Finally, there is sleep tracking. Samsung says the new watch can track blood oxygen levels while you sleep and provide more insight into your sleep patterns, and compatible smartphones can help by detecting snoring.

The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic has two buttons on the right side with a physically rotating bezel.

Two models in two sizes.

Samsung’s smartwatches have been recommended by anyone with an Android phone for a while, but it seems that Samsung has reached the limit of what it can achieve with its own software. They struggled with third-party app support and tended to work best, especially with Samsung’s Android phones.

This is what makes the smartwatch of the year, and in general, the collaboration between Google and Samsung so exciting. It removes many small issues that have been a problem with Samsung’s recent watches, such as the lack of a native Google app. Last year we said it was time for a change at Samsung. Whether or not Samsung has made it a success should be checked in the full review.

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